Drones are used for warfare, surveillance, commercial delivery, intelligence gathering, crime prevention, and research. What are the implications of their wide spread use? Artist Beverly Ryan explores questions related to this topic in her multi-media exhibit, “Drone Zone,” on view at The Art League gallery March 7-31, 2018.
Drones appeared in Ryan’s artwork in 2015, inspired by questions about their use in warfare. Her research on weaponized UAVs connected her to their use for surveillance. This led to further questions about sovereignty, and how targets of weaponized drone strikes are chosen. Without a human toll on the aggressor side of a strike, what are the consequences? Ryan, who is known for her narrative and expressionistic paintings, wanted to explore the topic using a multi-media approach – tying in her past work as a fiber artist, and her new interest in metalworking.
Her work asks the viewer to think. Do we have privacy and safety? Ryan believes it depends on where you live and who you are. In the United States, we don’t have to worry about walking outside and becoming the target of a drone strike. In some countries, it’s a part of daily life.
The topic of facial recognition software is examined in Ryan’s oil and mixed media paintings on aluminum. Cameras recording us in stores, street corners, ATMs, and tollbooths are ubiquitous. Could surveillance drones be next? Ryan asks, “Do you want a drone to fly over or into your home and photograph you?” Ryan’s soft sculpture canvas houses have words stitched on the rooftops that describe the meaning of a house or home, such as shelter, refuge, private, haven, safe, and quiet. “These symbolic houses would ideally exist in a drone free zone. But is there a drone free zone? Do we live in one… or not?”
A reoccurring, spidery-shaped drone appears in Ryan’s mixed media paintings and steel sculptures. These drones, in particular, look menacing and insect-like. An invasive mood permeates the work.
Ryan works intuitively. “My work is about discovery. I begin with a small germ of an idea and it evolves as I progress. I figure out where I am going as I paint. I have learned to trust the process. Creating a new installation of paintings, drawings, and sculpture appeals to me and motivates me to move into new territory.”
Beverly Ryan grew up in Shippensburg, PA. She holds an MS degree from Columbia University and a BA from Franklin and Marshall College. She studied at the Corcoran College of Art and Design with William Christenberry, William Willis, and Steven Cushner. Ryan maintains a studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center and teaches at The Art League School in Alexandria, VA.