I have always made things and wanted to be an artist, but first, I married and had children because I wanted to do that too. It is the combination of these two things that is at the center of what I do and make. My life has been rooted in family issues and household concerns. These experiences are what shape my art making as I call into question embedded attitudes, opinions and beliefs regarding the value of woman’s work, the messages and myths regarding family, as well as how longing and nostalgia influence our memory.
About this body work:
I use memory as a resource to explore and reveal my ideas about grief, longing, home, family, motherhood and gender roles. Inspired by vintage photographs from my birth family and vintage objects I collect, I make images, vintage style clothing and stop motion videos. The questions I ask myself are, “How do we make sense of a life, our parents and now ourselves, as we age and physically decline? How did our childhood and family of origin shape our choices?”
Let’s begin with why do you do what you do?
I am trying to figure out the true value of being a woman, what is my life as a woman worth? We absorb so many messages about gender characterized in terms of cultural roles not biology -the value of motherhood and children and family and our responsibility for it. But when you stand back and look, these things are only valued when you are able to conform to a very narrow definition – stereotypes of what is acceptable behavior for women. All the things that women do well are not rewarded in an equal way that the things that men do well are – and yet we all appear nostalgic for those domestic ideals. I am fascinated by this question of value, so therefore, I see the work I do as a pursuit – a quest or a mission if you will, a search for answers, by revisiting the stereotypes in my own family, to tease out where I fit in and to claim my worth.
What’s some worthy advice you’ve been given?
“It’s not the best one, it’s not the worst one, it’s just the first one.”
I think favorite quotes say a lot about someone. What’s one of yours?
“A woman inside the steamy energy of middle age runs and runs. She finds the houses and streets where her childhood happened. She lives in them. She learns as though she was still a child what in the world is coming next.”The Long Distance Runner – Grace Paley.
What surprises you?
Artists. I am always surprised and amazed at what artists do.
What music do you like to listen to while you work?
Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach cello suites, Arvo Part – Lamentate, Natalie Merchant – Motherland & Leave Your Sleep
Have you just finished reading anything good?
Half of a Yellow Sun, Purple Hibiscus and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
What breaks your heart?
Which artists are you inspired by:?
Kara Walker, Fairfield Porter, Vuillard, Giotto, William Kentridge, Fra Angelico and numerous, unnamed manuscript painters/masters.
If you had to choose one teacher or mentor who has made an enormous impact on you and your work, who would it be?
The teacher who had the most impact on me was Barbara Duval at the College of Charleston. I took printmaking and painting from her and she was my first studio teacher. It was Barbara who taught me how to “see,” and that printmaking studio remains the most magical memory of my time at the college.
Kristi Ryba paints, sews, gardens, photographs, cooks and makes prints and videos in her studio and home in Charleston, South Carolina. Trained as a printmaker and painter, Ryba graduated Magna Cum Laude from the College of Charleston in 1988. Continuing to work and study Ryba, received her MFA from Vermont College in 2006 and has participated in residencies at Vermont Studio School in Johnson, Vermont, Studio Camnitzer in Valdotavvo, Lucca, Italy and The McColl Center in Charlotte, NC. In 2012 Ryba was selected as the SC Arts Commission Alternate Visual Arts Fellow. Exhibiting since 1990 Ryba’s early work has toured the Southeast in painting and printmaking exhibitions. Her video animations debuted at Silo in New York City in 2004 and 2006, Contemporary Charleston in 2004 and have been included in film festivals across the country. More recently, Ryba’s work has been exhibited at ArtFields, 701 Contemporary Center for Art and Columbia College in Columbia, SC; Southern Ohio Museum in Portsmouth, OH; Waterworks Visual Arts Center in NC; The City Gallery at Waterfront Park, Charleston, SC; Sumter Gallery of Art, in Sumer, SC; and Dialect Design in Charlotte, NC. In 2015 her work will be included in a traveling exhibit The Red Suitcase, one of 11 artists, whose work will all fit into a red suitcase. Other work of hers may be purchased from the Corrigan Gallery in Charleston, SC. Link to Kristi’s personal site here.