By way of photography and sculpture, the artist captures the power and complexity of transforming geologic materials through an intense and intimate focus on process-based methods of experimentation. For Riley, exposing the chemical transformation of a material can reveal much about that material’s history and potential.
For her MAD Process Lab exhibition, Riley follows the transformation of sand, limestone, oyster shells, and recycled beer bottles as part of her ongoing examination of two pervasive and anthropocentric substances: glass and cement. Often taking the form of a page or manuscript, her finished artworks evoke the tension between tacit and recorded knowledge, imperfect categories between which material phenomena often fall. As part of her project, Riley attempts to document and capture in form the moment of material transformation by featuring kilns and crucibles—vessels that melt, burn, bake, or otherwise transform materials by subjecting them to high temperatures.
Inspired by feminist approaches to ecology and the writings of American philosopher Jane Bennett, Riley’s practice is driven by empathy for nonhuman materials. Her work considers the vital role of common materials as “co-actants” in the world, active agents within our daily lives and environments. Through her ongoing exploration of the conditions of production, Riley posits material sensation as inseparable from the meaning and sociality of things. Her practice of incorporating antiquated production methods simultaneously honors and elevates the creative labor involved in material innovation, resourcefulness, and change.
Anna Riley is a visual artist whose work emerges from a strong desire for materials research. Often dependent on experimentation, her work has been enabled by residencies at MAD, Dieu Donné, the Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass, the Creative Glass Center of America at WheatonArts, the Thicket, and Wave Pool Gallery. In 2018, she will continue to research the physical and social influence of colorless glass as the David Whitehouse Artist-in-Residence for Research at the Corning Museum and a Studio Resident at UrbanGlass.
On view in the sixth-floor Project Space, Anna Riley: The Softening of Stone is the second exhibition in the MAD Education Department’s Process Lab series. Dedicated to revealing the innovative processes of contemporary artists experimenting with materials, MAD Process Lab presentations feature a small selection of finished artworks among larger displays of studio samples, works in progress, photographic documentation, raw materials, research, notes, sketches, ephemera, and other items that inform an artist’s work.
Anna Riley: The Softening of Stone is organized by Danny Orendorff, Curator of Public Programs for the MAD Education Department.