A local artist who has painted the same views for over 30 years has brought her work to the University of Rhode Island in an exhibit at the Fine Arts Center.
Ida Schmulowitz has been painting on, or near, a bridge overlooking Interstate 95 and leading into India Point Park in Providence since 1983.
She said that the art department approached her to do an exhibition in the Main Gallery, but she had been wanting to display there for some time.
“I had actually approached them at one point a while ago because I think it’s a beautiful space and it’s hard to find spaces for large paintings,” she said “I also like the idea that there’s a lot of interaction with the students.” Schmulowitz’s paintings are 6-by-8 feet.
Schmulowitz said that she began painting the bridge a few years after she moved to the Fox Point neighborhood of Providence, following her graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design.
“I needed to find another place to paint and I sort of wandered around trying different spots for a couple of years, and then I remembered that pedestrian bridge,” she said. “I went over to that spot and it just hit me – this giant panorama and the light is really, really amazing in that spot.”
As Schmulowitz painted the view from the bridge over time, she shifted her vantage point to get different aspects of the panorama. Usually, she is out on the bridge every day, barring rain or cold weather.
She usually has multiple paintings being worked on at the same time. She said she may work on a painting, put it aside for a few days, and then take it out at another time of day and layer it.
“I might have started painting a sunset and then some day, I look at it and take it out at sunrise to paint over it,” she said. “The stuff that’s underneath kind of shows through.”
Since she started painting on the bridge 30 years ago, Schmulowitz estimates that she has completed about 10 paintings each year.
Her work has been displayed at several local museums, libraries, galleries and displays. This summer, her work was displayed in the “Double Take” exhibit at T.F. Green Airport.
When she is painting, she said that she gets a variety of reactions from pedestrians who use the bridge ranging from ones she described as very negative to those that recognize what she is painting.
The original park bridge was demolished in 2006, and until the new bridge was opened in 2008, Schmulowitz looked for another place nearby to paint and discovered a view behind Vartan Gregorian Elementary School that was similar to her view on the bridge.
“It’s sort of a skewed view of my original view from that original bridge,” she said. “It was familiar enough so that I was kind of excited to be doing it again, but it was very different than the original view just because of my vantage point and they were doing a lot of construction.”
Construction near the bridge since its opening has continued to change Schmulowitz’ view.
“There’s many ways that things change,” she said. “A house gets torn down, something gets built in the distance or some new electrical poles are put up, and they become different focal points in the painting or different elements that I’m using as far as shapes go.”
The exhibit, “Changes: Landscapes by Ida Schmulowitz”, will be on display in the Fine Arts Center gallery from Nov. 17 to Dec. 22. An opening reception will be held on Nov. 20 and an artist talk will be held on Dec. 4.