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Suburban Primitive Painting

March 25, 2014 @ 11:00 am - April 19, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

Ronald Walker got started in art at Ventura schools and one of his paintings earned first place in Buenaventura Art Association’s 30th anniversary Open Competition in 1984. He’s returning three decades later — in BAA’s 60th anniversary year — for a solo exhibition opening March 25 at the downtown gallery.

It’s called Suburban Primitive Paintings by Ronald Walker and on display through April 19 will be more than two dozen of his 11-by-14-inch works in gouache on Claybord, a clay-coated wooden panel. Walker, who now teaches art and produces it in Orangevale, a northeastern Sacramento suburb, will travel south for an opening reception 5-7 p.m. March 29.

He left Ventura to pursue art studies, earning a master’s in painting at Central Missouri University and an MFA in painting and drawing from the University of Kansas. Walker has shown his works professionally for 33 years, garnered numerous awards in group exhibitions and mounted more than 30 solo shows, including one at BAA in 1987.

“I love Ventura; both my wife and I grew up there,” he said. “My wife still has a lot of family living there and we both have many longtime friends. I am at heart a Venturan (third generation). I rejoined the BAA to keep contact with the artists there.”

His singular style evolved from a quest to “paint what I know,” said Walker, after he observed “how many students seemed to be producing work that most likely had little personal connection to them, i.e. images of people hanging or being tortured. … I grew up in the suburbs and had not experienced war, extreme violence or any such thing.”

He had an interest in primitive art, he said, and knowing that humans and their problems have changed little in 60,000 years led Walker to explore what he came to call Suburban Primitive art, which is influenced by both the Dadaist and Symbolist art movements.

“Much of my work is autobiographical in nature, with some recurring themes such as flux (change), containment and a sense of mystery, wondering what it’s all about,” Walker said. “It serves as a type of metaphorical roadmap of my life which explores the inners aspects of my habitation in and movement through the suburban experience.”

Some personal imagery shows up often in his paintings, such as roads standing for change, fish representing freedom (and containment), and chickens, a childhood image dealing with both change and mystery.

Walker, the busy father of two, also has found a unique place to make his art.

“I have taken to painting in my car and so my work has decreased in size to an average of about 11 by 14 inches. The work therefore tends to be portable and intimate,” he said. “The car has had a few unexpected advantages. First, I can paint anywhere when I’m not actually driving. This enables me to get a fair amount done despite family and job responsibilities. Second is natural light. It is very hard to find a studio with a better lighting system.”

Some of his pieces can be viewed online at http://suburban_primitive.webs.com. To view a wider range of his artwork, stop by beginning March 25 at the Buenaventura Gallery, 700 E. Santa Clara St., which is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information about Ventura’s nonprofit artists’ co-op, visit BAA’s website, www.buenaventuragallery.org, or call 648-1235 during gallery hours.