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Artist profile: Ronalee Crocker

Ronalee Crocker painting

Watermelon “16×20” • Oil on canvas

As if floating in another dimension of time and space, Ronalee Crocker’s still life paintings seem to have the power to paradoxically ground the space in which they are displayed. Her simple and familiar objects are subtly placed in a way that suggests an aura of sophistication beyond their everyday function. “My work is basically about geometric form, with recurring patterns and visual echoes that are portrayed through the reflections, all to convey a sense of order,” Crocker explains.

Crocker, who grew up in Hingham, was surrounded by artists in her family, but recognizes the deep influence her grandfather, an accomplished painter, had not only on her choice to become an artist, but also the technique, commitment and dedication required to produce fine art.

The fine detail of her still lifes is highlighted not only by the classic choice of a black background—which Crocker credits for providing reflection—and as a result movement—a notion not usually associated with a static composition—but also in that they appear to be full of life and are anything but inanimate. “They evolve over so many layers of oil paint and layers of glazing; the goal is to achieve translucent colors and luminosity,” she says. “The black background adds a lot of contrast and visual punch. It doesn’t distract you, but rather keeps the focus on the subject.”

And the subject is where Crocker stands out among others. Her subjects are commonly understood and provide a familiarity that allows an immediate access and understanding of the scene, and share an underlining New England sensibility. She explains, “Instead of painting an abundant display, I showcase subjects with deceptively simple composition. They are deliberately placed to appear casual, and they evolve to get just the right visual tension between objects.” Using common, yet unexpected, items like cooking onions, limes, baskets, pedestals, flowers and fruit, her minimalistic designs have an air of elegance due to their subliminal sense of order and calm. “I want there to be a lot of interest in what the subject is, but it is that simplicity I am after,” Crocker says.

A recent exploration into the tunnels, furls and layers found in dinner plate dahlias have provided a new path of artistic exploration for Crocker as she has embarked upon a new series. Using photos that she has taken of the oversized, lush specimens in subtle shades of ivory and cream, and caramel, and then cropping them to an abstract perspective, Crocker has become intrigued with the play of light and undertones of the velvety flowers, all the while supported by a background of a black void.

The simplest, most uncomplicated items become paragons of sublime sophistication when captured and interpreted by Crocker’s deft translation. In a world driven by immediate gratification, the quiet satisfaction found in her paintings is a soothing respite.

Ronalee Crocker is represented by Christina Gallery, 32 North Water Street, Edgartown.

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