artwork by Ajean Ryan

3-D Studio Demonstrating Artist: Ajean Ryan

Ajean Ryan will be in the 3-D Studio demonstrating dimensional drawings February 17–18.

Olivia Davies: What will your demonstration at the DAM look like? What can visitors expect?

Ajean Ryan: The demonstration I hope to present at the DAM will encompass a few things that I cherish in my own studio practice: the fascination with the found and discarded, the mesmerizing quality of line and form made visible, and the fabrication with the fragile and ephemeral. The visitors can expect a wide range of material exploration; both traditional and non-traditional as well as methods of working that involve both the two- and three-dimensional aspects of artmaking that defies historical definitions of drawing, painting, and sculpture.

...finding your true passion is very difficult, but not impossible and not without a lot of hurdles, but if and when [you] want it hard enough, it will completely come [your] way.

– Ajean Ryan
artwork by Ajean Ryan
Photos courtesy of Ajean Ryan.

OD: Where do you get the inspiration for your sculptures?

AR: Much if not most of my inspirations arise from the language of poetry and the visual metaphors I find in nature. I am best able to translate my thoughts through the syntax, vocabulary, and arrangement within poetic phrasing and visual combinations that are comparable within the landscape that surrounds me.

OD: What made you choose to work with non-traditional materials?

AR: Although my interests lie within landscape and the notion of what is natural, I found that if I worked with wood, leaves, or rocks, for instance, that these impulses and materials felt a bit disingenuous and contrived to me. I don't believe we can understand what nature truly is anymore—not in the sense of the natural as depicted by artists in the past i.e. nature as a dominant foreboding force or within the context of Western Christianity or even in a romanticized and tame version of itself. I work with non-traditional materials primarily because these materials are the "stuff" of contemporary society and of our blatant and destructive use and abuse within consumerism. The foam, the packaging materials, the plastics are all so much a part of our lives and yet we hardly give it a second glance as to how much of it we are actually just discarding without a second thought. I would be lying if I said I am an environmental artist—I am not. But I am interested in how these materials can transcend and transform themselves into art materials specifically for their abundance and their longevity.

OD: The titles of your artwork add the sense that there are entire stories behind each piece. How do you come up with your titles?

AR: My titles are very important pieces of the larger whole. Many times and always in my sketchbooks and journals, I have had a love of both words as well as drawing. I believe in the symbiotic and the dependency of word and image. Bits of conversation, a phrase from a poem or something that is exchanged fleetingly in a film all gets noted and jotted down. In my studio currently I have many titles that I write spontaneously on bits of drafting tape that I then stick to the wall. I literally write and tape my thoughts as they are something too fleeting!

OD: How has your personal background influenced your work?

AR: My personal background is how and why I became an artist. I come from a very traditional first-generation immigrant family where what was expected of me was to become something pragmatic and worthwhile. I had to truly fight, grapple, and have the resolve to become the artist and person I am today. My upbringing in many ways assisted me in this fight because I was never allowed to make excuses for myself and doing the bare minimum was never an option. My parents were strict and wanted me to truly succeed in whatever I wanted to do, and although it was not the most acceptable profession for them in the beginning, they are immensely proud of me now. I tell my students all the time that finding your true passion is very difficult, but not impossible and not without a lot of hurdles, but if and when they want it hard enough, it will completely come their way. I also tell them that I wake up every day with joy and purpose because I am able to do what I love as well as teach what I love every single day.

Olivia Davies was a studio and artist programs intern in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum.

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