Kathleen Ryan draws inspiration from moldy fruits to create giant gemstone sculptures

Artist Kathleen Ryan creates a conversation between the beautiful and the grotesque in her oversized sculptures of mold-covered fruit.

by Georgina Maddox Published on : Nov 07, 2019

The New York-based artist Kathleen Ryan was recently in the news for her comment on waste and overproduction as her sculptures of mold-covered fruit hit social media on World Food Day (October 16). The irony of Ryan’s work lies in the fact that she uses precious and semi-precious stones like malachite, opal, and smoky quartz to form the simulacrum of common green rot on each fruit. Hence, the object both attracts and repels viewers at the same time.

Ryan (b. 1984, Santa Monica, California) also works on a larger-than-life scale where she creates a foam base, rudimentarily painted to map out the fresh and rotten areas on the surface. She then individually places each gemstone, with varied shapes, sizes, and colours that emulate the shift from desirable to disgusting. Lemons are a particular favourite, but Ryan also works with oranges and pears, with each work scaling six to 29 inches. “The sculptures are beautiful and pleasurable, but there’s an ugliness and unease that comes with them,” Ryan told The New York Times. Indeed, in their opulence and over ripeness, the pieces recall the partially consumed fruit of 17th-century Dutch Vanitas (vanity) paintings by artists such as Jan Davidsz de Heem and Willem Claesz Heda, and likewise comment on worldly excess.

Kathleen Ryan at her Brooklyn Studio in 2017 before her solo show at Arsenal Contemporary | Kathleen Ryan | STIRworld
Kathleen Ryan at her Brooklyn Studio in 2017 before her solo show at Arsenal Contemporary Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist and Josh Lilley, London

Besides her small-scale intricate creations of fruits that she produces in her ‘couture type atelier’ or TriBeCa studio that has been described as a sun-washed garret in Broadway, she also works on a larger monumental scale built from her vast collection of salvaged industrial machinery and thrift-everyday objects — such as fuchsia bowling balls, 35 of which she strung together to create a colossal necklace, titled Pearls

Kathleen Ryan, Black Lemon, Obsidian, black onyx, agate, turquoise, pyrite, tiger eye, jasper, smokey quartz, tektite, lapis lazuli, aventurine, and other precious stones coated with polystyrene, 19 x 18 x 27 inches, 2019 | Kathleen Ryan | STIRworld
Kathleen Ryan, Black Lemon, Obsidian, black onyx, agate, turquoise, pyrite, tiger eye, jasper, smokey quartz, tektite, lapis lazuli, aventurine, and other precious stones coated with polystyrene, 19 x 18 x 27 inches, 2019 Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist and Josh Lilley, London, photography Lance Brewer

Much of Ryan’s sculptures have made use of ancient Greek iconography to coax forward more contemporary tropes. Like her ceramic Wine Fountain (2012), which perched on a base of cinder blocks and leaked all over the floor; The Rise and Fall, a row of glazed ionic columns that dissected UCLA’s pristine New Wight Gallery in 2014; or More Is More Snake Ring (2014): that was part coiled chthonic serpent, part end-of-season Topshop accessory. 

Kathleen Ryan, Soft Spot, amber, amethyst, rhodonite, rose quartz, serpentine, tree agate, jungle jasper, smokey quartz, garnet, agate, turquoise, olive jade, bone, pink lepidonite, glass, steel pins on coated polystyrene, 6 x 8 x 6 in, 2019 | Kathleen Ryan | STIRworld
Kathleen Ryan, Soft Spot, amber, amethyst, rhodonite, rose quartz, serpentine, tree agate, jungle jasper, smokey quartz, garnet, agate, turquoise, olive jade, bone, pink lepidonite, glass, steel pins on coated polystyrene, 6 x 8 x 6 in, 2019 Image Credit: All images Courtesy the artist and Josh Lilley, London, photography Lance Brewer

Currently, Ryan is represented by London-based gallery Josh Lilley, where she had a solo show in 2018. This year, Ryan exhibited her work in solo shows at The New Art Gallery in Walsall, U.K. and at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as part of Desert X in Coachella, CA. She also showed her work at Frieze London, where she was represented by Josh Lilley. The artist studied studio art and anthropology at Pitzer College, and received a Master’s of Fine Arts from U.C.L.A.  

Watch out for her evocative works that create a sense of discomfort with their uncanny resemblance to rotting fruit: “Though the mold is the decay,” she says, “it’s the most alive part.”

Comments

Comments Added Successfully!

About Author

Georgina Maddox

Georgina Maddox

Maddox is an independent critic-curator with 18-years-experience in the field of Indian art and culture. She blurs the lines of documentation, theory and praxis by involving herself in visual art projects. Besides writing on immersive art for STIR World, she is a regular contributor for The Hindu and Architectural Digest.

Recommended

LOAD MORE
see more articles
1157,1039,1204,1062,1067

stirworld.com becomes

join the celebration CLICK HERE

Collaborate with us

This site uses cookies to offer you an improved and personalised experience. If you continue to browse, we will assume your consent for the same.
LEARN MORE AGREE