BARNABY RUHE – Lightning Rod of Culture – The Shaman is… The Artist is… June 22 to July 6, 2017


BARNABY RUHE – Lightning Rod of Culture, The Shaman is… The Artist is…

My background is interdisciplinary, with a BS in Science, History, and French: an MFA in Painting: and an interdisciplinary PhD in “Shamanism and Contemporary Painting Process” where 1 used Anthropological original source material and borrowed field techniques in researching artists at work. Psychology along the archetypes, Phenomenology as a cutting tool, Art History and Art Criticism. I was a Lieutenant Historian in Vietnam, receiving a Naval Commendation Medal for discovering cached documents from the French Indochinese War. I studied Martha Graham and African dance techniques, was a Cellist in the UMBC Chamber Orchestra, and was several times Captain and Coach of World Champion US Boomerang teams. My thesis and another book, Zen Boomerang, are in manuscript.

Recurrent themes in my paintings over the last twenty-five years include alia prima – one-shot painting in the spirit of Manet, Fragonard, Henri, and of course the expressionists. Blank space, as I discovered in David’s Death of Marat’ while teaching Art History at the Naval Academy from 1970-1975, has been used to isolate gesture in my painting and to invoke the VOID. My abstracts, portraits, and figurative works are all painted in the same spirit of attack, jumping in while letting go, embracing chaos, improvising at an exact phase in the painting process in order to experience Rorschatz free-association. As in Jazz, an overlying structure guides serendipity while ‘in the groove.’ Miro was dead on when he insisted that his automaticism yet adhered to ‘plasticity of construction.’ Modern dancers call this seeming contradiction ‘bound flow.’

My unlikely art career began at the Naval Academy at the end of Plebe Year.  Stuck in Sick Bay with a light flu, I spent a glorious week sketching. I would never have gone to an engineering school in the first place if the Abstract Expressionists had not fallen from the spotlight by 1964, replaced by Larry Poons’ hard-edge lozenges, not to my persuasion. At seventeen, I didn’t guess artists could make a career against the grain of fashion. But I seized the petite sketch pad as an escape from my military Gulag, twelve drawings a day anywhere anytime, 3000 racked up by 1968 when I graduated and was on my way to Boiler School to prepare for Destroyer duty when I broke my leg in an automobile accident. Eight glorious months painting ripoffs of Franz Kline, and I was fast becoming an odd Naval Officer. After two tours in Nam, the Navy owed me one, so I asked to teach at the Academy and soon ran the Art History course, concurrently getting my MFA in painting at Babe Shapiro’s program at the Maryland Institute, the only place in the States where you didn’t need a BFA to get in. My first exhibition was back in Saigon in 1972 showing 300 portrait sketches of wary war weary Viets.

My 1973 “Bach Cello Suite #3″ was painted with earphones, awash in sound, thinking Kandinsky’s visual equivalents of music motifs, hard on the track of his 1910 Spiritual in Art Only years later to recognize that he was just a bit rigid, not on your basic jazzman’s ‘groove,’ backed off from his own thesis. My 1984 Art/World review of Kandinsky reads:

“The transcendence of Apollo, scientific and premeditated ruled in Kandinsky’s Bauhaus. Dionysus and his irritating arrows of Eros, random and disorderly, was dismissed. Die Brucke was burned; Pan was reduced to ‘panic’; and K’s expressionist tendency was reduced to the faint odor of Chanel No. 5 pervading an antiseptic clinic.”

Brash words from a callow young Turk, a challenge I pursue these past twenty five years, to adhere to his 1910 treatise even as he abandoned his own field.

I quit the Navy in 75 and moved to NYC to find my art crowd. In 77, I used officer skills to organize the WHITNEY COUNTERWEIGHT, an artist-run extravaganza with 100 artists in five Soho galleries. The seven jurors were selected on a quota system with four women, three Hispanics, two Blacks, and no names given at the slide viewing. We achieved great demographics. The COUNTERWEIGHT presaged the Times Square and Terminal shows as well as the East Village phenom. Alice Neel painted my portrait to help match the Director’s Grant from the NEA.

