Letter to the Reader
By Dr. Robert Rock Belliveau
Over the years, I’ve appreciated how artwork transcends language and communicates on a level that words simply cannot. Art has the ability to inspire, to heal, and to create a sense of unity among people. It is a testament to the human spirit and the incredible creative potential that we all possess. These things are certainly true of Rita Abbey’s art, and she makes a profound contribution to the tradition. She wanted to communicate, explore, make new discoveries, share, challenge herself, and stimulate and enrich her viewers.
Rita’s art has a depth and a richness that require extended viewing. With each examination of her works on different days, I discover new relationships, nuances, and complexities, emphasizing the depth of her artistic vision. Returning to see a work again is always rewarding, as these new aspects reveal themselves—it can be a whole new experience—and my appreciation of her talent keeps increasing. Rita’s works are characterized by a seamless integration of all elements. Her compositions are harmonious, her understanding of color unsurpassed. Each work speaks for itself, and each series is distinctive, but, at the same time, certain elements and motifs can sometimes be found to be shared among different works in different series across multiple media, which has a unifying effect on the whole collection.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on this subject. I hope that you, too, can find inspiration and joy in the beauty of Rita Abbey’s art.
Rita Deanin Abbey (1930-2021) received her BFA and MA from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She also studied at Goddard College, the Art Students League, and the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts. She moved to Las Vegas in 1965 and became a professor of art at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she taught drawing, painting, and color theory and created innovative interdisciplinary courses with the sciences. A productive artist throughout her life, she had over fifty individual exhibitions and participated in over one hundred national and international group exhibitions, and served as an artist-in-residence at several venues throughout her career. In addition to teaching, exploring art with diverse media, constructing monumental outdoor sculptures, and executing commissioned works, she was also a lifelong writer of poetry. Selected poems have been published in conjunction with reproductions of her art. Two special limited-edition books featured narrative poems with original art: Rivertrip, Northland Press, Flagstaff, AZ, 1977 and In Praise of Bristlecone Pines, The Artists’ Press, Johannesburg (presently White River), South Africa, 2000. Another book, Seeds Yet Ever Secret, was her first anthology. It includes poems on the desert of the Southwest and explores her fascination and her spiritual relationship with the natural world. Rita raised two talented and creative sons, Joshua Nathaniel and Aaron Paul Abbey. She was married to Dr. Robert Rock Belliveau.
Dr. Robert Rock Belliveau is a retired physician. He received his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and served with distinction in the U.S. Air Force (stationed at a military hospital in Japan) before establishing his practice in Las Vegas in 1963. In 1966 he cofounded Associated Pathologists Laboratories, which he and his partners expanded to 1,400 employees. During his distinguished medical career, he published extensively (including a landmark article that provided new insights into structures in the kidney), gained recognition from his peers (including the 1990 Nevada State Medical Association Distinguished Physician Award), and served as a visiting pathologist in Kenya, Milan, Jerusalem, London, India, Stockholm, and Japan. After retirement, his love of botany (and skill with the microscope) led him to explore the micro-photography of plants. His photos were featured in national magazines including The New York Times, and he had a solo exhibition at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas in 2018. Robert met the artist Rita Deanin Abbey in the 1970s and they married in 1985. He was devoted to her and her work and did everything he could to help her work flourish, ultimately building the Rita Deanin Abbey Art Museum, which opened in 2022, a year after Rita’s death. Robert is eager to show her art to the world.