Inside the Artist’s Studio with Cherry Rahn: Stalking the Wild Still Life

I have lived in Geneva, NY since 1981, but I’ve spent time in many other places, including the UK, and many years in Canada.  My first solo show was at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1989, after taking some studio courses there.  I made sculpture for the next 20 years.

My medium, subject matter and style varied a lot.  I made bronze figures and portraits, a multi-media installation, a series in Hydrocal about technology, and social-satirical “men in suits” figures.  I’ve also done set design and theater pieces for schools and community theater, and for my daughter’s circus production company.  I’ve been concentrating on painting since 2008, using gouache and then acrylic on canvas.

In my studio.  Photo: E. Kenas

In my studio. Photo: E. Kenas

Wild still life:  since it is now socially acceptable to use a cell phone to take photos  in all public situations, a vast opportunity has opened up.  In a cafe, restaurant or tea room, I can hunt around the room or the table top with my phone camera.  I use the low or peculiar lighting conditions and the chance encounters with objects and colors to collect raw visual material (I have never set up a still life.)  I then edit and re-compose an image and work from that photo.

The cafe paintings began in 2012 with views of the room, people, windows, inside and outside.  Now I have zoomed in to the more micro scene.

raw material

raw material

painting: Pair of Glasses

painting: Pair of Glasses

I love to play around on the cusp of abstraction and representation.  It’s tempting to go with the sheer colors and shapes, yet I can’t quite bear to “let go of that adorable salt shaker”, or whatever it may be.

Once again, I have shifted my subject matter.  I’m going more micro and working at the place where the water meets the land.  Here I am stalking the pebbles and lake grass.

at work.  photo: S. Lee

at work. photo: S. Lee

In my paintings, I want to present things that are there, but which we don’t usually see without a deliberate act of looking.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Cherry Rahn’s paintings in our current exhibition “Setting the Table” (runs through November 25th). You can see more of Cherry’s work online at

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by printmaker Heather Swenson.

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