In 1978 I ran a marathon and the same year coined the PORTRAIT PAINTING MARATHON genre, with a 26.2 hour non-stop painting binge. Exhaustion and performance stress became tools for insight within the painting process. I’ve held over a hundred marahons since, some as long as 60 hours, discovering that so much work is hacked out that I can shift styles and explore directions in a condensed space of time. Excessive productivity breaks through the wall of the modern mind to reveal the painting animal lurkingbeneath. The other paints damn good. A ritual of sitting engages the viewer directly as she steps into my painting. I go for their ka, their life spirit, by hurling paint in order to echo the energy fields passing across their faces. A journalistic approach to reality demands that one paint portraits alia prima, in a rush, in order to deal with spirit. Painting in galleries, the viewer enters the painting in sitting.  Duane Hanson and Pearlstein may paint dead people, I don’t.

In 1981 I joined the staff of Art/World writing four reviews per month and rising to Senior Editor under “Boss” Bruce Hooton. Sounding off at raucous staff lunches at the Hotel Wales were Gene Thornton, Frances Beatty, Sarah Stuyvesant King, Paul Jenkins, Robert Motherwell, Judd Tully, Bob DeNiro, Cecily Pennoyer, et alia. My sharp critiques of market motives, museum mishaps, and con artists may have jeopardized my own career as a painter, but it was a thrill to have Leon Golub write to A/W: “(Ruhe) is not afraid to swing out, to tell it like it is.” I challenged Clement Greenberg’s Formalist Reductionism in my PhD thesis “Painter as Shaman” where process is more crucial than product. He snorted “ineffables! we don’t discuss it.” when I asked him about the spiritual journey Pollock was painting from. Pollock the trance dancer, who knew.

My 1982 “Fake Porno” series of twenty paintings played out innuendoes of sexual politics. Since my female collaborator sketched out my body outline on the panel, she set her own terms in the dialogue. Tension on the picture plane.

My 1987 PORTRAIT PAINTING MARATHON at Barbara Braathen Gallery in Noho set twenty ‘specific’ portraits decalled onto ‘random’ abstract backgrounds, both painted alia prima, but separately. At the opening, I collaborated with Hassay Jazz Band to paint an 8×8 foot abstraction to music. Unlike paintings created in a studio, the surface remains alive and simmering, the musk’s energy remains as an astral ghost. I got percussive with my brush attack. Hassay came up during a TV interview with: “but we were following you.” I’ve collaborated over 20 times with such as Dave Brubeck and Gaumer’s Saturday Night Live Band. Jazz embraces the hazard of improvisation within an openwork structure, as do shamans on a trance journey.

In 88 I joined the board of Artists Talk on Art to recreate the spirit of The Club, and moderated panels on Cro-Magnon Then and Now, Graffiti, Shamanism, and American Expressionism with George McNeil and Joan Semmel. My latest panel is an interview with Pat Olezsko.

My 1989 PhD offers a counter to Greenberg’s Formalism, proving Chaos to be integral to the expressionist painting process. Letting go in Dionysjc frenzy uncovers the greater order of the unconscious. Improvisation need not be a dirty word. It relates to an inspirational phase that psychologist Ernst Kris f^nd to precede an elaborational phase. Arnheim (reluctantly) posits improvisation in his. Entropy and Art , and anthropologist

Victor Turner guides us with his shamariic liminal phase in his Ritual Process. My thesis brought these thinkers together across their respective disciplines.

In 1993 I was honored with a Pollock-Krasner grant to paint mural-size abstracts. At artist Robert DeNiro’s memorial service, I explained that he employs a “clash of contraries” within his painterly syntax, which ‘fires the Ongon.’ An Ongon is a Buryat Shaman dreaming prop made from a set of ordinary objects that become symbolically loaded within a ritual context. My PhD shows how artists can paint quite ordinary motifs but set them afire by creating tension between unlikely pairings. A haiku poem has that unexpected synaptic jump between lines, and Lenny Bruce could whammy you at the end of a joke.

Across the twenty five year span of the first half of my painting career, I have tried to stretch stylistically, despite the market’s need for trademark styles, a signature. But I have been consistent in immersing myself in the unpremeditated moment, and enjoyed collaboration as a way of forcing the clash of contraries onto the picture plane. This ritual act fires the Ongon, lighting up the picture into a presence. Either art functions, or who cares.

