Rick Deragon has the ability to view landscapes in ways that bring the viewer into an intimate relationship with the land, sky and history of the place. His is not the grandiose, postcard view but the view of one whose feet touch the earth, of one who moves on the earth through the contemplative paths of discovery. It’s a quiet path, free of bombast and declamation. His paintings are an invitation to join him as a fellow traveler, the seeker of the delightful, unexpected view, to join him in experiencing the belonging that comes from the deep experience of nature, of place.
Rick’s new body of work, Chronicle, steps out from the western landscape into a landscape of both familiar earth and human history. His investigations now involve not just the mere touch of feet on geological formation, natural history, and the traces of human habitation, rather, he dives below the surface into the strata of human origins embedded in geological time. We stand side by side as he unearths ancient symbols and signs—voices of the distant past—as he intuits and uncovers myths that link us to our most early forebears.
In forging this visual, spiritual link to our ancestors, Rick affirms our continuing quest for meaning and purpose, our relationship to natural forces and Nature herself seen in our contemporary lives.
He establishes a continuum of both mystery and familiarity that draws us into our own hearts’ quest for answers to our human questions: Why are we here? Where are we going? Where do we belong?
In asking these questions, giving form to them, we are able to join the artist shoulder to shoulder, and experience the continuity and comradeship of our shared collective life and yearnings that transcend time and place, and are inextricably entwined with time and earth. In contemplating the Chronicle series, we find a belonging, a sense of home.
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As the art critic for the Monterey Herald, Rick recreated in words the spell of paintings, sculpture and photography so that readers would not only be informed of what exhibitions were to be seen, but what ineffable magic might be encountered. Noted photographer Horace Bristol, who with John Steinbeck visited the migrant farmworkers to document their plight for Life magazine during the Great Depression, wrote to Rick on the occasion of a retrospective of his photography, “I thought it extremely well-written and accurate…my wife, too, felt it to be exceptionally well-done, and she is more critical than anyone else about publicity for me.”
Currently, Rick brings his passion to Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, where his studio, design, and Writing About Art classes expose students to art from throughout history, spark interest in both traditional and cutting-edge methods, and refine student skills for cogent expression in both visual and written language.
Rick loves to challenge students, especially when it comes to taking chances in order to find their voice. Melding conventional exercises in drawing and composition with challenging, unconventional topics, Rick prompts students to delve into unexplored technical or thematic areas to produce strong and surprising work.
“He took my art to the next level by giving me assignments that he knew I would specifically enjoy,” says a former student, “He would come to class with lists of artists that I could study and become inspired by. He has taught me that I can always strive to be better. Every time I completed one of his assignments I found myself becoming a better artist.”
Recognizing the range of ability in any class setting, Rick enjoys making adjustments to bring the lesson to the individual’s level.
According to another former student, “Professor Deragon is so supportive and understanding of different people’s abilities and strengths or weaknesses. Every student was given the same treatment but he would tailor assignments to each person in ways that he knew would make the student a better artist. Every single person left with a new knowledge of art history and drawing technique.”
“Art,” says Rick, “reaffirms our humanity. It reasserts our presence in a complex, if not hostile, world, and has the power to transform experience into an extraordinary moment of insight.”