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Ruth Newquist Exhibit Captures Extraordinary New York Streetscapes



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If the human eye could stop and freeze a moment of time through the mind’s eye while casually strolling the streets of Manhattan and New York’s Soho and East Village neighborhoods, it could find endless details that make the ordinary extraordinary.

And that is just what local artist and Society of Creative Arts of Newtown (SCAN) co-founder Ruth Newquist has managed to do in each oil and watercolor she is exhibiting (and selling) through the end of September in the Community Room at the C.H. Booth Library.

Ms Newquist, who has been painting most of her life and who sought out fellow artists to form the SCAN collective of creatives, has been exhibiting her work in galleries throughout New England and New York for decades. She has been recognized with awards for her work from organizations including the Salmagundi Club, the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, and the North East Watercolor Society.

She was featured on the pages of American Artist Magazine in 1999 and a hardcover art book entitled Splash 9 in 2006.

Meeting for a quick interview September 13, Ms Newquist said that thanks to her patient and talented peers and the many talented instructors and artists she has experienced through SCAN, she and many of the group’s 300-plus affiliated members have gone on to produce incredible works and exhibits.

The organization continues to hold open painting sessions or demonstrations twice monthly and invites aspiring and fledgling artists to attend absolutely free.

“It’s a good environment to watch people painting,” she said. “And within an hour or so, you get to see a complete work created right in front of your eyes.”

It is Ms Newquists perceptive eyes that make her New York streetscape works so compelling. Imaging each one as a snapshot in time — the colors of an awning, the undulation of one passerby’s dress, a hobbled sawhorse, and even an early work with the former World Trade Center Twin Towers tucked in the background, come to life under her practiced brush strokes.

“As far as the New York paintings, I got the bright idea of pulling them all out to see if I could show them,” she told The Newtown Bee. “And when I went to collect them, I had more than I expected. And they seem to fit in this space perfectly.”

After her retirement in 1985, Ms Newquist said she began traveling to New York to snap camera images she then selected from to create reproductions of the street scenes and subjects. Starting with watercolors and eventually switching to more durable oils, she completed her latest work in 2017.

“I had studied both oil and watercolor in art school but primarily used watercolors for quite a while because I loved the medium,” she said. “But oils also don’t have as much reflection.”

“Then I switched to using Newtown locations in my work because they seemed to be selling well,” she said.

To achieve the most interesting snapshot in time style Ms Newquist displays in her streetscapes, she will sometimes overlay multiple images from the same vantage point with various subjects that may appear in different images as they pass through the frame. But because they have interesting clothes or may be carrying a shopping bag or pictured in a particular stride, she will combine them into one single painting.

“I try to look for interesting subjects — sometimes I try to find someone who’s hair is red, just to provide a visual focal point,” she said. “I love to hear people say that my figures look so natural. People also look at the work and immediately identify the location because they’ve been on that corner or walked down that street. In most of my works, I can tell you what street they are on.”

She said she and a number of her artist colleagues would traverse the Soho and East Village neighborhoods because the area was so rich in subjects, architecture, colors, and movement.

While the works in her Booth Library exhibit range in size, Ms Newquist said she seldom, if ever, predetermines how large or small her final canvas will be.

“I let the image guide me,” she said.

In one case, Ms Newquist recalled, an exhibit visitor took a liking to a particular painting but said he would like it smaller.

“He just wanted it for a particular spot, so I sold him the photographic image I took for the painting in the size he needed instead,” she said.

“I love these New York paintings, and this exhibit is the first opportunity I’ve had to display every single one,” Ms Newquist added. “And this space was perfect; I didn’t even have to double hang anything!”

Learn more by visiting the exhibit through September 30, or the artist’s website, ruthnewquist.com

Local artist Ruth Newquist, who was instrumental in forming the SCAN collective of creatives, has been exhibiting her work in galleries throughout New England and New York for decades. Her collection of New York streetscapes is on display at the C.H. Booth Library through September 30.
In another of Ruth Newquist’s early New York Streetscapes, she captured the still standing twin towers of the World Trade Center, which can be easily identified in the upper right corner.
This Ruth Newquist painting is called “Soho Street Activity.” —Bee Photos, Voket
Moments after Newtown artist Ruth Newquist snapped the camera image that she used to reproduce this piece called “Picking A Bear,” she said the vendor portrayed in the image saw and chased down a New York purse snatcher.
A Ruth Newquist work entitled “Blue Sky” is one of the earliest and smallest works in her C.H. Booth Library exhibition.
Local artist Ruth Newquist points out some nuances in one of her works currently on display at the C.H. Booth library. —Bee Photos, Voket
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