Raina Gentry received her degree in art from the UA in 2002. Her artwork incorporates her studies in printmaking, life drawing, and painting, and is heavily influenced by her education at Prescott College. She views each canvas as a playground for her psyche. Each piece evolves naturally and intuitively with little structure or expectation about the final outcome. Through this organic approach to art making, Raina believes that she taps into and expresses universal themes that many people can identify with. Through complex layering of acrylic paint and ink, with a focus on nature or the female form, she creates meaningful, evocative works that draw her viewers in, and expresses her deep love and connection with the natural world. See her work at https://rainagentry.com/index.html
WTR: How would you describe your relationship with the natural world, and why is it so often an integral part of your work?
RG: Nature is my greatest inspiration. I have a deep soulful connection with nature that is impossible to describe in words. That is better left to poets. I feel an almost constant sense of awe and wonder about it. I not only hike every day in nature, but live in a house surrounded by it. I am impacted by many aspects of it, not just the trees and the birds, deer and squirrels, but also the breeze, the rain and snow, the rocks, the grasses, even the dirt. Whenever I am outside my senses come alive, and I seem to absorb the essence of the place directly into my own body. Everything seems “right with the world.” If I am able to convey this experience through my artwork, I feel that I have succeeded as an artist.
WTR: Mountains, trees, and animals are often important parts of your paintings. What landscapes, real or imagined, fascinate you most and why? How have they influenced your work?
RG: I am inspired by all of nature, and find all of it interesting in one way or another, whether forest, desert, complex, simple, lush or stark. Everything from giant redwoods to the smallest weeds. All fascinate me on some level. Most of my work depicts high desert mountains and forests, because these are the places where I have lived, but I do long to paint other types as well. I am especially drawn to more stark landscapes, but have not figured out a way to do this in my current style.
WTR: Buddhist images are prominent in a number your paintings. How role, if any, has Buddhism played in your life and what effects has it had on your consciousness as well as your work?
RG: Although I don’t consider myself religious, the Buddhist philosophy resonates with me. I think many of the Eastern religions have similar philosophies, but Buddhism is the one I’ve had the most exposure to. It teaches a reverence for all life, not just human life, and compassion for, rather than dominion over, all things. I like how it puts balance, harmony and equality above other pursuits. I believe in walking a gentler path on this earth because we (humans) are but one aspect, and depend completely on it. Again, it is my hope that my work expresses this, even in the slightest way.
WTR: In your collection focused on women, such as Prana and Make a Wish, among others, is there a particular question or set of questions you are asking about women’s interaction with the non-human world? What is the central idea your hope to communicate about nature and the feminine?
RG: When I was painting the human form more frequently, my focus was on women in relation to nature. I believe it was my way of trying to express my love and connection with nature. “Prana” I feel was my best attempt at this. It’s about the life energy that flows through and connects all of us; humans, animals, and nature. “Aquifer” is another one of my favorites from that period, as it depicts a woman who is one with nature; the boundary between her and the earth are blurred. In one other painting, “At the Edge” the woman is actually beginning to morph into a bee. In most of my paintings of women in nature, the mood is somber. I believe I painted them this way because of the sadness I feel around how humans treat the natural world. All of my early paintings evolved organically without much for thought about the final outcome, so I am only guessing at my subconscious motivations. In other words, I never planned out a painting ahead of time, rather I let the painting lead me.