Barbara L. Jones, Curator,
Westmoreland Museum of American Art located in
Essence of Pittsburgh
Forward from the book, by Barbara Jones
With an immediacy of paint application, Ron Donoughe captures not only the essence of a subject or place but a moment in time as well. His paintings are of places that one may easily miss when driving by, but these places seem to call out to Ron, and he cannot ignore them. As he says, ‘‘they just beg to be painted,’’ and so he paints. By calling attention to them in his paintings, he compels the viewer to take a look, too.
I came to know Ron after seeing his work in Pittsburgh, and thought he would be the right artist to pair with an exhibition we were hosting at The Westmoreland in 2002 entitled Scenes of American Life from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. That was the first time we exhibited his work here, but in 2004 I invited him to participate in an exhibition I organized entitled Along the Lincoln Highway. For this exhibition, I asked artists to paint scenes along Route 30 in Pennsylvania. Ron produced something of a travelogue that described his painting route. He exhibited the work as a group of fifteen small panels mounted close together, so that they ‘‘read’’ as one but at the same time retained the character and definition of each particular place he stopped to paint.
Ron is drawn intuitively to the sites that he paints by color, light, atmosphere, texture, shadow, shape, and form, and his paintings can be broken down abstractly into these fundamentals of art making. He paints in all seasons and at all times of the day in an effort to translate particular places and moments into art. While he draws inspiration from other plein air painters like the Impressionists, his work expresses his own unique viewpoint and experience. Ron’s art is consistently cropped and framed in a way that leads the viewer into his paintings to share that experience. Whether his subject is an industrial scene, a winding creek bed, or a fragment of the urban or natural landscape, Ron allows the viewer a moment to peer into his world and see it through his eyes.
I have watched Ron make a painting, and was fascinated by how he constructs his scenes. He begins with the simplest line or patch of color to suggest a broad overview, and progresses to the methodical application of layer upon layer of pigment until the scene materializes before the viewer’s eyes. He makes it look so easy. Ron paints on small panels that may or may not turn into larger works. I must admit that it is the small-scale work that still attracts me because of its intimacy and spontaneity. When his paintings are arranged together as a group, they tell both their individual stories and a bigger story: the tale of the artist’s experience in each place. Each painting encapsulates the day, the time, the weather, the atmosphere, all of which contribute to the narrative as a whole—which is about life in Pittsburgh, southwestern Pennsylvania, or anywhere he travels. There is a spirit and energy to Ron’s work that readily transfers from his brush to the viewer, revealing his personal exploration of the world around him. R
Barbara L. Jones
Westmoreland Museum of American Art
These two books can be ordered online.
Paintings of Indiana County by Ron Donoughe is an 85 page hardcover. $25 plus shipping
It is offered by the University Museum, http://www.iup.edu/page.aspx?id=107345
Essence of Pittsburgh is a 144 page, hardcover-$29, softcover-$18, plus shipping
It is offered through The Pittsburgh Center for Arts Shop, http://www.pittsburgharts.org/shop_index.php