Artist Adds to Water Street Atmosphere

Photo by David Khorassani.

The latest addition to Water Street Market’s funky scene is vibrant, colorful and has a big pink bunny protecting its storefront.

On May 17, Ryan and Melanie Cronin opened The Ryan E. Cronin Gallery, Arts & Wares on Water Street. The space doubles as an art gallery to showcase the local painter’s work as well as their shop. The store sells numerous affordable products ranging from coffee mugs to graphic tees, all with the same whimsical touch of a Ryan Cronin original.

In 1998, Ryan graduated from SUNY New Paltz with his BFA. Since then, he has settled down in New Paltz where he and his college sweetheart, Melanie, are raising their family.

This new gallery is anything but traditional. It can be seen attracting the young and old alike with Ryan’s pop-art aesthetic and playful take on commonplace items such as chewing gum, airplanes and popular Easter candy.

Melanie explained that people often attempt to categorize Ryan’s work but he is much more than any genre, whether it be pop or Keith Haring-esque. His style cannot be crammed inside a box or labeled.

“He is a contemporary artist,” Melanie said.

The artist creates an ever-changing space by rotating out his old work with his new gallery pieces every month or two.

According to Melanie, Ryan has a loyal following in New Paltz and is often referred to as New Paltz’s artist, which inspired him to take a chance and open a gallery in the town that shaped him as an artist.

“I don’t think I would be painting the way I am today if I were somewhere else.” Ryan said. “I am here. I am home. I am comfortable and uncomfortable. I am surrounded by fun and creative people and I try to draw something from that.”

Ryan’s influences range from artists like Philip Guston, Robert Indiana and William Hawkins. According to Ryan he exclusively uses Rust-Oleum paint on wood board. His creative process involves spending a lot of time alone in conversations with himself, his wife and neighbor, Bill Munzer, who is his biggest fan and who provides him with constant praise.

Melanie said that he plays with form and space in his pieces. Aside from painting he creates sculptures, installations and large scale murals.

“What interests me is using color to steer the eye across the plane,” Ryan said. “I present the subject, but the meaning is not dictated. That is left to the viewer,”

This dynamic duo complete each other like peanut butter and jelly because Melanie enjoys the business side of things, leaving Ryan with the freedom to be committed to his artwork.

“We are partners all the way around,” Melanie said.

Co-owner of The Cheese Plate, Theresa Logan, is thrilled to have another fun and lively addition to Water Street. Something about passing that pink bunny every day truly relates to her inner sense of childlike wonder.

“It makes me chuckle every time I walk by,” Logan said, beaming from ear to ear.

The pink bunny has become one of Ryan’s signature pieces, which derived from the popular Easter candy, Peeps. Ryan said the paradox between something so beautiful tasting so disgusting intrigued him.

The pink bunny has become so popular that Ryan has created a 20 foot inflatable bunny, which was originally a parade balloon. It will be resurrected at this year’s 25th annual Taste of New Paltz.

In additon, Ryan and Melanie are also playing with the idea of having a game night in the gallery this upcoming winter.