Bette Ridgeway the True Heir of Paul Jenkins
Critical Review by Dr. Salvatore Russo
Bette Ridgeway The True Heir of Paul Jenkins Painting as a ritual. The spiritual in art, which takes shape through a "slowed down" process based on the indistinguishable union between time - space - color. The canvas becomes a diary in which to write down your emotions, your feelings and, above all, where you can freely express your ideas. Today we can consider the artist Bette Ridgeway as the one and only true heir of Paul Jenkins: her mentor and teacher. The encounter between the artist and Jenkins' great paintings takes place way back in 1978, when she, Bette, entered the Gumpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery in New York, where the entire space was filled with huge canvas paintings by Jenkins. Bette's reaction was a long cry, due to the strong emotion provoked by Jenkins' enormous canvases in which the power of rhythmic primary colors is sublime. It's kind of the same feeling that many get when they walk into Rothko's Chapel in Houston, Texas.
We can therefore include Bette Ridgeway's painting in that second generation abstract expressionism in which great figures have established themselves. With Pollock's dripping, already the rigid rules of painting fail. Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Paul Jenkins become the undisputed kings of an American movement that even conquers the Venice Biennale. Ridgeway's painting is dynamic and rhythmic; like the most “enlightened” of contemporary composers, Bette traces on canvas what is her ideal score. There is a tacit harmony of color and movement which, through the elegance of the castings, leads the viewer to question the true meaning of art. What I want to analyze is the strong spirituality present in the paintings of the artist who for about 50 years has dedicated herself to transmitting her ideas. I want to mention that Ridgeway, like all the greatest American Masters, in the initial phase of her process creates the color herself, by diluting heavy body paint with water in a blender to create a “flow” acrylic color. The spiritual aspect is therefore what characterizes the American artist's painting. A spiritual one that is enhanced by the magnificence of color and shapes. Her paintings could be considered as the tablets of the law. Real "commandments" to follow and protect. The central idea is to consider the harmony that springs from the work of art in direct relationship with the harmony of the cosmos, of the whole universe, as the soul of the artist, often and willingly, is in contact with the soul of the world and therefore represents its essence. We feel these laws unconsciously, if we approach nature in a way that is not external, but internal - as Kandinsky argued. We must not limit ourselves to looking at nature from the outside, but we must live it from the inside. Art is none other than the language of being (Heidegger) at the service of the divine (Kandinsky). This seems to be the philosophy linked to the works of Bette Ridgeway. The artist succeeds in the difficult task of communicating what appears unknown. Painting that is influenced by Jenkins, without however being a faithful copy. Unlike the American Master's painting, Bette's has a more harmonious structure, and the color is balanced differently, in order to create a very intimate relationship between the viewer and the work of art.
Dr. Salvatore Russo Rome January 21, 2021