It is not surprising the Rory Wagner, who was raised in Florida, chose Taos as his home. Taos has, after all, long been a mecca for those in search of life at it’s largest; those who refuse to compromise, who demand freedom in their daily existence. Nor is it a surprise that one of his favorite early subjects was the cowboy – that American icon of don’t-fence-me-in heroism. What is surprising is the exquisite integrity of each painting. These pieces are created meticulously from Wagner’s photographic memory - often after only a brief encounter with the subject portrayed.
Essentially a self-taught painter, Rory was initially drawn to the works of the Dutch master of portraiture – Vermeer. Soon after arriving in Taos some 34 years ago, Rory happened into the gallery of RC Gorman. RC helped get Rory settled in the artistic community, became his mentor, and has remained a life-long friend.
Wagner is uncompromising in his work. If he is not satisfied with a painting he has been known to destroy it and start anew. Of the six to twelve canvases that annually pass under his intense scrutiny, each glow with a passionate presence. He builds his own stretchers and stretches each canvas himself. The next phase is the application of titanium white over multiple layers of sanded gesso. After this step the subject is sketched in and the painting begins. Rory blends the complex skin-tones by rubbing pigment onto the ground. (Wagner often jokes that he rubs instead of painting.) To achieve the authenticity of beadwork and feathering Wagner often uses small double aught brushes. “It takes me hours and hours, day upon day, to complete every one of them”.
Please click on photo to see larger image.