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A longtime resident of Pennsylvania, Robert Rasely was born in 1950, and grew up in Stroudsburg. He trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art from 1978 to 1982, studying with Will Barnet, Arthur DeCosta, Sidney Goodman, and Henry Pearson. In 1981 he received the William Emlen Cresson Scholarship, which allowed him to study in the Netherlands and Italy. The winner of numerous awards, Rasely was prolific during his relatively short career. Rasely was the subject of solo exhibitions at the Charles Campbell Gallery, San Francisco and Allan Stone Gallery, New York, and was included in group exhibitions at the Bruce Museum, Greenwich and the National Academy of Design, New York.
A synthesis of Surrealism, Baroque, Grotesque, and Italian Renaissance, Rasely’s paintings envision an altered netherworld, with dreamlike interiors and landscapes of ambiguous organisms. Quirky and nostalgic, though at times affected by a prevailing sense of unease, Rasely’s work combines the manic characteristics of a Bosch inferno with the delicate handling of Dutch vanitas paintings. What appears to be allusions to spirituality and holy significance are not overt allegories, but rather avenues and portals to engage the subconscious. Using fine brushes, hand-ground pigments, and a delicate touch, his lightly glazed oil-on-panel renderings of chimerical scenes and obscure symbols create a surreal atmosphere. Rasely's imagery of sacred hearts, birds, wells, innards, and decaying fruit challenges the viewer to find a concealed meaning within each painting. To wander through his enigmatic landscapes is to search the subconscious for the significance of life, and for the nature of beauty and ugliness.