EK Interview: Erin M. Riley

Erin M Riley - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

We have interviewed Erin M Riley twice on Empty Kingdom, making this a hat trick, so it is no surprise that she will be gracing the Empty Kingdom Art Show with a few of her pieces.  Shocking, honest, Erin’s pieces delve into gender roles and stereotypes much deeper than some are willing to do.  Her exploration is nothing short of stunning, both in execution and subject matter.  And she’s got some cool things to say too:

What have you been working on recently, with your work and yourself?
I have been working on the work for the upcoming show, I was in Virginia for a few days taking down an exhibition and have been in the studio everyday. I am working on getting my dyeing situation set back up now that I am in Brooklyn. I had to get rid of a ton of things moving to Brooklyn because my studio is half the size of my old one, but I am retooling and getting back on track. Dyeing has been something that has always been crucial to my process and I have just started running out of hand dyed wool so it was the perfect time to get things together.

Erin M Riley - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

Some of your work has shading, some doesn’t, how do you decide what facets to highlight? Where were you emotionally for Bruises? How long did the piece take? Do you do anything to maintain the emotion that you want to embody for a specific piece? Do you think that the emotion you begin a piece with should persist throughout your execution of the piece? Or should the emotion change, evolve, along with the work?

My work is all about the details and when I was first starting out I never wove the shading, and the main reason is because it is really hard! But as I progress in skill I am able to wrap my head around the shading in pieces and it also allows for the definition of shapes that are similar colors that are sitting up against one another in a piece. I am working to challenge myself in every new piece so that the pieces reflect my skill. Bruises was a piece I had intended to make for a few months, bruises and subtlety is really hard in weaving. It was a huge challenge, but I was and am really obsessed with domestic abuse and the assault of women and the changing views on sexual activity and aggressiveness required by men to get off. It’s the kind of piece that reflects that first time a dude tries to choke you while you’re making out and the realization that you’re living in a time when dudes literally think that because Bella Donna gets choked on camera that every girl wants that too. It’s a comment on the blurred lines of sexual assault and sexual pleasure, safe words, etc. I am very emotionally present throughout my pieces, I am staring at the image for weeks and working on the bits and pieces of a woman’s body for hours on end. It is an emotional journey that never ends. I might feel a bit less depressed after a piece is done (or more), although I am sure that the bruises series is not over. I have a lot more work to be do.

Erin M Riley - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

You moved from Philadelphia to New York, how do the two cities compare? How has each helped you further yourself as an artist? What does each mean to you? What is one of your favorite places in each? Tell us about each in detail.

Philadelphia and New York are very different places. I moved to Philly in 2007 for graduate school and didn’t leave until 2013, traveling to residencies and working in my studio full time. It’s the kind of place an artist can start out in, working part time, squatting in unheated warehouses paying $200 dollars a month for studio space. I was able to quit my job and be a full time artist in 2011 thanks to living in Philadelphia. It was perfect for being an artist really, but no one buys art there. Two of the main grants for Philly artists were canceled, so I did my best to show constantly and work 24/7 challenging myself technically and visually. I miss the financial freedom and solitude of living in Philadelphia a lot. New York is drastically different, it’s 5x more expensive, safer, its tougher, but artists are hustling, there is so much art and way too much socializing. I’m not sure I’ll spend many years here but it’s been an amazing few months of opportunity and art viewing. The main thing I like about New York is that many of my art school friends are here, and I get to see them every few weeks rather than every few years. My favorite place in both is my studio, I’m a hermit.

Erin M Riley - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

Tell us about the pieces you’re sending to the EK show, what is going on in them thematically? What is new about them?

The pieces I’m sending to the EK show will be of women in states of reveal. Subtly showing themselves to the camera. They are the sweet moments in which sexting begins but hasn’t gone hot and heavy yet. They are much less in your face nudity, touching on trends in tumblr images and pubic hair.

The earliest piece I can find on your site is 2010, how have you matured since then? How has your approach to art both as an artist and a viewer changed? What do you see now, what do you look for that you did not before? What holds less import than it did previously?

I have changed quite a bit since 2010, I was only a year out of graduate school then, working on finding my true voice and still challenging what kind of artist I was. It was hard to figure out how to be a tapestry weaver in a contemporary art setting and coming to terms with that has allowed me much more confidence and exposure. I am less concerned with what people will think of me, as a woman and as a weaver. I am also much more knowledgeable about weaving techniques, material choices and images. I am using many more pictures of my own body rather than just completely sourced image from online.

Erin M Riley - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

Where have you been going for inspiration recently? What has you inspired? Do you work well with white noise? Why or why do you think not?

I am inspired by everything, day to day interaction with men on the streets, cat calls, having a boyfriend, being sexually active, dealing with birth control, condoms, etc, feminism, blogs, tumblrs, facebook, etc! I work in the studio listening to podcasts or tv shows/movies, sometimes if I sit too long in solitude my thoughts get the better of me and I get too upset or angry about family issues or life challenges.

Erin M Riley - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

What are you working on next? What are you looking forward to work on?

I am excited to work on some new pieces using my own images. These pieces will reflect the selfie series I made using jacquard weaving. I am also finally restarting a project that was ongoing for many years but I lost all my source imagery due to an iphone update failure. This is something that is really revealing but since it is in the beginning stages I don’t want to share too much!

Erin M Riley - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog