Ron Milewicz’s Upland
by David Ebony
In Ron Milewicz’s recent paintings and drawings, trees are the principal protagonists. Milewicz trees are no ordinary specimens, however. Part of the landscape of Gallatin, a hilly area of rural upstate New York where the artist has lived and worked periodically over the past two years, the trees appear as spectral presences. Nurtured by ethereal light, crystalline air, and vaporous clouds of moisture—conveyed by finely nuanced tonal shifts—these ancient, ancestral trees possess firm roots and an insistent verticality.
Situated in the center left foreground, the predominant tree in Woods at Hilltop (2017) appears as an apparition. It bears sinuous branches reaching toward the sky in graceful curves, like the arms of a ballet dancer. Enveloped by golden-yellow foliage, the undulating limbs contrast with several leafless and lifeless dark tree trunks that pierce the gray-blue background.
In these works, Milewicz employs a highly refined visual vocabulary that corresponds to his well-known series of panoramic cityscapes. In those earlier studies, he describes with precisionist authority a unified superstructure that he perceived in New York City’s cacophonous urban sprawl. Following an exploration of still life, many created in homage to his late father, Eli, the recent landscapes are intimate in scale and elegiac in tone. Some may be regarded as a tribute to his recently deceased mother, Anna. Here, as in all of Milewicz’s endeavors, personal themes mesh with art-historical allusions, including the Hudson River School, ancient Chinese landscape painting, and the mystical imagery of artists such as Samuel Palmer and Odilon Redon.
Milewicz’s drawings Sugar Maple and Hilltop Afternoon (both 2016), for examples, appear as meditations on nature and on life processes. The brawny central tree in Sugar Maple upholds a dense canopy of leaves like a sturdy sentinel. The time of day is uncertain as the play of raking light activates the compressed space, and the sun remains hidden.
An elusive drama in the painting Pond and Meadow (2017) unfolds in the diffused light of either dusk or dawn. The phantom trees in this work inhabit a metaphysical space that invites a quiet and gentle reverie. In Milewicz’s metaphorical picture-language, trees resign themselves to command a terrestrial domain, yet persistently strive to attain a heavenly realm.
Essay © David Ebony 2017