For me the portraits are “journalistic”, that is, I just paint what is in front of me, No “imagination” necessary. I apparently “see” those weird colors (auras?) that I paint on people’s faces in the oil color portraits. I definitely try to make the marking rhythmically fit the exact energy and mood of the person resonating in front of me. Like the new physicists, I see energy everywhere, call me an animist.                                                        

Exhibition runs: June 22 to July 6 – 2017
Artist Talk: June 24, 4 PM
Artworld Circle: June 29, 6 to 9 PM
Exhibition hours: By appointment.                                                                

Barnaby Ruhe, PhD
4926 South 5th Street Emmaus, Pennsylvania 18049
917 721 2541 


  • PhD – Thesis topic: “Shamanism and Contemporary Art Process”  New York University , Interdisciplinary Creative Arts
  • Master of Fine Arts in Painting, Maryland Institute ,

with Ed Dugmore, Sal Scarpitta, Babe Shapiro

  • Bachelor of Science, in History of Revolutions,  and French;

 United States Naval Academy (retired as Lieutenant in 1975)



2014 Arts Ovation artist of the year, Lehigh Valley, for arts and activism.

2013 Soros Foundation grant for Ruhe’s 500 ARTISTS BE THE CHANGE event vs fracking at Allentown Arts Park June 1, 2013.

1994    National Endowment for the Arts Mid Atlantic

1993    Pollock / Krasner – for painting mural size abstractions 1986    NYSCA – paint live full-scale appropriations of “School of Athens” and “Night Watch” superimposing 80 contemporary portraits of Red Grooms, Robert Wilson, Will Barnet, Lowry Sims, David Bourdon, Robert De Niro, Bruce Hooton, Gene Thornton, Judd Tully, Cecily Pennoyer, Leon Golub and Nancy Spero, Berta Walker, Terry Kistler, Fifi Oscard, Steve Style, DD Chapin, Jeanette Ingberman, Papo Colo

1977   NEA National Endowment for the Arts Director’s Grant – produce &  curate THE WHITNEY COUNTERWEIGHT:  museum-scale, artist-run exhibition with 100 artists shown in five Soho galleries. We may have shifted the careers of Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, David Hammons, Stuart Diamond, and on, and set the tone for the ensuing Times Square Show and the East Village Gallery Scene.  Our team included Gil Coker, Randy Williams.

AWARDS  (Thrice USA National Boomerang Champion, six times Worlds)

1995    Walter Hopps CAC Award

1994    Millay Colony Residency  – the Decal Series was coined here

1979    Allentown Art Museum Prize – Will Barnet and Lowery Sims as jurors


SOLO EXHIBITIONS  (most recent)

2016 Art Basel Miami Beach:  Portraiting for Salomon Gallery at Nobu Eden Rock, 100 portraits in ink committed onto watercolor abstractions.

2016 15 14 13 Mayfair Artist in Residence at work, Allentown, Pennsylvania

2014    19 GALLERY Allentown, Pa, (curator Deborah Rabinsky) “Political Discourse” vs Fracking vs Cliterodectomy vs pederast priests vs napalm vs apartheid vs demotion of Asherah vs Act13 vs water privatization

2012    Dorfman Projects, NYC “Abstraction in Dialogue” series, see catalogue

2008    1996    David Rodale Gallery,  Allentown

  • CROBAR, NYC, monthlong artist residency. Mansion 2007.
  • 2003 PMW Gallery, Stamford “Decal Series” from my Millay Colony winter residency.

2004    Salon Dada, Allentown 

2000    Open Space Gallery, Allentown – RETROSPECTIVE

1999    Shaheen Gallery, Cleveland

1998    Gallery Conrad Monter, Dusseldorf

1997    PMW Gallery, Stamford

1997 2001   Dorfman Projects, Chelsea,  NYC

1996    Lehigh University Art Galleries  – TWENTY YEAR RETROSPECTIVE, curated by Ricardo Viera and Michael Adams

1994    Uptown Downtown, NYC,   a.k.a. Farah Damji Gallery 4×4 foot portraits

1987    Barbara Braathen Gallery, NYC (coined the Faux Porn series)



Invented this painting genre in 1978 after running a marathon.

