A Trustee of a Different (Water)Color
By: Marcus Turner
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." In this quote, the formidable artist Degas may as well have been speaking about Ralph Nagel.
Ralph Nagel's dedication to philanthropy and community service permeates nearly every aspect of his life. He is one of 28 trustees who provide guidance to the University on matters of finance, student affairs, technology and investment, among others. He commits his time to furthering the mission of the University through his leadership and generosity – a gesture evidenced by the naming of the Nagel Art Studios and the Nagel Residence Hall on campus. Also a member of a Lifetime Giving Society, Ralph Nagel is assuredly one of the key figures in shaping the future of the University of Denver.
His philanthropic and professional ventures join another equally power mode of expression: Nagel is an accomplished artist who exhibits his work on a regular basis. Ranging from watercolors to oils to pencil drawings, Nagel masterfully expresses the beauty of his surroundings. "Ralph remains detached from what he sees while he puts it down on paper," said Katy Charles, his artistic representative. This philosophy is a break from the customary practices of most artists in which the content becomes paramount in making the artwork meaningful. "Whether he's in a dusty corner of India painting a market or in painting the hillsides of Provence, he is an artist who paints whatever he sees and gives it life," said Charles.
This vision of the world comes from the attitude that Nagel takes when he approaches his art. "It's not a hobby," Charles said. "Ralph approaches his artwork as seriously as he approaches anything else in his life. He has amazing productivity." This productivity is evident in the recent show that Nagel put on at the Denver Athletic Club – a one person exhibition featuring large scale watercolors. "I selected 21 paintings for this show but there were about 40 that I could have chosen, all painted between early spring and late summer 2012," says Charles. Nagel's staggering number of shows – 102 since 2003 – reveals this tremendous output. These shows have taken place all over world from Denver to Italy and in such extraordinary venues as the Colorado State Capital, Loveland Art Museum and Colorado Wildlife Experience Museum.
"It's necessary to give the painting what it needs. And as in life, painting is about having the courage to take risks towards an outcome that is unknown," said Nagel. Nagel's sentiment has served as an inspiration for others to take up the serious art of painting and capture the essence of their surroundings in vivid and beautiful ways. Nagel is the co-founder of Studio 208, a group of Colorado painters who painted together from 2004 to 2011.
Nagel's work is currently displayed at the Foothills Art Center's Rocky Mountain National 2012 Watermedia Show. "The exhibition promises to highlight the best national watermedia artists, pushing the boundaries of this exciting and accessible medium," according to the Art Center.