Ryan Pierce's solo show at the Marghitta Feldman Gallery, Evidence: A visual indictment of the FBI, tackles the sordid history of FBI repression, creating a visual world of paranoia, forensics and espionage with mixed-media paintings, lightbulbs hanging from nooses and gauze-wrapped telephones. His somewhat-related contributions to the final Portland Modern exhibit at Gallery 500 are based on the Identikit, a law enforcement tool used to create a portrait of a suspect by dividing the face into variable horizontal parts. Both shows come down this weekend, so go check them out… but first, read this interview.
What motivated you to create art about the abuses of the FBI?
I usually work on very defined projects that are derived from experience. After being on the periphery--being involved with some groups that had experience with FBI harassment--I had a close-up view of some bad experiences. I had already started this project when the whole Steve Kurtz thing happened, but that seems related. (Note: Steve Kurtz is a Buffalo, NY artist who called 911 when he found his wife dead of a cardiac arrest. When the police found test tubes and Petri dishes Kurtz was using in a current artwork, the FBI detained Kurtz and impounded his computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife's body for further analysis.) I guess this whole project was just related to things I saw going on around me.
Talk about the subtitle of the Marghitta Feldman exhibit: "a visual indictment of the FBI."
I'm still working on integrating my research into my work. I don't want the final product to have a didactic relationship with what I read. In the end, I'm not as concerned with the specific facts as I am with capturing visual images, with representing the facts in a different context.
After looking at federal agencies, I've been thinking a lot about nationalism. I've even been considering how my idea of perfection could evolve into some horrible form of nationalism… it probably would, I guess.