You already know Austin is a hub for art and culture. In addition to world-class museums like the Blanton, smaller galleries line the streets. The city does a wonderful job of making sure art of all sorts is installed in public spaces for everyone to enjoy. And there’s no shortage of street art, if that’s your thing. Sculptural exhibits are plentiful for those who prefer a more three-dimensional realm. Sometimes, you’ll find disciplines intersect, since plenty of artists like to play in the proverbial clay and experiment with different media.
The following list focuses on seven Austin-based artists who are skilled in the fine arts—mainly abstract, portraiture, and landscapes. As you’ll see, they find ways to expand upon these categories and even transcend them.
1/ Rachel Dickson
Originally hailing from the Midwest, Rachel Dickson found her home in Austin. She’s recently blossomed into a full-time artist with encouragement from her husband, with her first solo show at Hearth and Soul.
Dickson’s art is inspired by the heaviness of grief and also by the lightness of play. On social media, she gives us glimpses into her process, the growing pains of starting an art business, and her journey through motherhood.
2/ Jennifer Balkan
Jennifer Balkan began drawing from a young age. She studied neuroscience in college, and lived in Boulder and Seattle before settling in Austin. She is greatly inspired by the art of Spain, France and Italy, where she traveled in 2001. Since then, she’s thrown herself into painting and hasn’t looked back.
Balkan talks about the meditative, transcendent space she enters while painting. “I always hope to remain in this state during the entirety of my painting experience, though life’s chatter gets in the way at times,” she wrote. “When I can exist in that sweet space for much of the time when I am painting, I can say that my work is honest.”
Balkan is the co-founder of Atelier Dojo, an arts academy that hosts a range of classes and workshops.
3/ Arielle Austin
Arielle Austin has a B.A. in graphic design from California State University, Northridge. She moved to Austin in 2014 on a leap of faith, though not necessarily to pursue art. She had taken a lot of fine art classes as an undergrad. But after graduating, she didn’t arrive at painting on her own until she had experienced a year of depression. Painting turned out to be her way back to herself.
Austin is known to incorporate dried flowers into her paintings, turning them into a sort of delicate diorama or collage. In a painting series called Soul Food, each piece is based on a different soul food dish. Some of the pieces resemble the food that is their namesake; some are more abstract; but they are all full of flavor.
4/ Saul Jerome E. San Juan
Saul Jerome E. San Juan grew up in the Philippines and suburban Chicago, and later arrived in Texas. His work includes a series of mixed-media portraits called “Blue Eyed Types,” which depict a number of men with similar features, wearing the same outfit. Though he recognizes each subject as individual, he makes a choice to present everyone in a similar fashion– informed by his own experience with stereotypes affecting his sense of self.
Desire is a major theme in his paintings. “Painting is artifice,” he said in his artist statement. “In painting, I attempt to bring closer the distant, make permanent the fleeting, and concretize my fancies into objects I hope people can simply enjoy for their beauty.”
5/ Vy Ngo
Vy Ngo grew up as a refugee in rural Pennsylvania. From an early age, she was a dancer and an artist. When choosing what to study, the age-old question emerged: pursue art, design, and architecture, or become a doctor?
She went into the medical field and moved to Austin in 2004 to practice. Ngo was a pediatrician for 12+ years before she began to pursue art more actively. Her paintings have titles like “Synaptic” and “Dopamine,” speaking to her background in science. Much of her work also deals with identity and politics.
Ngo’s upcoming solo show, “The In Between,” will be held at Dougherty Arts Center. The opening reception will take place Sept. 6, 2019, from 6-8 p.m. The show will run until Oct. 5, 2019.
6/ Ryan Runcie
Ryan Runcie was born in a small town in east Texas. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in communication design from Texas State University. And in addition to being a fine artist, he also works as a designer and muralist.
An avid traveler, Runcie gleans inspiration from multicultural experiences. One of his intentions, especially with his portrait work, is to help viewers cultivate empathy for other cultures.
Runcie also teaches a class based on the art of the still life. Classes are held in a home studio and materials are provided, or you can bring your own.
7/ JR Rapier
Hailing from Dallas, JR Rapier moved to Austin in 2002 to help her former husband open a vintage store on the Drag. Since his passing in 2014, Rapier has dedicated herself to painting full-time.
She now lives in the Hill Country with her husband and children, where the scenery provides ample inspiration for her work. Themes such as childhood, femininity, and nature underlie many of her paintings.
Rapier considers New Mexico her second home and currently her work is displayed at Keep Contemporary in Santa Fe, N.M. Her paintings can also be seen internationally and in various parts of Texas, including Art For The People Gallery here in Austin.
@theAustinot wants to know:
When was the last time you attended a fine art show in Austin?