For the past fifty years, Ann Rhoney (b. 1953, Niagara Falls) has dedicated her artistic practice to the investigation of the mystery of light: how it shapes everything we see and feel, from the physical world around us to our most immediate emotions and deepest perceptions. Within light is the equally mysterious element of color, and both have long been the driving force in her art.
In the 1970s, as a young artist, Rhoney discovered that a camera was unable to capture the nuances of color seen by the human eye, as both color film and digital photography are limited in the color spectrum they can reproduce in an image. Frustrated, Rhoney learned how to paint her gelatin silver prints. By capturing light with her photographs and applying transparent paint to their surface, she fulfills photography’s promise of true luminosity, and reveals a dazzling spectrum of blues, greens, and pinks unattainable in traditional color photography. By combing the two mediums, her work creates the impression of a painting.
Rhoney’s exploration of the nature of light and color is manifested powerfully in her photographs of the ocean. The sky and water have no inherent colors of their own; rather, the light at each ephemeral moment in time creates the colors we perceive. As Rhoney explains, “Just as the water is a kind of blank canvas upon which the light acts to create color, so too is each print upon which I choose to paint, guided by my observation of the water and by my own inner sensibility as an artist.”
Thus, Rhoney’s masterful ocean waves come to life, forming, swelling, breaking, and collapsing in fugitive clouds of foam, evoking the call of the wind and the smell of salt water. Her huge, stormy waves are mesmerizing, glowing from viridescent to periwinkle, silver, and gold. Rhoney often paints while listening to jazz, as if she is painting music; her piece Blue in Green was inspired by the compositions of Bill Evans and Miles Davis. In her words, “I paint as I feel and see color… there is sudden movement within a still image—with its light, each jump within the water creates the 'music' of the wave.” Rhoney’s process allows her to introduce an emotional dimension to her work, reaching a level of transcendence and harmony.
Rhoney’s work was first shown in 1982 at the Daniel Wolf Gallery in Manhattan. Today, her photographs can be found in museums throughout the United States and in Europe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo; the George Eastman Museum, Rochester; the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin; and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Her photographs have also appeared on the covers of New York magazine, Newsweek, and Life, and have illustrated articles in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Vogue.