Rhett Lynch Returns to the Joy of Doing
Rhett Lynch’s persona often appears in a tailored suit. “While living in New York City, I met a professional designer of men’s clothing and started painting his suits, sort of like Jim Dine’s bathrobes,” Lynch relates. “At the time I was also painting dogs, the four-legged kind, so I decided to put a dog’s head on a suit. I still love doing them—they’ve become autobiographical and a visual diary of my journey through life.”
Much has happened in Lynch’s life since his years in New York. He lived in Arizona, moved to Los Angeles, CA, and then decided to take a three-month road trip. “It lasted a year and a half,” he says with a laugh. “My three dogs and I lived out of the car and saw a lot of the country.” When Lynch returned to New Mexico, he learned that his mother was dying of ALS. For the next two and a half years, he cared for her, awakening to the meaning of compassion and the joy of living up to the end.
All of these experiences lead to Lynch’s first solo show in more than five years. “I was asked to do a show last year in Taos,” he explains. “I wasn’t ready then … but I am so ready now.”
Joyce Robins, who is hosting Lynch’s show during Santa Fe Indian Market, says that she is thrilled to be representing him. “Rhett’s work fits comfortably in the gallery, and like many of the artists here, his paintings are process-oriented and his message uniquely personal.”
For Indigenous, Lynch will have approximately twenty canvases, several of which are from his newest series called Prayers for Healing. Labor intensive, the paintings are meditative mantras for the Navajo artist, who builds “prayer ties” in traditional fashion, using strips of fabric filled with thoughts of hope as well as sacred objects such as tobacco and sage. He sews the prayer ties to the canvas before adding numerous layers of acrylics so that they incorporate into the surface. Lynch begins these paintings, as he does the majority of his works, by covering the canvas with gold foil. The foil creates both textures as well as a translucency as he applies layer after layer of pigments. By finish, the surface resembles colored leather.
Lynch says he chose the title Indigenous for both personal and socio-political reasons. “Indigenous peoples around the globe are raising their voices, perhaps more than ever before, and they are being heard. I’m also raising my voice by getting my head out of the way so that my heart can speak. I feel as if I’m returning to that wonderful box of crayons with a sharpener that turned me on to art when I was as a kid.”
Lynch, who grew up in Lubbock, TX, and studied at Texas Tech University, says that he considers himself an artist who “happens to be Navajo,” adding that he never had the reservation experience. Nonetheless, he draws substantially from the spirituality that nature provides, especially in his home/studio in Albuquerque’s North Valley, where he raises goats, keeps bees, takes daily walks along the Rio Grande and revels in sunrises. “In this busy, noisy world, it is critical to be still, which is the best medicine,” he concludes. “My paintings record my journey to reconnect to the stillness that heightens the joy of doing.”