Stunning artwork. Brilliantly capturing the power and intensity of the oceans. I thought his child-hood story was pretty fantastic as well.
Ran Ortner was born in 1959 in San Francisco and lived along the areas rugged coast just north of Half Moon Bay – the home of Mavericks (one of the world’s biggest and most dangerous surfable waves). At the age of 5, the Ortner’s set off from the Half Moon Bay airstrip in their 1947 rag-wing Cessna to move to Alaska. In Alaska the Ortner’s built a log cabin, had no running water, a wood fire for heat and a grass airstrip for a driveway. To escape the brutal winters, Ran and his family would take their single engine plane on 3-4 month adventures from Alaska to South America.
The adventure of Ran’s unconventional childhood was in large part because of a deranged father. Ran found his escape racing motorcycles. The abandon reverie he found in racing opened a door. As he says “On my motorcycle I felt to be dancing with the gods.” When injuries ended his racing he turned to the sea. Moving back to California at 18 he began big wave surfing. Surfing the cost of California and Mexico he considered his next move. Filled with a wonder at the dynamic conditions of life, Ran realized his need to make art. Ran has been living and working in New York City since 1990.
In my art, I contemplate collisions of opposites, from the most tender brutalities to the most devastating sensitivities. These paradoxes register within me and I can see myself within them. I am continually surprised by the reflection between me, as an individual, and the environment within which I exist. As Robert Lax said, “The blood within and the brine without.”
I often think about Rollo May’s idea that “sustained intensity equals ecstasy.” Every day I enter my studio, prepare my materials and, as James Joyce said, “go for the millionth time to encounter the reality of experience.” I find that sustaining the encounter with life’s biting reality is not “miserablism,” but rather intense engagement. The undeniable union of life and death is not dire but majestic as evidensed by the inevitable crash of each cresting wave. In a tempest, distinctions blur registering in me as the rhythm of life’s dance. Life’s beauty is magnificent as it hangs at the edge of death, insisting upon its relevance.