Arizona artist Ron Bimrose took back roads to career in art

‘Reclamation/Reformation’ exhibit opens at CMC ArtShare Gallery May 9

“Through the Garden” by Ron Bimrose

“Through the Garden,” a painting and collage on paper by Ron Bimrose, will be part of his upcoming exhibit “Reclamation/Reformation” at the CMC ArtShare Gallery in Glenwood Springs. A free public reception will be held at the gallery Friday, May 9, 6-8 p.m.

Although Ron Bimrose received early attention for his drawing talent, he never thought it could lead to a career. When he was in high school, people would say: “You can really draw. Now, what are you gonna do for a living?”

No one suggested art. Instead, after graduating, Bimrose spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. “It was not a good time to make art,” he said, “but it was a good time to read books and sort out the meaning of life.”

After a one-year tour in Vietnam, 1968-1969, he returned to the U.S. thinking, “As long as I’m a good citizen and an honest person, I should be following my heart, my passions, because life is short.”

He worked in Southern California just long enough to save up for a cross-country road trip then set out to see America in a ’65 Ford van. An unplanned stop in Tempe, Ariz., made an indelible impression. So, after his national tour, he returned to the spot, parked his van and, much to his own surprise, stayed.

“I ended up in Arizona because there was somebody teaching [at Phoenix College] that I’d heard about while passing through town,” he said. That somebody was legendary photographer Allen Dutton, who proved to be an exceptional mentor. “Allen’s influence on me was to push me to keep going,” said Bimrose. “He had a real essential faith in what I wanted to do.”

And what Bimrose wanted to do was to create art that invoked the interplay between the man-made world and the elements of nature.

Artist sees poetry in mixed-media collage

Most of the artist’s work is in mixed media and almost always involves photo-collage, painting and drawing. “I like the play of collage,” he said. “I like to cut up photographs and redefine the elements – like cars or city buildings – into figures.”

He described the kind of work he strives to create as akin to poetry with disparate images alluding to and connecting to real experiences without directly or literally representing them. “Mostly,” he said, “what inspires me is just the thrill and joy of making art.”

But that doesn’t mean he abandons all thought when approaching a photograph or canvas. “I don’t want to just splash colors or make marks for their own sake. The work needs to have an internal logic to it,” he said.

No shortage of ideas for artist’s wide-ranging mind

“Any number of things will start the process rolling,” he said. “An image comes into my head, something I see, colors; then, it gets filtered into a project that does something.”

The idea of work that “does something” is central to Bimrose’s artistic sensibility, but he doesn’t always know what that something will be. “Sometimes I think a piece of work is going one way,” he said, “but the work says: ‘No, that’s not where I’m going; you’re going to have to change course here.’”

He typically begins in a sketchbook, starting with a small thumbnail or a few words, which he returns to while working. “I put tabs in my sketchbook, so I can go back to them. Sometimes I lose an idea, because I don’t draw or write enough,” he laughed.

Luckily for Bimrose, ideas are in seemingly endless supply. “I’ve never experienced anything akin to writer’s block,” he said. His biggest challenge is choosing which ideas to execute. And he has executed a lot of projects in his 30 years of creating and teaching art.

Work on view in galleries, universities even Baseball Hall of Fame

In 1996 Bimrose received a Visual Arts Fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and his work is currently represented by Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz. In a surprise twist proving that all roads lead back to Tempe, he discovered that the twin-sister owners had both taken photography classes with Bimrose at Mesa Community College. “One got an A, the other a B; I like to remind them of that,” he joked.

One of the most interesting synchronicities on the artist’s career path, however, led to an etching on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. A group of artists who played softball together submitted a portfolio that was ultimately accepted into the gallery there. “We had our 15 minutes of fame when a local TV station came to the ball field,” Bimrose said.

As for his upcoming show in downtown Glenwood Springs, titled “Reclamation/Reformation,” he anticipates showing about two dozen pieces. The new works, mixed-media collages in a wide range of sizes, will be on view May 9 to June 26 at the CMC ArtShare Gallery at 802 Grand Ave.

The artist will attend the opening reception on Friday, May 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. The public is invited to browse and mingle at the free event.

CMC ArtShare Gallery hours are weekdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, call 947-8367 or visit cmcartshare.com.