Extinct may be forever, but art is forever also. That’s what has been driving the powerful, playful art of award-winning painter Agata Ren.
“Everything seems to be connected on our planet earth. I’m interested in the consequences of human behavior. How much responsibility do we have and what do we owe to the planet if we are to be the most intelligent species? I’m passionate about creating delightful artwork consisting of and featuring endangered and recently extinct species while using old social publications documenting people’s interests and having those temptations fade into the background! My artwork reflects on our society. My mission is to bring about awareness through my artwork.”
After years of schooling and graduating from the University of Applied Sciences in Duesseldorf, Germany studying art, photography, design, illustration, typography and film, Agata Ren made her way to South Florida and became intrigued by the wild variety of animals and plants here. But what began to really intrigue her when she looked into the history of Florida were the species that were no longer here and the ones currently in danger of extinction.
“I am here now and this is what speaks to me, these creatures that no longer have a voice,” she said at the Highland Library before giving a talk to 20 kids from the local high school. “It may sound funny but after I know what animal I’m going to paint, I start with the frame. I worked in home redesign and many times the house would have abandoned art and one time they left a full art studio of supplies. So once I have the frame I begin layering the background with found images, mostly from magazines and ads of products. I place layers and layers of these images in the background as a way to show the media noise and society needs and consumerism that contributes to animals becoming extinct. I paint the animals usually in a bright, colorful way, not always the color they actually are. A cow becomes blue, a panther is pink. I use glitter and then a layer of resin to really cement in the image. They are saying ‘look at me!’”
Her first and favorite image from the endangered species series she started in 2013 is her Dodo bird, an ungainly knobby headed fowl that was last seen on earth in 1662. It’s been gone so long it’s almost mythic. A plucky feathered beastie, she renders him with bluish feathers and yellow speckles, a vacant look in his eye. Hovering in the background like ghostly specters are women’s faces, their eyes averted from the Dodo, lost in their thoughts of beauty.
Another piece that was challenging in a different way is her Orangutan, made for a VHS tape themed show. She found an ape who had been in a TV series that went to tape. “He was in the VHS business,” Agata Ren says in her serious German accent. ‘So I pulled out yards and yards of tape from old cassettes – I thought it would never end – then I layered the tape back and forth on a canvas to make surface to paint on. Since the tape was shiny and black, I chose to render the ape all in white paint. The I made a frame from the cassettes themselves.”
When the class of kids arrives, they stare at Agata like she is a rare species herself with her flowing bond hair, husky German accent, flower in her hair and flowered sandals. She gives a tour and tells the story of each painting and each animal. Even though some of these had gone extinct just ten or 15 years ago, the kids had never seen them. Ren has two kids of her own, ages 7 and 9, and wants her kids to see endangered animals thrive.
“I want you to like looking at them,” she says sternly, “but also to think about what you do and will do with your life. Think about what has been lost.”
Agata Ren recently won First Place, at the CONTINUUM 2016 Pop-up Gallery, for her Florida Panther. She also won First Place at the Lighthouse ArtCenter Museum, for Florida Rainbow Snake.
She had a Public Commission from the Carlson Hotels, Inc. of her Barn Owls painting for commercial use; advertising, social media as well as wall graphics in Hotels for a period of ten years.
For more info about the artist’s work, visit: agata-ren-art.com
The Profile of artist Agata Ren includes artwork from society, animals, nature, and fine art in paintings of endangered, extinct, species. Read more about her here.