Why Painter Cody Rutty Plans To Stay In Boise, Even If His Work Leaves
Cody Rutty knows all about peace and quiet.
A couple of years ago, the Boise-based painter retreated to the tiny town of New Meadows. He rented a studio out of an old brick bank building, and started cranking out painting after painting. At age 26, Rutty made art his fulltime job.
“Really all I had to do was paint. I had a studio and just a lot of materials and there weren’t a lot of people," Rutty says. "I had all the windows curtained off. Yeah, it was quite the adventure.”
The young painter says his stay in the quiet mountain town was a pivotal time in his life and career.
“I learned a lot especially about work ethic, self-discipline, direction and what I’m actually capable of doing."
A relationship took Rutty to New Meadows, but after that relationship ended he stayed. And he began to develop a new painting style. After bathing his canvases in bold colors, the painter began meticulously filling in every shape with white oil paint. He aptly named the resulting work the “White Series.”
Rutty studied architecture for a couple years at the University of Idaho. He was good at it -- he had a 4.0 GPA while taking a math-intensive course load. But he later decided to pursue his childhood dream of being a painter, and he transferred to Boise State to study art. Anxious to get his career started, he dropped out.
Even though he’s happy with the path he chose, Rutty’s drafting background continues to make an impression on his art.
“Architecture is very much the physical manifestation of art that we get to actually use and experience,” he says.
Rutty builds his paintings, incorporating fractal geometry and chaos theory. He’ll take a recognizable figure like a horse or a sailing ship and layer it over strong lines, creating shapes with bright colors in between -- with his signature white paint overlay often coming into play.
The young painter's style has impressed Noble Hardesty, another Boise artist and one of Rutty's mentors.
“All that fractal work is pretty amazing," says Hardesty. "I think it takes a certain type of brain to be able to pull that kind of stuff off. And it looks whimsical and that’s pretty genius work.”
Hardesty says it’s been fun to watch Rutty come into his own in the last few years.
“He’s in touch with something, he’s got his finger on a pulse [of art] that people are really into right now," Hardesty says.
Hardesty says making a living as a fulltime artist is never easy. But he thinks Rutty is developing the self-discipline and confidence to make sure his work hangs on walls for years to come.
But the question of where those walls are is an entirely different issue.
Rutty says when he first was getting started, he relied a lot on Boise art buyers. But now he puts a higher value on his art, and that’s meant higher prices and fewer local sales. Thanks to the Internet, almost all of his work now goes out of state -- and even out of the country. Rutty sells work through his website, and he generates interest through Facebook and Instagram.
“If you want to be a fulltime artist you’re going to have to broaden your horizons," says Rutty. "If I were just relying on Boise -- if I didn’t have the Internet -- then I would be doing something else.”
He says Boiseans aren’t scrambling to collect art from up-and-coming artists the same way people in bigger cities do.
So, why does he stay? The painter says he’s inspired by artists in other genres who’ve decided to stay, and he wants to help push Boise further as an art-savvy city. Even if someday soon all of his work is sold out-of-state -- which could happen soon -- he can’t imagine calling any place but Boise 'home.'
“This is the time to build something," says Rutty. "There’s a lot of people dreaming in this city, and this is where I started to dream when I was so much younger. People are dreaming big and starting small; that you’re not just going to change the current affairs of an artistic culture, but you’re actually going to building the very foundation.”
Today’s profile is the first in a series we’re calling “Artist Statement.” The Boise City Department of Arts and History is providing funding for this project. Tune in next Friday morning for a profile of a young playwright on the rise.
Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio