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Meet Gena Rynae

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gena Rynae.

Gena, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Art became an obsession around the age of seven when my father was murdered. I used my artwork as an escape from reality. It started with doodles in my notebooks, then it transitioned to bigger drawings and before long I was secretly painting my favorite cartoon characters on the walls of my bedroom. I didn’t pursue art courses in school because we had to choose between music or art and I wanted to play in the band. For me, art was something I dabbled in during my free time until I went to high school and had access to a class in airbrushing. Up until then, my mother would just put me in summer courses and camps when she could afford to.

By my junior year of high school, I was repeatedly being asked “What are you going to do? What college are you going to?” This was a scary thought, all this time I wanted to be an artist but everyone around me was telling me that was not going to provide me with a stable income. I didn’t care. I shopped around for a college with a great art program in Virginia. I settled on Virginia Commonwealth University, which at the time was one of the top five art colleges in the US. College gave me my first taste of freedom. I had the ability to say and do whatever I wanted. It unleashed a seventeen years old little punk with hot pink hair, gauges, tattoos, and every color of skinny jean you could think of. I realized I had made a mistake in attending college at that time but was too afraid to have a frank conversation with my mother about dropping out. So, inevitably I got kicked out and ended up back home working crappy food service gigs. I felt like a failure, even though I had made a choice for my own life. It wasn’t long before I had outgrown Virginia, so I thought of a brilliant way to escape. I joined the Navy and was shipped off to Chicago shortly after that. During my enlistment, I was able to live all over the US and travel abroad. After about three years, I realized I still wanted to pursue art, so I took a few college courses in my free time. This period would have a pivotal role in developing my self-confidence to really pursue a career in art.

At the point when I decided to be an artist, is when I began devising my plan for post-Navy living. I was going to live in San Diego where I would spend my days going to college, growing my skills. For about a year after I became a civilian, that’s all I did: work, make art and go to school. It didn’t take long for me to grow bored with this pace, so I was reminded of the list of schools I had picked out while I was still in the Navy. Los Angeles seemed like the best choice. I wanted to be challenged to be the best, so I had to surround myself with the best. Otis College of Art and Design is where I landed, a small private art school nestled in the armpit of LAX.

For the first time, I was in a space where I was challenged to not only make beautiful painting, but I was challenged to make work that had purpose and context.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
One of the most challenging things I had found was creating work that was mine. I know you are probably reading that last sentence feeling a bit perplexed. Let me clarify, my work up until coming to LA was solely based on what I thought people wanted to see. I had so much to say any other time, but what was I saying with my work? Translating my thoughts into visual pieces felt like an impossible task until I had a break-through. It was like trying to fit into your favorite jeans which you love so much, but they no longer are loving you back. Painting solely for the viewers’ was the old jeans; artwork that served my narrative was the brand new, unworn jeans. I was trying so hard to hold on to old faithful when I knew I deserved to put my bum in the right fit.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Gena Rynae Co. is known for paintings, quilts, and printmaking. What truly brings me joy is knowing that I have grown my brand’s digital presence which, in turn, has led to many exhibition opportunities. I think what sets me apart from other artists is my willingness to be vulnerable and a call to a purpose bigger than myself. As artists, we have the unique ability to pose questions and create conversations that drive social and economic change. I feel it is my civil duty to share my story to give other women like myself hope that the world is changing for the good.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t believe in luck. I believe we all have purpose in this life and every hiccup in life is meant to build us stronger. I have a strong vision for my future and no matter what happens, I keep my eyes on the prize. Instead of looking at things as good or bad luck, I look at every situation as a learning opportunity. If I get a flat tire, I have been given a chance to learn how to change my tire. If a painting is not enjoyed by the public, I am challenged to understand why and learn how can I get better? It’s all about how you choose to perceive your circumstances.

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Image Credit:
Ave and G-2, Molly Dickler

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