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Ryan Pierce

Portland, OR
2008 MFA Grant Recipient

Artist's Statement (2013)

My recent paintings celebrate the resilience of weeds and our weedy human species. For the last several years I have been making imagery that depicts our world after the collapse of human industry. My background as an environmental activist and my interest in ecological theories helps me posit scenarios for reinhabitation of a wounded planet.

Within these larger parameters I make sub-series that more deeply explore facets of environmental collapse. My last body of work, titled NGHTMRBLVR, focused on the projected human migrations that will occur due to climate change. I often use literature as a starting point, and these works recast the plot of Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird to portray a narrative of displacement in a world scourged by global warming. The result was over 30 paintings and sculptures accompanied by a fictional travelogue in book form. The central questions in this story are, “Who will be uprooted by climate change? Where will they go? How will they be received?”

The ideas that drive my imagery are anti-apocalyptic. I am intrigued by holistic models of ecology that suggest that the human species could be integral to a healthy planet. Biophilia, Deep Ecology, and Bioregionalism all mandate an active role for homo sapiens. James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis implies humans may be analogous to a developing brain in an infant body, that we are evolving to become Earth’s control system. While this idea is alarmingly anthropocentric, it is also a great call to action. We certainly haven’t been behaving as keepers of the planet.

My visual art explores the possibilities of these values in a poetic and hypothetical way. I write essays (which I often distribute alongside my exhibitions) to more precisely parse the enormous subject of our planetary future. I am also the founder of Signal Fire, a group that provides wilderness residencies and retreats for all creative disciplines. This project allows me to actualize the same values and share them with others.

  • Ghost Dance Delayed, 2012, Flashe, ink, and enamel on canvas over panel, 72 x 96 inches.

  • Flawed Weave, 2012, Flashe and soot on canvas over panel, 48 x 48 inches.

  • Sun Scorched, 2011, Flashe and soot on canvas over panel, 47 x 34 inches.

  • Sunda Strait, 2012, Flashe, acrylic, ink, and charcoal on canvas over panel, 72 x 96 inches.

  • Chance Ark, 2012, Flashe on canvas over panel, 72 x 47 inches.

All works are copyright of the artist or artist’s estate.