I spent ten years in the seminary before making a lateral career move into social work. This was my occupation for more than 30 years as a caseworker, administrator, researcher, teacher and consultant.
Artistic pursuits were a constant theme during this during this period. I was a choral singer for a decade in symphony, opera and musical comedy, also designing sets and costumes for many Gilbert and Sullivan productions. My interest in architecture resulted in award-winning restorations of an 1890 Victorian house and my 1907 apartment, both in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. As for visual arts, sketching and drawing led to watercolors in collage. This continued as my principal medium until I took an eight-session course in oil painting in 1989. In 1996 acrylics were added to the mix. Since 2004, I've begun to explore print media – such as woodcuts, lithography, and dry point etchings.
In 1994 an artist saw one of my paintings and asked why I was not exhibiting. Something clicked. Until then, I had great difficulty in parting with my creations. I began to actively pursue an artistic career. In December 2002 the shift to painting full-time was complete.
I am fascinated by the built environment. I reflect on what the structures tell about their builders as well as their interaction with nature and the results of time. Since 1998 I've focused on the engineering ingenuity that created Chicago's many bridges. Structural elements are abstracted from their context and painted with a hard-edged realism on a scale that highlights the monumentality of the forms and the creativity necessary for their existence. In 2006 I began to branch out to other "bridge" cities such as Boston and New York. More, I'm sure, will follow.
Although people are not the direct subjects of my work, they are integral to it. The structures stand as proxy for human experience. I create places and moods that invite the viewer to enter into the work and form their own relationship to it.
In my gradual transition to becoming a full-time artist, I've discovered that the act of making the art, while personally reward, is only part of the creative process. Art is essentially about communicating, which means sharing my visions with others. This can't happen if I keep them to myself. I've also discovered that the more I share, the more I create. For these reasons, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to share my work with you.
Roland Kulla: Railroad Bridge Paintings is newly revised with additional information and images. This 12” x 12” hard-cover book features striking, full color images of his paintings of railroad bridges. Two prefaces from Chicago-area professionals and an artist’s statement lend further insight into the work. The book may be purchased by clicking here.