Featured Artist: Kristen “Bug Lady” Rieke

Kristen Rieke

Kristen Rieke is undoubtedly an artist to watch. Her series on the role of the bumble bee in our environment has earned her the affectionate nickname, “The Bug Lady.” Her work is technically masterful and beautiful, we can’t wait to share it with you at the upcoming “Neon Nature and New Currency” show on June 4th at the Box Factory. Until then, w invite you to get getter acquainted with Kristen. If you’re an artist who would like to collaborate with her in the future, look her up at Artlarking.com.

When did you realize your artistic talent? What that the same time you realized you wanted to be an artist?

I am pretty certain I tapped into my artistic talent at the age of 6. My sister, my best friend, and I would spend hours in my forest-clearing-like backyard constructing intricate and functional houses for fairies. We would turn flowers, sticks, leaves, and grasses into tiny furniture, lamps, and structures. It was awesome. We never took any pictures of them, though–what a mistake! However, we did document them and the fairies that would inhabit them using drawings in consecrated composition notebooks. I didn’t decide to be an artist at the time (I decided to become one during my sophomore year of college), but come on, my parents probably saw that coming every since the miniature-house-building obsession. (of note: my best friend who was involved, Cassidy, has also become an artist, and my sister has become a woodworker. Coincidence?)

"Honeybee, Preserved." Oil on panel with cast resin, 19"x19," 2011.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Well, the fairy houses are a great source of inspiration. I still carry out similar activities each time I go hiking or exploring. I also find inspiration in old National Geographic magazines, the woods of the Northwest and Northern California, and at the Farmer’s Market.

Are there any artists in particular who have inspired you?

Yes. My fellow Santa Clara University Art Majors are one hundred percent inspiring. So is my friend and mentor, Aleksandra Zee; she creates amazing mixed media installations, and continually inspires and pushes me to become a better and more adventurous artist!

What do you want people to take away from seeing your work at the Box Factory?
I would like to prompt people to walk outside with no purpose other than to explore, look down and around, and experience the rewarding task of loving the intricate creations made by our friends, the insects! I also would like to inspire them to find some beekeepers to hang out with.

What is your preferred medium: paining, mix media or installation?

I love painting on wood panel. It is so great how the raw wood sucks in the oil, and then you can sand things away  that you messed up on, and later act like it was on purpose.

Untitled collaborative piece using Katie's photograph, rice paper/wire honeycombs, and actual wasp's nest, beeswax, and a found shadowbox (thanks to Renee Billingslea!)

Has collaboration ever played a role in your work?
Yes. Most of the mixed media pieces I have created have involved collaboration with other artists and friends, especially those who just enjoy making things. My boyfriend, Christian, deserves one hundred pats on the head for being willing to help me do things like cast giant pieces of resin and dragging huge branches into small indoor spaces.

If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would like to somehow collaborate with Jo Whaley; she embodies a lost art with her Cabinets of Curiosity, and makes these into beautiful dioramas and photographs. I also know that she, too, is a finder and collector, which would be a fun activity to do together.

Do you have any works in progress you’re excited about?
I am in the middle of creating some great vandyke prints on used coffee filters. I really love the way they look; I have been either sewing them together or putting them inside 3-dimensional wooden frames shaped like honeycombs that I build.

Thanks, Kristen!

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