Santa Fe artist Bette Ridgeway creates epic masterwork for the new Boro Tower, Tysons, Virginia
Bette Ridgeway has just completed her largest and most significant work (to date!). The corporate commission from The Meridian Group/Rockefeller Group/Gensler Architects measures 15’ high x 21’ wide – a stunning, highly visible, “poured” painting on canvas. Throughout the four decades of her artistic career, Ridgeway’s artwork has been exhibited, collected, written about and lauded. Thus far, in 2018, she has enjoyed fourteen exhibitions and has been featured in fifteen global publications. Her work has always been, and continues to be, about seeking new frontiers – and this commission is in furtherance of that awareness. Pushing the boundaries of light, color and design, Ridgeway is best known for her large-scale, luminous poured canvas – a process that she terms “layering light.”
In February of 2018, Ridgeway was selected and given full artistic freedom to create the signature artwork for The Boro Building, located in the heart of The Boro, a premier, multi-phase development in Tysons Corner, Virginia. This vibrant, new live/work/play town concept is being co-developed by The Meridian Group and Rockefeller Group, with design by Gensler Architects. Art. At Work. in District of Columbia graciously presented Ridgeway for this project. The painting will be installed in the lobby upon completion of the building in January 2019.
For the past eight months, Ridgeway and her team of four assistants have been creating this masterwork, an engineering feat, which required constant innovation, research and development. The process of pouring on canvas is painstaking, in that each layer is poured separately. Ridgeway uses Golden Fluid paint and layers color over color to achieve a limpid suffused quality that resembles watercolor. The pouring process requires a complex set up. The large canvasses are suspended on supports of varying heights, then meticulously draped and formed for each individual pour.
Until the piece was completed, only days ago, Ridgeway and her team had never seen the massive piece in its entirety. Due to the immense scale of the artwork, limitations in the work space, and the complex nature of her pouring technique, the artwork was created in sections, with parts of the canvas rolled at all times. When the entire painting was hung to view in its totality for the first time, the Ridgeway team wept.
The title of the piece, “Arc of the Imaginals,” was inspired by the chemical process that the caterpillar undergoes just before bursting into a butterfly. Imaginal cells become murky, uncontrolled and chaotic during this miraculous time. The arc is represented by the white foamy passages in the painting. The transformed butterflies arc to the upper right where they take flight from the canvas.
With a strong history and connection to the D.C. metro area, Ridgeway is gratified that this work will have a permanent home in The Boro. Her relationship to the region includes having served as Visual Arts Coordinator with the Maryland National Capital Planning Commission in the 1970’s, and her subsequent appointment as CEO to Very Special Arts (an affiliate of John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts). She then took the position of Associate Director of Development for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She and her late husband, Jack Ridgeway, restored a historic farm in Shenandoah County that had been a hospital during the Civil War. In 1996, the artist relocated to Santa Fe to pursue a full-time art practice.
Ridgeway speaks on the concept behind the project, “This process touched me as our society is undergoing great and dynamic change. I believe that the outcome can be very positive as we free ourselves from the old way of thinking and being, and step into a new chapter of freedom, compassion and beauty.”