2016 15 14 Mayfair featured artist painting WeddingGownParadoxes, Power Animal Portraits,

2007 EDavid Gallery, Bethlehem, curated by Diana Morse

2002 Questa College, Los Osos; and Black Box, Oakland,  California

2000    Open Space Gallery, Allentown; Gallery; Florence deVoldere’s Laurier in Paris;      and  London

1998    Anita Shapolski Gallery, NYC

1993    Hell’s Kitchen Portrait Painting Marathon and Salon de Guerre

1992    Jack Tilton Gallery, NYC

1990    Beale Street Studios, San Francisco – 60 hour non-stop marathon.

1987    Storefront for Art and Architecture, NYC  – Gang of Four;  through Shirin Neshat

1986    Mission Gallery , NYC with curator DD Chapin

1985    Canejo Valley Art Museum, Thousand Oaks, CA

and several Painting Marathons per year since 1979 at various galleries.

1979    first portrait marathon at Barbara Braathen Gallery



 TO PRESENT since 1996:  New York University –

“Ritual Process to Contemporary Art Experience, a.k.a. Shamanism and Art; and  “Discover Manhattan” artist/ scholar combined exploration ;

and “Art Now – Tradition and Change” seminar.


2013 Ruhe Foundation Artist in Residency program.

2011 17  NYU Tutorial on Mural Abstraction Action Art

2010 NYU Tutorial on Health in America upgraded by Shamanism and redesigning Nutrition and Life Style through Yoga and Permaculture.

2010 MA mentor advisor for Crista Hope thesis on Yoga and Art Therapy.

2006 MFA mentor critiquing Steinhardt painter Josh Weintraub

1999 NYU course on Contemporary Art Criticism; we published a newspaper.

1996    Allentown Art Museum – Lecturer

1994 to 1996    Baum School  of Art

1990 to 1992   MoMA  Museum of Modern Art – Artist/Lecturer

1971 to 1975  United States Naval Academy  at Art History and Naval History




2015: muralist collaborator at Eakins’ “Gross Clinic”

2003: visiting artist muralist collaborator with Ursinus students to paint a replica of Raphael’s “School of Athens” with Ursinus faculty and students posing.

2000 visiting artist lecturer URSINUS COLLEGE on shamanism and art, and brought back by the student’s with student council funds. 

SUNY Buffalo Graduate Sculpture lecture on “Moholo Nagy and Boomerangs”  for Duane Hatchett’s art classes.

Moravian College, Muhlenberg College, Ursinus College, Yale, Bard College, Carnegie Mellon

College Art Association 2002 panel: “Free Radicals in the Classroom”, with Linda Weintraub, Linda Montano, and Eve Andre Laramee


COLLECTIONS  (selected)

Canejo Valley Art Museum, Allentown Art Museum (6 foot portrait of Gregg Weaver with switchblade) , Sidney Lewis Collection, Patterson Museum (Baird Jones collection) , Ronald McDonald House (23 views of NYC), Lehigh University, Allentown Symphony Hall, Anthony Rodale, Peter Dubois (Rat’s Teeth, etc) , Helen Turner, Terry Kistler, Phil Berman, Charles Craig, Joe Mashek, Harry Bertoia, Museum of Modern Art (prints) , National Archives of Art,  Berta Walker, Horst Merk, State and Betsy Lawrence, John Westergaard, Wenke Thoman, Ray Holland, Patsy Whitman (many) , Buffie Johnson, Paul Jenkins, Duc Manh, Kitty Hawks, Reading Public Museum (portrait of Bill Zimmer), Allentown History Museum, Malcolm and Janet Gross, Paul Olsen, Donnal Mixon, Bob Metzger,  Michela Bondardo, Kitty Cooper, Diann Murray, Lee Klein, Kirk Varnedoe, Louise Bourgeois, Dick Bellamy, Baird Jones, Barbara Braathen, Anita Shapolsky, JACK LANG (France’s Minister of Culture), Ilene Wood



2013 Salemme Gallery, co painting action with Phoebe Legere

2011 Abstract action at Dave Sterne Helps, Art Basel Miami

2010 H215 Gallery with Phoebe Legere, Ultra Violet, Katrin Spiess, Jon Singer and Jean Michel Basquiat 

2009 Global Art Report, Ft Myers, Fla with Lili Hatchett

20006 MoCA Detroit with Frank Shifreen at shamanart murals

1992   1991 Jack Tilton Gallery, NYC “A More Show”

  • Anita Shapolsky Gallery, NYC and Mauch Chunk

2003 Roubaix art marathon. 

1997    National Arts Club – portrait of Will Barnet

1988    TUNNEL Project, East Village, NYC,  curated by Steve Style of Sensory Evolution – mural of 20 portraits since buried under repainting.

