Contemporary oil paintings
CINDY RIZZA (b. 1984), "Stockpile II," 2018, oil on linen, 30 x 24 in., private collection

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.

CINDY RIZZA (b. 1984) makes paintings of familiar and comforting heirloom objects — such as handmade quilts and blankets — that explore the concepts of safety and security, while also questioning how much control we have over these elements. “In examining the unique identities of heirloom textiles, my work summons conflicting feelings of comfort and loneliness, hope and foreboding, love and loss,” the artist shares. “I aim to expose the contradictions within the subjects — to honor the comfort they bore, but question their capacity to keep us truly secure from what we cannot control.”

Currently living in New Hampshire, Rizza grew up in Maine and earned her B.F.A. at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. Continuing education classes at the New York Academy of Art helped her learn to combine classical techniques with contemporary thought and conceptualization. With an eclectic mix of influences — Andrew Wyeth, Andy Warhol, and Robert Bechtle among them — Rizza has taken a cue from artists of the past whose works carry a tension between how things appear and what lies beneath the surface.

We see this impulse in Rizza’s series of stacked crocheted blankets, in which she questions not only the object but also the maker and meaning behind it. “As women, and as mothers especially, we work to create nests and protected worlds for our families and the people we love, almost to a fault,” the artist explains.

“Although these blankets are comforting, I also think of them as somewhat frightening because of the questions they provoke. Do they actually provide security? Are their makers still here? What happened to the people they were made for? Are we safe? Are we secure? While these blankets provide shelter and warmth, do they weigh on us and tie us down?”

In “Stockpile II” (shown at top), for example, Rizza explores these concerns through careful attention to contrasts of sunlight and shadow and the ambiguities found between them. Her multi-step approach — beginning with a compositional sketch, creating an underdrawing, laying down an imprimatura wash as an underpainting, and building up layers with increasingly thick paint — allows Rizza to create a detailed representation carrying all of the multi-layered dimension and symbolism she seeks.

Cindy Rizza, “Armory,” oil on linen, 30″ x 36″, 2019
Cindy Rizza, “Serpentine,” oil on panel: 18″ diameter, 2020
Cindy Rizza, “Resistance,” oil on panel, 24″ x 24″, 2020
Cindy Rizza, “Arsenal,” oil on linen 30″ x 36″, 2020

Rizza’s upcoming fall solo exhibition will be at the George Billis Gallery, New York City. Visit her website at for more information.

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