Christine Guillot Ryan's current exhibit "Converging Boundaries," which opened Sept. 5 at the Cultural Arts Center, is a powerful, extensive representation of her recent work and process. Ryan, a self-described perfectionist and workhorse, creates meticulously complex and ethereal mixed-media pieces capturing both abstract and recognizable elements of the human condition.
Christine Guillot Ryan’s current exhibit “Converging Boundaries,” which opened Sept. 5 at the Cultural Arts Center, is a powerful, extensive representation of her recent work and process. Ryan, a self-described perfectionist and workhorse, creates meticulously complex and ethereal mixed-media pieces capturing both abstract and recognizable elements of the human condition.
“Converging Boundaries” features 150 intricately created pieces that one could spend hours examining. The sheer number of pieces in the exhibit is impressive (especially considering she started the project in December 2013 after defeating a bout of artist’s block), but once you realize the work that goes into each, the output is extraordinary.
Ryan’s work, from an aesthetic viewpoint, is characterized by using diptychs (two complementary pieces paired next to each other). But Ryan doesn’t quit there; her diptychs can be rotated or reoriented in any way and still work as a cohesive pair — no matter how the two are hung together (vertically, horizontally).
“I thought about how many ways I could make them work. What I started was this technique that I call modular mixed media, where as I work on it, I continue to move the piece,” Ryan said during an August interview at her Upper Arlington home studio. “You start out with one thing in mind and then it’ll end up being something else. I love there’s always that element of surprise.”
While creating two pieces that coalesce on all four sides is a fastidious process that immediately engages the viewer and compels the imagination, Ryan is approaching this technique with more than a visual fascination.
“I really feel there’s not one way to look at the world, so I love the idea that it points out there are multiple ways of looking at things. But you do ultimately have to make a choice in any situation. You can’t see all of the ways at once, so you have to choose in that moment, but you can always change your mind. It really illustrates the philosophy that there are endless opportunities and ways to see the world,” Ryan said.
Ryan further develops philosophical ideas in her work by adding a variety of elements. She blends paint (and spray paint) with Xeroxes, rubbings and transfers.
Everything from retro books (a teacher’s edition of “Fun with Dick and Jane” and a 1963 Reader’s Digest Atlas), casts of Barbie and He-Man dolls, and found objects (a decades-old napkin from a Delta airline with a Coke campaign showing “happiness” in eight languages, and a pre-op EKG of Ryan’s heartbeat) are incorporated. Ryan also creates “energy strips,” paper chains made of images personal to the artist that can have universal resonance for the viewer.
The cornucopia of images and figures Ryan presents in her work could feel disjointed, but after careful inspection, you see how all fit together in transferring a theme.
“Almost everything I’m interested in has a light and a dark side,” Ryan said. “There’s the shadow side we don’t want to acknowledge and the parts of ourselves we reject. It’s about the idea of fighting for integration between the parts we accept and the parts we reject in a totality.”
Photo by Meghan Ralston