1987    ABC No Rio, NYC,  curated by Gary Azon

Terminal Show 1980

Sensory Evolution, East Village 1982

Whitney Counterweight 1977,79, 81, 83



 “ShamanArtist” 2010 Acting lead; directed by Michael Fegley, written by Diana Morse; feature.

 “Shakti Project”” ACTING:  as artist Farkas in 2006 feature film edited by Phoebe Legere, painting- producing –scripting, a remake of La Belle Noiseuse.

 “Dada Art Dinner” Acting and directing  in feature film with Willoughby Sharp, Phoebe Legere, Katrin Spiess, and Arlene Schloss, 06.

Acting as Jackson Pollock in 2002 feature length film :  “Pollock Squared” 

1992 title actor in “Captain Boomerang” feature movie premiered at Cannes Film Festival.

2009 coached Harvey Keitel in ritual artmaking, and boomeranging for “a Crime”.

2007 painted six foot Charlie Chaplin for 69 million Chinese TV viewers, in an abstract expressionist action manner, culture clash.


Morning Call 2013 “500 Artists be the Change, Ruhe paints against Fracking. “

Morning Call 2013 “Ruhe as shaman artist”

Gerrit Henry in Art in America,Jan. 88, “… his colors are early color-TV, his baldly expressionist likenesses accurate to the nth degree of the sitter’s soul.”  Downtown, Feb. 4, 87, by Gary Azon, later by Baird Jones.  Allentown Morning Call, by Geoff Gehman , Dec. 21, 85, Oct.18, 87 and Apr. 7, 96; Jan. 12,98;

and by Myra Goldfarb May 18, 79,  and 96; and by Tim Blangger, Dec. 23, 85, and Feb. 6, 92.       NY Post, March 8, 92 “On the Town”, and by Cindy Adams Nov. 21, 94;  Say, 86, by Gary Azon. Village Voice 81 by Alexandra Anderson

and Kim Levin.  Arts Alive by Adrienne Redd, Apr. 96.

NBC TV, Connie Collins’ interview 80. CH 39, Philadelphia,  with Adrienne Redd 96.

CBS TV, Vic Miles’ Interviews, 79 and 94. Channel 16, NYC, Bill Page Show 92,93. NAP program with James Carroll, 1.1998, Reading Public Channel.


WRITING (selected)

Reality Sandwich 2009 on Water for Life

Art Auctions Analysis for Barron’s,  1997

Senior Editor, Art/World, 1981-present, on staff with Bruce Hooton, Robert De Niro, Gene Thornton, Frances Beatty, Robert Motherwell, Barnaby Conrad III, Judd Tully,Sarah Stuyvesant King, and Cecily Pennoyer Arts reviewer, 1980. Art and Artist essayist, 84-90.

“Artist as Shaman” in mss.

“Zen Boomerang”   books in mss.

Monographs on artists Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Matisse, Ed Dugmore, Anders Knutson, David Hatchett, Lil Luboya, and Lou Hicks for Art/World



WORLD BOOMERANG CHAMPION six times, on USA teams, 1981 through 1994.   Three times National Individual Champion 78, 81, 86.

On TV with boomerang William Tell:  Jay Leno, That’s Incredible, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Sabado Gigante, Andre van Dujn, Rudy Karel, Domenica In,

Wanted, Le Web Fait son Show, Stoyan Auer Show, and on. 1994-2010

WORLD SHAMANISTA creator:   organizing Shamandome workshops and healings at BurningMan and San Fran, Vancouver, NYC,

2006-17, my world movement taking urban shamanism to the mainstream through communitas.

ARTISTS TALK ON ART, NYC; on the board from 1981 to present. Presented panel discussions across the decades. 2010 panel recited my shaman journey with Jackson Pollock spirit from his car crash site to rest inside his painting(s).

BETTY PARSONS shouts ‘you will be a great artist,  I see it’ at my 1976 NYC debut exhibition.


