Ron Kwiek

For those who believe that art is simply a by-product of leisure, consider the extraordinary career of Nevada painter Ron Kwiek (1943-1996), who faced debilitating multiple sclerosis for the last thirty years of his life. Kwiek's watercolor landscapes were featured in numerous exhibitions, many sponsored by Very Special Arts Nevada (now VSA arts of Nevada) and the national VSA organization in Washington, D.C.

Kwiek's life seemed to be moving along at an even pace in the early 1960s. He attended Pacific Union College near Napa, California, where he received a BA in commercial art. Kwiek spent the next few years working as a graphic designer in the Napa area, specializing in illustrations for modest-sized publishing houses. In 1973, he provided the artwork for Protest and Promise, printed by the in-house publication wing of Seventh Day Adventist Church.

The diagnosis of MS dramatically shifted the artist's plans; he began to devote more time to painting and, in 1975, he moved to Minden, Nevada. Kwiek found that the wide pastures, aging barns, and ever-changing cloud formations over Carson Valley set, as they were, against the imposing grade of the Sierra Nevada, offered "the perfect inspiration" for his watercolors.

Kwiek had studied with various watercolorists including Vernon Nye (1915-) at Pacific Union and the Hungarian expatriate Zoltan Szabo (1928-2003). As the years passed, his manner of painting became more personal. He simplified his compositions and relied on broad washes of transparent color that evoked a sense of the ethereal. The artist wrote, "As my symptoms increased, I adopted methods that were more spontaneous and demanded less detail. I was able to speed up my process of working to accommodate the loss of control and less energy."

Kwiek's final exhibition in 1993 was held at Western Nevada Community College in Fallon. He attended the opening in a wheelchair, his limbs stilled and voice almost inaudible. Kwiek's thoughts about the show remained unspoken. The viewers, on the other hand, were openly generous in their praise. Within months, the artist moved from his home in Minden to Los Angeles, where his sister provided the care he needed until his death in 1996.

In 1998, the national Very Special Arts "Visions of the American Landscape" calendar featured Kwiek's watercolor, "Approaching Fog," on its cover.

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