Riley Morgan Strong is a multi-media artist from Vero Beach, FL currently living and working in Worcester, MA. After being awarded summer assistantships with Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in both 2017 and 2018, Riley graduated with a BFA in Sculpture from Union University in 2019. In the Fall, she began her 2019-2020 Residency at Worcester Center for Craft in the Ceramics Department, where she has explored clay as a sculptural medium as well as teaching in the adult and youth programs offered at the craft center. Through the circumstances of COVID-19, Riley was able to continue producing work after being awarded a grant from the Worcester Cultural Coalition.
Left: Riley Strong (right) poses with friend Matthew Watkins (left) in front of "REFUGE II" at opening reception for "Repetition"
Grounded in the therapeutic undertaking of inner child work, my work offers a look into the process of reconnecting with myself through childhood memories and impressions. I use identity and place to explore themes of spirituality, safety, innocence, and redemption. Much of my work deals with place as a reference point for identity. Growing up, my family spent summers in the Blue Ridge mountains. My first spiritual experiences occurred there: watching cloud shadows move slowly across sprawling valleys and stacking ancient stones in ice cold creeks. As an adult I have returned to these sites as a pilgrimage of sorts to reconnect with the spiritual potency of my youth. These works document my reflections on these experiences.
Color plays a critical role in these works. Not only do my vibrant colors capture the viewer’s eye, they allow me to bridge the gap of catharsis and celebration by reimagining my world as a place of joy and wonder. In addition to clay forming, this body of work focuses on painting and collage as ways to act instinctively and immediately on creative urges, much like the way a child creates without the weight of self-consciousness on their shoulders. I use acrylic paints to soak the surface of wood, paper, and porous ceramic to create an ultra-matte surface which suggests a sensation of softness. The use of secondhand, discarded, or found materials supply additional layers of meaning to each piece. Most notably, I take the opportunity to make use of my own used or discarded materials in the work. In this way, the pieces themselves also become a personal archive. In contrast to the deeply reverent explorations that this work represents, I allow my methods to strike a chord of irreverence. Through granting myself permission to subvert the material, I am able to celebrate my intuition while engaging in play with color, texture, and space.
Right: Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, TN from Riley's 2017 visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains
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