COLLABORATIONS: 2012 performance paintings with Phoebe Legere.

2010 Studio Assistant for Ultra Violet, painting for her her idea of “9-11” inside faux Arabic texts “in your Ruhe style” she advises.

  • Louise Bourgeois tears up a portrait I painted of her, at her studio, expressionless, ok, a slight smirk.
  • Mark Kostabi painting from his studio is addended with my portrait of Mark piled on top. We agree to co-sign the painting, a first for Mark who solo signs the work of his studio assistants.
  • Ruth Kligman paints 8 foot Jackson Pollock styled painting in my barn. As a dialogue. She advises me on my role as Pollock in the feature film, Pollock Squared, on the strained relation with Clem Greenberg, on the split with Lee, on the day of the crash, on the tears and joy of living with such a man, and on The Club with the rousting Socialist Realist painters shouting at Abstract Expressionists and finding a heroic passion together. Who knew.

2009 Jacek Gulla reviews the Met’s Rothko,  in dialogue as Ruhe repaints the Rothko and appends Gulla portrait and review onto the redux Rothko.

2011 Kay Haring portrait superimposed on Keith Haring redux 8 foot painting from Ruhe’s –as Keith- performance up 6th Avenue during 2009 NYC Halloween Parade. In dialogue. In homage.

1982 Ruhe inks 24 portraits of Keith Jarrett on stage with Keith while he pounds the piano at Avery Fisher Hall performance.

  • ALICE NEEL paints Barnaby Ruhe portrait on acetate, and donates print to Ruhe’s Whitney Counterweight fundraising. Ruhe ‘dates’ escorts Alice around Soho that year including a lecture by joint friend ARISTODEMOS KALDIS. Alice refuses to sit in the front row. “he pinches.” 

1979 DAVE BRUBECK  collaborates with me at the premiere of his “Tritones” as Ruhe paints (8) 8×3 foot paintings to his music, with dancers blended into the abstractions. Imagine holding a bucket of paint, my brush signals Dave to begin playing, and we end on the same note.


PORTRAITS PAINTED LIVE OF:  Philip Pavia, Nassos Daphnis, Louise Bourgeois, Kirk Varnedoe, Dick Bellamy, Bob Bergman, Berta Walker, Frances Beatty, Leo Castelli, Elaine Dannheiser, Phil Berman, Bill Zimmer, Charlotta Kotik, Shari Dienes, Buffy Johnson, Bruce Hooton, Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, Terry Kistler, Irving Sandler, Donald Kuspit, George Plimpton, Anthony Haden Guest, Bob Costa, Gary Azon, Leslie Lew, Connie Rogers, John Weber, Stefan Stux, ChristineRose, David Bourdon, Ruth Kligman, Judd Tully, Peter Dubois, Lisa Tremper Hanover Barnes, and see more above.



NYC Halloween PARADE:  dialogues with art historical characters, my painting dressed as Pollock Kline Matisse Haring Bosch Holbein etalia, parading for 4 hours for a million viewers.  A woman approaches as we parade up 6th Avenue, ‘i’m a curator from the Louvre” so I print out of my silkscreen box six Warhol “Marilyns” -here!

Ilene Wood portrait  for the Allentown Museum benefit

Commissions of  Henry Trexler and Madame X

Shamanist guru worldwide circle workshops in Poland Vancouver SF NYC LA

World Champion boomeranger  2016 “sprinkler head” and 2016 “juggling”

36 “women in prison” portraits at marathon,  gifted to each on their leaving prison.


JMBasquiat painting project to authenticate and sell: met with Lawrence Luhring,      Eric Mitchell, Glenn Obrien, Luca Bonetti, UltraLight, Anthony Haden-Guest,  Nemo Labrizzi, Vito Schnabel, Sylvie Martin, BDubb, Eric Johnson, Brett DePalma, Diego Cortez, Monica Baig, Bill Soghor, MikeLeonard


Ruth Kligman Memorial promoter.

Ultraviolet studio assistant.

Speaker at Robert DeNiro senior memorial:  his idyllic paintings have a marvelous syntactical hole in the interior painted space, you are snake bit, finally, at your innocent viewing.  He knew that he was Fauve in that wicked way Matisse way, and ecstatic in that way Bonnard was with light.