Local artist highlights Maple Ridge in New York exhibit

Renato Muccillo’s Distillations will be featured for two weeks at the Arcadia Gallery
All photos supplied.

When Renato Muccillo went on the walk, he didn’t know it would change his career.

The clouds were grey. The day was overcast. There was a hint of light rain in the sky. 

Muccillo, 58, grew up in East Vancouver, but as a kid he’d come to fish in Maple Ridge

“When I was five, six years old, [my family] used to come out here on a weekly basis throughout the summer and spring,” Muccillo said. 

Two decades ago, though, when Muccillo decided to permanently move to Maple Ridge, he had yet to walk along the city’s dikes — trails that lead to marshes and mountains, algae and luscious forests. 

“I remember seeing it, this huge vast space of nothing,” Muccillo said. “Other than grey sky, a field, river, and a meandering dike system. It was just like, ‘wow… wow.’” 

He snapped a few photographs on that overcast day 20 years ago, and upon returning to his home studio, he started to paint the images he saw on the camera. 

Muccillo then attended an upcoming art exhibition in Kelowna, bringing his new collection of oil paintings from one of the city’s trails on the dike.

When he returned home, he didn’t have any of the paintings left. 

“All of them sold immediately,” Muccillo said. “I went headlong into making Maple Ridge, the Fraser Valley, as kind of the centre of my creative work.” 

Two decades later, his canvases — featuring Maple Ridge — have attracted the eyes of international exhibitors. 

Chronicling the Ridge

Muccillo has been painting for as long as he can remember. 

His sister used to work at an art store in East Vancouver. After work, she would bring Muccillo art supplies so he could work on his skills. 

He painted landscapes of his local neighbourhood and sold them at the art store. 

“I literally started selling my work at the art store when I was 10,” Muccillo said. “It was nice to get a response from people — people willing to actually hand over their hard earned dollars for my paintings as a child.” 

As he got older, he experimented with an “impressionism” style of painting, a form of art that emphasizes small brush strokes and colourful streaks that play with the light of an image. 

After moving to Maple Ridge, however, he became fascinated with chronicling the quiet landscape of the city’s many natural areas. 

He’s held exhibits locally at the White Rock Gallery, and in Seattle and Calgary.

No matter the city, his paintings have always resonated with art lovers.

“Every time, every painting sells, people just respond to it,” he said. 

‘People are looking to separate themselves from reality’

Muccillo’s latest solo exhibit, Distillations, will be held from June 17 to July 2 at the Arcadia Gallery in New York City.

The show features 30 paintings from nature spots around Maple Ridge and the Fraser Valley. 

“I’d say 99 per cent of [the paintings] was within a 30 to 40 kilometre radius of where I live,” Muccillo said. “Most of it, believe it or not, would probably be within one kilometre.” 

It’s the second time his work has been featured in the New York City gallery. In 2021, he held his first exhibit at the Arcadia studio, but was unable to attend in person due to pandemic restrictions. 

He’s set to travel to New York for the opening of his solo show this weekend. 

Muccillo said he believes that the popularity of his work stems from the desire to have an escape from our busy lives — filled with personal stress, or a seemingly never-ending series of posts on our social media timelines. 

“We live in this super fast paced lifestyle, with this immediacy and pressure from both work and social media,” he said. “Our expectations of how we view the world has really changed over the last 20 years.” 

He hopes that Distillations, with its focus on small, minute landscapes such as a bog or river, will help people find something special in the mundane. 

And help folks take a breather in their go-go-go lifestyles. 

Moving forward, Muccillo has ambitions to set up a free, public exhibition in Maple Ridge that depicts how the city has changed due to development over the years.

He is aiming to show how some spots — where he once painted years ago — that have been transformed into townhouses. 

“There’s a few areas that I painted that have been completely flattened, they’ve been completely wiped off the face of the earth,” he said. 

But Muccillo admits those plans are likely years down the line. 

Muccillo is not the kind of person to stop and get worried with plans deep in the future. 

He is the kind of person to admire something, like a ditch on the side of a road, because he likes the glowing green colours on the algae, a small wonder that so many people may drive by every day without stopping to recognize its potential beauty. 

“I’ll try my best to turn [the algae] into something beautiful and appealing,” Muccillo said. 

“And help people stop, for a moment, to look at things in the broader scope of how beautiful these micro environments of life are.”


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