A long time resident of Pennsylvania, Robert Rasely was born in 1950, and grew up in Stroudsburg. He trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art from 1978-82, studying with Will Barnet, Arthur DeCosta, Sidney Goodman, and Henry Pearson. In 1981 he received the William Emlen Cresson Scholarship, which allowed him to study in the Netherlands and Italy. The winner of numerous awards, Rasely was prodigious during his relatively short career. Accolades included the 1978 First Prize Purchase Award of the Esther Klein Foundation and Rittenhouse Art Annual, a 1987 E.D. Foundation Fellowship Grant, the 1988 Clara Obrig Prize, and 1992 Emile & Dines Carlsen Award, both of the National Academy of Design. Rasely had solo shows at Charles Campbell Gallery, San Francisco and Allan Stone Gallery, New York, and was included in group exhibitions at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, the Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AK, and the National Academy of Design in New York. His work has been featured in House & Garden, The Christian Science Monitor, Review Art, and ARTnews. Rasely died in 2005.
A synthesis of Surrealism, Baroque, Grotesque, and Italian Renaissance, Robert Rasely’s paintings envision an altered netherworld, with dream-like interiors and landscapes of genetically modified organisms. Quirky and delightful, though affected by a prevailing sense of unease, Rasely’s work combines the manic characteristics of a Bosch inferno with the delicate handling of Dutch vanitas paintings. What appears to be allusions to spirituality and holy significance are not overt allegories, but rather avenues and portals to engage the subconscious. Using fine brushes, hand-ground pigments, and a delicate hand, his lightly glazed oil-on-panel renderings of chimerical scenes and obscure symbols grapple with surreal undertones. Rasely's imagery of sacred hearts, birds, wells, innards, and decaying fruit challenges the viewer to find a concealed meaning within each painting. To wander through his enigmatic landscapes is to search the subconscious for the significance of life, and for the nature of beauty and ugliness.