Today we’re excited to feature the work of Ryland Quillen. Quillen is now based in Charleston, SC but previously attended SCAD where he received a degree in furniture design. The following artworks are part of Quillen’s series “Personal Reliquary”. More of his work can be found at http://personalreliquary.tumblr.com/.
This interview was originally shared on our Instagram page, @savartinfo. Follow us for more artist spotlights and the best of local and regional art.
SAI: What inspired you to start making these works?
Ryland Quillen: I started making these drawings about a month after I relocated from Seattle to Tennessee for the summer. Moving from what is arguably the most progressive city in America to a town nestled in the Appalachian mountains where you get pointed at for wearing short shorts and oxblood Doc Marten’s was quite the cultural shock. In Seattle, a city with quite a large gay population, the progressiveness of the city worked in my favor when it came to self-expression and self-discovery, whereas in Tennessee I felt very much alone and isolated when it came to meeting and interacting with an artistic and culturally aware crowd. These drawings became an outlet for me to express who I was, reflect on certain experiences, and create my own personal mythologies while staying within a defined aesthetic structure.
SAI: I can tell by looking at your work that you seem to pull from Greek antiquities… Was there any piece in particular that inspired you?
Quillen: There weren’t any specific pieces from antiquity that inspired me, but you’re right they’re clearly influenced by ancient Greek and Roman art. There’s no doubt that a certain degree of homo-eroticism exists in ancient art, and that aspect is what led me to create my own tableaus, my own personal myths. I went to the Art Institute of Chicago over the summer and for some reason was drawn to the Antiquities Room. I love the graphic style ancient craftsmen used in depicting the human form on their ceramics, and was drawn to recreating this style in these works, only re-imagining them to make them more relatable personally.
SAI: You mentioned in our email exchange that your work is partially autobiographical. Could you elaborate on that? How do you tie in your personal experiences in these works?
Quillen: When I go about making these works, I try to imagine myself living in an ancient civilization, and what a homosexual man such as myself would be doing professionally or in his spare time. I create these drawings in a fictional time in space where the modern 20-something gay male and the ancient 20-something gay male are one, a period where drugs and sex apps exist in an ancient civilization. Many of them are based on personal experiences but most of them are based on the collective experience gay men share – the fear of coming out, the pressure to be sexually active and adventurous, the dangers associated with that, etc.
SAI: Who are some of your favorite artists? What inspires you?
Quillen: I mean, I clearly love ancient art and architecture, but it’s hard to name a specific artisan or time period. Some modern favorites are Devin Troy Strother and Cleon Peterson. I love the way Devin has fully developed a style that is so personal to his experience as an African-American artist and I try to emulate that with my witty titles and subject matter. Cleon Peterson’s subject matter is pretty violent but I love the way he represents his highly stylized figures. I think looking at these two artist’s work has clearly influenced the way I go about viewing and making my own pieces.