Gallery opens abstract art show

September 02, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • Washington County Arts Council invites the public to meet Cuban painter Carlos Ruano Saturday at a reception opening a show of his paintings.
Submitted photo,

Artist Carlos Ruano stood in front of a painting he named "Solitude," a lone gold fish in a bowl and said, laughing, "It's a self-portrait."

"I am alone now," said Ruano.

The 85-year-old, Cuban-born artist recently gave an informal tour of his exhibit, "Expressions," on view at the Washington County Arts Council's downtown gallery through Thursday, Sept. 30.

An opening reception is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4.

Artistically, Ruano's 22 paintings explore his interest in abstract impressionism via subtle use of color and shapes that at times seem to convey an idea -- like a collection of city buildings -- then melt into one another to form layers of color. He uses blocks of red or black paint as a base layer.

Acrylic is his preferred medium, though many of his paintings incorporate pastels and collage.

But there are some elements of Ruano's personal life that show through the layers of paint. He was born in Cuba but raised in Mexico, where he studied under well-known Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. He's now a resident of Hagerstown.


His life had a few detours -- like when he had a short-lived run as a bullfighter as a teenager. Ruano shared a few chuckles after noting a portrait of a bullfighter in the exhibit.

There is also a more abstract piece depicting Ruano's birthplace, a moody painting that weaves in the longitude and latitude of Havana, Cuba.

Which brings us to painting No. 14, "Solitude." The color scheme is cheery, with the bright orange fish inside of a translucent sphere that gives the illusion of a fish bowl.

"At least there's light coming in from a window for him," he said, noting a formation in the painting.

He said the fish represents him.

Ruano had been married to Graciela Ruano for 52 years. He said she passed away five years ago at the age of 80.

But he's not completely alone. His son, also named Carlos Ruano, lives in Pennsylvania. His daughter, Graciela Dempsher, lives in Hagerstown. "We talk every day," Ruano said.

As an artist, Ruano said he doesn't believe in inspiration.

"It's a long unconscious evolution you feel from all the art in the world," he said. "I don't believe in inspiration. Art is something that you do for yourself."

If you go ...

WHAT: "Expressions," featuring recent paintings by local Cuban artist Carlos Ruano

WHEN: Opening reception, 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4. The exhibit continues through Thursday, Sept. 30.

WHERE: Washington County Arts Council, 14 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Free admission

CONTACT: For more information, call the WCAC at 301-791-3132 or visit .

MORE: The North Gallery will host "Things with Wings," an exhibit in fiber arts by Katie Paul and Pang Tubhirun.

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