"When I paint, I try and find new meanings in color, texture and shape.
I don't paint so much as I observe.
Like Neruda, I search for moonlines, apple pathways.”
A mother, a graphic designer and a painter, her art has undergone quite a metamorphosis in recent years. Her latest works are the culmination of a journey not always easy, but always satisfying, always honest and ever forward.
Rhonda Henry (Rhen) was born and raised in High Point, North Carolina. Rhen has always possessed an aptitude for painting even as an adolescent. She won numerous awards for her work. Her early work were often hung proudly on the refrigerators and walls of her numerous aunts and uncles homes all over the furniture capitol of the south.
In 1982 she attended High Point College, and later received an associate’s degree in commercial art from Guilford Technical Community College. A working mother and a graphic designer she sat about the daunting task of making a career and raising a family. In 1995 she was commissioned to do a mural on Washington Street, in downtown High Point, just blocks away from the boyhood home of John Coltrane.
An avid music fan, Henry remembers the day she first heard Coltrane's, "Love Supreme" album. "It was like all of John's spirituality and verve were speaking directly to my soul, and when he played his music, I saw images, shapes, colors. It was one of the most singularly profound moments of my life," Henry recalled. She didn't know then that her fellow High Pointer's life would intersect with hers, but she became a fan of his music and an avid collector of all things Coltrane.
It was during this phase of her life that Ms. Henry began searching for a style. She loved oils and watercolors and showed quite an affinity for bright colors. Skillfully integrating aspects of the African experience through figures, and textiles into her vibrant paintings, Henry continued to produce exciting albeit eclectic works, still searching for a distinctive style that she could lay claim to.
One day while listening to Coltrane's, "Alabama" Henry began to sob. "The music cut right through me," she would later say. It was at that instant that she knew that she would paint Coltrane's music. She would begin another journey. She felt that since they were both fellow High Pointers that she was uniquely qualified to represent him visually.
The Coltrane Collection:
In 2005 Henry applied for and won a grant through the High Point Arts Council to do a series of paintings depicting the works and life of John Coltrane. The collection is now over 21 pieces and is biographical, political, tragic as well as ironic. In short, a perfect metaphor for Coltranes life. Henry knows that no one person can quite capture the essence of Coltrane. She hopes that the collection will inspire everyone especially young people, but more importantly she hopes that they will just listen to music. She likes to point out that, "Its the music that matters, its what makes Coltrane immortal, but truthfully its really all about love...love supreme."