Margaret Zainey Roux Thom bennett PHOTOGRAPHMax Ryan first picked up a paintbrush at the tender age of five, and at 34 years old, he still hasn’t put it down. The New Orleans native dabbled in art classes for several years, but is mostly self-taught. His mixed media abstracts are influenced by a diverse set of artists from Renoir to Rothko.
“I began admiring the Impressionists and folk artists back in elementary school,” says Ryan. “Naturally, I’m drawn to Abstract Expressionists such as Pollock, de Kooning, and Kline, but some of my favorites are lesser known emerging artists from New Orleans and throughout the South who are out there doing their thing. Frankly, I just like art.”
An artist at heart and contractor by trade, Ryan’s company, Ryan Renovations, has specialized in projects encompassing historic properties and contemporary design since 1996. From the wall of his office he sold his first painting that ironically wasn’t even for sale. Part of his personal collection, the piece had no name or price tag. But at the request of a client, Ryan sold the painting. Subsequently, this transaction led to many more, and ultimately spawned the birth of Max Ryan Studio.
Today, more than 50 paintings grace the walls of Ryan’s 2,000-square-foot gallery tucked discreetly away at the end of a dead-end street in Old Metairie. Ryan’s
work can also be found in galleries on the Northshore, and in Lafayette and Atlanta.
Ryan’s preferred palette literally stretches from one end of the rainbow to another— from the most muted pastels to the deepest jewel tones—yet his work is easily identified through its complex textures created from layers of glazing and gold leaf. What makes Ryan’s work even more distinct are the shapes and symmetry that infiltrate his paintings, which can be attributed to his background in building and design.
“I find inspiration for my art all around me,” says Ryan. “Sometimes I find it in architecture, sometimes in nature, and sometimes in people. Sometimes I am simply inspired by my own emotions. For me, painting is a therapeutic journey—a process that carries me on a tranquil excursion back and forth across the canvas.”