Flora-focused paintings reveal emotion, fantasy

Remy Hogan
Staff Writer

The Claremont Museum of Art bustled with local art lovers Sunday for Roland Reiss’ new “Unapologetic Flowers” exhibition.

The art comes from Southern California artist Roland Reiss, who was the chairman of the Claremont Graduate University’s art department for 30 years.

“Flowers can represent emotion when words fail us,” Reiss said in his statement about the exhibition.

Reiss has maintained a successful career as an internationally-acclaimed artist for more than 60 years.

“Unapologetic Flowers” features flora-focused art that he created between 2008 and 2015.

“My flower paintings have been a way to put everything I know about painting into my later work,” Reiss said.

The oldest piece in the collection, “Fleur du Mal II,” is an acrylic on canvas, which seemed to be the most popular among art lovers at the exhibit.

“I like this one because of all of the layers. There are so many things to look at in the background,” said Eugene McAllister, a Montana native visiting Los Angeles, who stopped to see the museum with his wife Sanford before their flight back home.

The artwork seems at first glance to be a beige canvas with colorful flowers emerging from the center. However, upon deeper inspection, one notices the minute details in the background.

Small airplanes and satellites can be spotted between leaves and behind flower petals. One building in the center was reminiscent of Disneyland to Sunny Blake, sophomore political science major at the University of La Verne.

“With all of the hidden elements in the art, I got the impression that he drew inspiration from Disneyland,” Blake said.

To others, the art was meaningful and surreal.

“While the flowers are lifelike, the artwork itself is like a fantasy,” Ron Arias, a former writer for People Magazine, said.

“I can appreciate what it takes with shading and proportions… with flowers you can make mistakes but nature doesn’t make mistakes.”

Arias’ friend, Caroline McAllister, a retired professor and graduate of Pitzer College, said the work was intriguing and reminded her of the complexity of life.

“Life is layered and beautiful, just like these artworks demonstrate,” McAllister said. “Something that can look simple still has to have a plan.”

The exhibition included a series called the “Primaries,” which consist of three different oil and acrylic paintings in the primary colors: blue, yellow and red, with vases of flowers in the middle.

Each of the three pieces in the series was different from the other five in the exhibit because the thick brush strokes, which added to its sense of depth and texture.

“In the ‘Primaries’ series, thick brush strokes have replaced images as a form of energy,” Reiss said.

“Ultimately, human experience is embedded in each painting and involves perceptual cognition. In this way I want my paintings to contribute a sense of well-being.”

The perceptual cognition that Reiss discussed seemed to play a large role in why those who viewed his works liked what they were seeing.

“The ‘Primaries’ make sense to me, the way he describes them. The others don’t make sense, and that’s what I like about them,” Blake said.

“Unapologetic Flowers” is on display through July 8 from noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Remy Hogan can be reached at remy.hogan@laverne.edu.

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