In 1991, Rance moved with his wife Christina from Kerrville, Texas to New York City to attend School of Visual Arts and pursue an MFA degree in Illustration. It was a sense of adventure and the opportunity to study at such a recognized art school in NYC that drew him there. The couple moved from a tiny cabin on the Guadalupe River to settle in a typical five story tenement apartment in Manhattan’s West Village.
The energy and pace of New York City was a constant source of inspiration for Rance as he pursued his career in Illustration producing work for the New York Times as well as many magazines including a cover for the National Review. The couple found a community of friends and worked hard to realize their goals in their new home.
In 1996, with the birth of their daughter, the young family moved to Washington Heights just above 181rst Street. There they were surrounded by a park-like setting, living in a comfortable apartment near the Hudson River. In the evenings they could push a stroller down to the Little Red Lighthouse at the river’s edge or walk through the Cloisters, the Metropolitan’s replica of a medieval monastery in Fort Tryon Park a few blocks away.
Eventually the young family was asked by their church to be part of a congregation of about 500 members in Central Harlem to help organize a children’s ministry. Even though it was only a few stops away on the Nine train, Harlem was a world apart, suffering from poverty, crime and neglect.
Rance also volunteered with a chemical recovery program where he heard men share raw, heart-breaking stories from violent crime to prostitution for drugs. The artist came to see how difficult it was for children and families, young women and young men to navigate their way through such bleak circumstances.
And it was through these interactions, Rance had to confront prejudice, not only the distrust he encountered but more importantly his own characterizations of the people around him. The struggle to understand and eventually value such a different culture was difficult, at times frustrating but ultimately, an invaluable opportunity to grow.
That transformative stage of his life continues to shape his vision as an artist. Observing and depicting the lives of people from different parts of the world and often vastly different environments, means accepting that there can be many layers to a culture that are not apparent to an outsider.
Rance approaches each painting with the intention of portraying an unfiltered quality in people that is never stereo-typed, judgmental, romanticized or staged. Capturing body language, expression and environment are key elements to that process. When someone is caught up in their own thoughts, their facial expression and posture become a manifestation of how they are affected by their environment, society and culture and betrays the protective layers of self preservation.
The sharp, precise realism in his paintings brings a visceral honesty to the stories these lives tell. Knowing he can’t fully understand all the complexity of the conditions and the cultures of the people he paints, Rance believes the expressiveness and presence of the characters in his work inherently tells the true story.