In 2019, artist Ronnie Waldman packed up her huge canvasses, found objects and crafty tools and moved to Atlanta from Miami with her 13-year-old Javanese mix, Luke, in tow. She covered the walls of her new home with colorful “Keith Haring-style” paintings and hand-painted homemade paper.
Greeting visitors in paint-splattered overalls and combat boots, the one-time Miss Poconos (1966) said, “I am best known for using alcohol ink, a very laborious and difficult process that doesn’t involve a brush. My tools are blow dryers and straws, which result in bubble-like creations, drop by drop with pure alcohol.”
Waldman advises viewers to take in her work beginning from the right, “cascading down with the eye, following clockwise and ending at the top. That way you are drawn in to the fullest.”
Take a peek at the world through Waldman’s purple-colored glasses.
Jaffe: Take us on a retrospective of your commercial artistic evolution.
Waldman: As a young married woman in New Jersey during the 1970s, my friends and our nannies started a trend-setting tie-dye fashion business in our basement. We quickly marketed bat mitzvah dresses, golf bags and the like in Manhattan and couldn’t make them quick enough to meet demand. We also hand-painted Lucite. Later, in Miami, I had a gallery and showroom at the Merchandise Mart, designing oversized hand-painted denim designer jackets, sold for $1,500 each. No small price point decades ago.
Jaffe: What are some of your Judaica-inspired pieces?
Waldman: My first childhood recollection was creating a religious painting for a contest among the local temples and churches. I painted Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, and I won! Of course, my dad helped. More recently, I have done Trees of Life using all mediums, natural fibers, collages and inspiration from nature. Currently, I have painted a sunset watercolor, “Jerusalem” (2019). To keep fresh, I attend North Fulton Chabad regularly and take courses. Learning never ends.
Jaffe: Is your talent the product of “nature” or of “nurture”?
Waldman: I grew up in New Jersey, with my dad as the cartoonist for the “Stars and Stripes” during World War II. He instilled the value of art in me at nine. I went to American University, Seton Hall and The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. I am certified, with an MA from St. Thomas University in teaching K-12.
Jaffe: Elaborate on your home’s interior.
Waldman: The walls here are filled mostly with my own art, and some of my seven-foot paintings bring me much joy, like the giant one in the back hall and “Art 101 Mixed Media,” inspired by Egyptian pyramids. The frames on these large paintings are quite extravagant also. In the living room is a lifetime of collecting. A Cartier soup terrine (1967), an antique fold-out vermeil gold leaf mirror from Miami Beach. My vertical silk painting is done in ink, stretched very tightly. You can see whatever free form you want in it. The armoire is from 1800.
Jaffe: What is your creative process?
Waldman: I derive inspiration from nature and travel. Some of my large acrylic collages were born from visiting national parks. Generally, my pieces can take from three hours to two weeks to complete. I create with feathers, ink, charcoal, silk and alcohol ink … an example of this technique in the kitchen is ten layers of alcohol ink and foil, all in dots, titled “Foundation of a Tree.” I find oil paints to be more difficult. My collages are the most creative, using and making homemade paper with found objects. Silk painting is a longer process and I’ve created dozens of scarves. I consider myself a color-inspired artist, focused on abstracts with use of bright colors. I also throw very textured pottery with up to five glazes. The two pieces of which I am most proud are my “Study of a Face,” done with dried leaves and scarlet lips, and my own “Self Portrait,” sketched in charcoal as a young student, using only lines.
Jaffe: Do you dream in Technicolor?
Waldman: Knowing how to use color requires skill. I might layer copper and rose gold, calculating where to use which shade. See where the middle is dark, making the surrounding colors come alive. One trade secret is using Dick Blick Yupo surfaces of photo film paper, not canvas. Speaking of color, I created this stained-glass door out of translucent paper.
Jaffe: Your bedroom is very well put together … different genres, all yours?
Waldman: This is my sanctuary. I have done everything in here except for the Chinese bronze panels, “Piece, Love and Happiness.” To the right of the bed is my “Mother and Child” in shadows. Behind the bed is an acrylic collage of letters on mesh. Alongside the walls are two of my special pieces: “Cement Treatment in Pastel” which is unusual for me. And my treatment of a whitewater rafting trip in Utah, where each box is an individual painting that could stand alone. A very dramatic piece is my “Red,” composed of devils, the subway and playing cards, all saved by angels in clouds. It tells quite a story!
Jaffe: Do you teach art? What advice would you give to parents to engender creativity?
Waldman: I tutored all levels in art and school activities, coordinating the teachers’ courses with art projects. I encourage parents to pursue their child’s interest in art. Teaching art to special needs children is most rewarding, bringing out their inward need for expression. I volunteered with Family Promises in South Florida and mentored children. Now I’m beginning to teach at the Cohen assisted-living facility nearby.
Jaffe: If you could wake up and have one new piece in here, it would be …
Waldman: Something by Maurits Cornelis Escher, a Dutch graphic artist, who, unlike me, did not lead with much color!
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Chai Style
- Ronnie Waldman
- Keith Haring
- Miss Poconos
- New Jersey
- Ten Commandments
- Tree of Life
- American University
- Seton Hall
- The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale
- Art 101 mixed media
- Cartier soup terrine
- Dick Blick Yupo
- Maurits Cornelis Escher
- Chabad of North Fulton