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Artist Profile: Michael Rich

Artist Michael Rich’s landscapes are expansive and expressive. Inspired by the vast variety of New England settings and seasons, Rich’s work has been called “irascible,” but that is a word he likes.

Juniper • Oil on canvas, 2019 • 44″ x 54″

“When I think of something irascible, I think of something unruly, a little wild. At its best, my work has a bit of that,” he says. “There’s an untamed aspect to New England, it’s never the same from minute to minute. As an artist, I try to capture that sense of changing light and the energetic forces of nature.”

Rich’s technique is as capricious as any New England day. His large paintings, oil on canvas, are mostly “improvised,” he shares. To understand light and landscape, Rich does studies in other media, such as watercolor, pastels, and mixed materials. He is a printmaker as well. However, once he begins a painting, Rich works without preconception, drawing on memories of particular places or points in time. 

“It is a strange way to work, not knowing where a picture is going,” he muses, adding he often doesn’t plan precisely what a picture will be when it’s finished. “I sink into the process, into colors and light that feel like a place to me, a place with some resonance. Something happens in a place, and it leaves something behind.”

The ripples from past events that Rich paints connect to facets of his personal history and are shaped by images of growing up summering on Nantucket. Coming from a family of engineers and architects, Rich headed for college planning to study architecture, never considering art as a career. At Rhode Island School of Design, however, he “fell in love, first with drawing, then painting.” That passion changed the direction of his life. Today, in addition to his creative work, Rich teaches art at…

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