A huge part of Artist Ryan Cronin’s artistic mission positions his work as a platform for globally-minded philanthropy.
Case-in-point: “The Box,” a portable, public art installation co-created by Cronin and Go Doc Go founder Maggie Carpenter, MD was originally inspired by Dr. Carpenter’s work in Haiti, Senegal and Ethiopia (You can read more about “The Box” here.)
This past June, Cronin joined Go Doc Go for a routine visit to Senegal, where a great deal of Go Doc Go’s work happens.
Last week, I sat down and caught up with Cronin to learn more about his time in Senegal, how it shifted his mindset as an socially-conscious artist-- and as a global citizen.
Blake: Senegal! Wowza! How was it?
Cronin: Senegal was the experience of my life so far; I don’t wanna say “lifetime” because it’s not my time yet. I’ve never traveled to a third world country before, so it was completely different to anything I’ve ever seen. Culturally, socially, visually… it was right up my alley. I fit in: the pace. Life is about survival, and there’s a beauty in that, when it’s stripped down to its simplest. The environment was bare minimum. Extreme poverty and struggle is real, I understand that, but it was a reminder of how simple life really can be. It was humbling.
Blake: How did it differ from the original picture you painted in your mind?
Cronin: Honestly? I thought it was going to be a little more polished, but it was rugged. We even stayed in nice hotels with running water, and we were taken care of, but I kept thinking, “Holy shit, this is a huge city, and there’s livestock everywhere. I kept wondering who has electricity, who has running water, what are their living conditions like? There were kids kicking soccer balls around, for hours and hours and life was happening. Everything was hand-painted, police cars, street signs. You see the presence of individuality in that and the absence of mass production. Coming from the Western World, you see people living in rugged conditions and then everyone is dressed so nice. The women were wearing beautiful dresses and the men were wearing collared shirts and nice shoes. There’s a high regard for one’s self-image there. It said a lot to me about the idea of poverty and how people perceive it.
Blake: What was your original reason for going-- and did you leave with something different?
Cronin: I’ve worked with Go Doc Go for over a year now in the States, and I wanted to experience what they do on the ground in other countries. I was able to witness the work they do firsthand in the hospital, which was incredible, but also had time to wander and explore and interact with the community.
Blake: Was this experience something you feel has threaded itself into your larger artistic narrative?
Cronin: Definitely. Maggie (Carpenter) was always like, “You have to go,” and now I know why. It’s truly a beautiful place: a truck driver making his truck look like his own, decorating it with his own hand. It was so individualistic and captures so much. Seeing that and seeing how the public took that in. There was art everywhere.
Blake: You’ve been painting for so many years and you went there with just a camera. How was that?
Cronin: Capturing a moment through a device vs creating paintings from from my mind, heart, and soul allowed me to secure the moment in time from that perspective. I used the camera as a sketchbook. It’s not the picture itself. It’s the memory and the interpretation to translate the idea into a painting.
Blake: Is there a piece in the works based on your voyage to Senegal?
Cronin: Yep, it’s a new piece called “Self/Group Portrait As Senegal Man and Westport.” It’s a loose commentary on my experience versus our new experience in Westport: you couldn’t find two more different places on the Earth. I’m also starting another piece directly related to some of the visuals from the trip. We drove a lot, so I saw the backs of a lot of trucks, and they were really beautiful. To me, the backs of these trucks were a piece in and of themselves. Ultimately, I’d like to get a full show together and raise some money for Go Doc Go, in the fall.
For more info or to donate to “The Box,” click here. #FollowTheBox
For more info on Go Doc Go, click here.
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