“Bad Lemon (Creep)” (2019)
New York-based artist Kathleen Ryan creates small glittering sculptures that conjure up conflicting emotional responses. Stay with me on this.
She encrusts common fruit forms in precious and semi-precious stones, meticulously curating placement, texture and color to produce realistic versions of rotten molding flesh. The result is grotesque and stunningly pretty.
“Bad Peach” (2019)
Ryan creates coated polystyrene bases, larger than real fruit, onto which she paints her desired extent of surface decay.
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#TProcess: It takes eight weeks for the artist Kathleen Ryan (@katieryankatieryan) to fabricate one of her massive, moldy fruits made from #gemstones. While each gem — darkly striated emerald-green malachite, milky iridescent opal, smoky quartz — is itself hard and lustrous, together they simulate colonies of fuzzy mold, particularly the common fungus known as green rot (Penicillium digitatum). “The sculptures are beautiful and pleasurable, but there’s an ugliness and unease that comes with them,” Ryan says. This one is called "Sour Sparkle" (2019). Video @jordantaylorfuller.
Her extensive palette of gemstones includes opal, malachite, onyx, quartz, rhodonite, jasper, unakite, amazonite, sesame jasper, olive jade, fluorite, lodolite, amethyst, lapis lazuli, agate, Russian serpentine, marble, ruby in zoisite, abalone shell, bone, coral, freshwater pearl, petrified wood, and glass.
“Bad Lemon (Sour Sparkle)” (2019), detail
She places each stone individually, securing each with steel pins and occasionally mastic. The finished pieces ranging from 6 to 29 inches.
“The sculptures are beautiful and pleasurable, but there’s an ugliness and unease that comes with them,” the artist told The New York Times. Ryan artist studied Studio Art and Anthropology at Pitzer College and received a Master’s of Fine Arts from U.C.L.A.
This reminds me of a long-ago Green Prophet story about a French artist who employed insects to craft spectacular “jewelry”. Hubert Duprat uses adolescent caddisflies to create gorgeous tubular forms out of gold leaf, pearls and gemstones.
Impeccable craftsmanship reinterprets decay. Creepy insects create fine jewelry. Often our most evocative experiences involve a straddling of contradictory concepts and incompatible emotions.
Are these pieces monstrous of amazing? That’s yours to decide.
IMAGES:: All images courtesy the artist and Josh Lilley, London. Photographs by Lance Brewer.