Ruta Smilskalns, an artist from Wayland, Mass., creates intriguing work form the most common object in her sewing basket, colorful spools of thread. Her "Spool Paintings" will be on view in the Community Gallery at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts from September 18, 2007 through January 13, 2008.
A realist painter, Smilskalns uses the spools of thread as models to explore composition and color. She paints on Belgian linen, and each 12 x 16-inch canvas is a soothing puzzle of shapes, color and energy. The colors of the painting seem to shift from red to blue, from yellow to green, much like the changing seasons. Smilskalns grew up in Riga, Latvia, which was occupied by the Nazis and later the Soviets during World War II. She has only a "blank, traumatic memory" of her parents' escape in an open truck to a displaced persons camp in West Germany when she was five years old. She had six years of rigorous training as pianist before moving to Boston where she continued her musical studies at the South End Music Center and later Radcliffe College. She began painting almost accidentally in the early 1980s when enrolling her daughter in an adult education class. She was told her daughter could attend the class if a parent also took classes. Smilskalns went on to take art classes at Massachusetts College of Art, Tufts University, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Since 1990, she has shown her paintings in over 15 group and solo exhibitions.