Today we’d like to introduce you to Bruce Riley.
Bruce, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s on the eastern edge of Cincinnati in a working-class suburb. My childhood was spent playing in the woods building, tree houses and running wild. The Vietnam war was in my future, the fight for civil rights had been going on for a while, the explosion of music and the expanded awareness that came with the counter couture were my coming of age years. One of my earliest epiphanies was when “you are what you eat” went from being about food to being about the content of consciousness.
Drawing, painting, building models and making objects was a dominant part of my childhood. In the beginning, I copied my older brother’s drawings. He was an incessant reader and followed the new rock genre. Luckily for me, he got all the pressure about school, studying Latin in the sixth grade! My younger sister and I were left alone. Growing up without much life instruction has left me with a feeling of growing up a bit feral.
My late teens and early twenties were out of control. The Vietnam draft was shut down right before I was to go, but by then, I was immersed in a life of drugs and fast motorcycles.
My crazy years stopped when I was around twenty-two. I started to go to art school when I could get someone else to pay for it and rented studios when I couldn’t. If I wasn’t painting I was hitchhiking around the US, backpacking and camping. I was back in the woods! I stopped looking to schools for direction and began studying in libraries focusing on painting treatises, color theory, and mysticism.
My work history has been in construction, bartending, raft guiding, art handling, and factory work to name a few. I’ve always been an artist. There was never a question of choosing a career.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
The paintings I make are process driven. I paint full-time so it is important my ideas facilitate an active studio practice.
In the beginning, a painting develops quickly. Working flat, my mark making, at first, is big and spontaneous, often covering the whole surface. I’m looking to see what develops as I work. The paint builds up to the point of having a topography. The topography starts defining the direction of my self-leveling media. When this first paint layer is dry, resin is poured on the painting, creating a clear level surface for starting a new paint layer. I repeat this process until the painting is done.
Working up through these layers, translucency becomes increasingly important. I want the lower layers to visually interact with what is going on top of them but I want it all to be seen. Keeping my focus on the paintings creates a meditative state of being that allows the work to develop in a seemingly autonomous direction.
Through this whole process, I’m constantly experimenting with my materials. Nothing is written down, creating a living system that slowly morphs as it moves forward. The specifics of my processes have had different manifestations throughout my life but the basic structure has not changed. I make art to see where it takes me. I’m attracted to the mystery of not knowing.
The people who get the most out of my art are the ones who lose themselfs as they follow the hand of the artist.
Artists face many challenges, but what do you feel is the most pressing among them?
The challenge of making money and art simultaneously has always been a problem for artists.
But I think the bigger challenge is staying true to your vision while dealing with everything else.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Online my paintings can be seen at: www.bruce-riley.com.
A visit to my Chicago studio is a fun way to have a look.
I’m in a group show in Cincinnati called “Synthetica” at the Weston Gallery that opened November 30, 2018.
I just shipped out a bunch of paintings to a private dealer in the Netherlands. I can be contacted through my website for information about the work in the Netherlands.
Currently, I am looking for US representation. When I find a good match, it will be listed on my website.