Archives for category: current art

There is a lot in my work that is about tension, space, density and relation between objects and people. Recently I have been looking at past work and realizing that I really have been exploring these issues for nearly ten years. The work drifts a bit, but the core of it always holds tight to these themes. I find the way we as people fill space, whether it be by cars on a road or with silence, something is always there. Filling or leaving us wanting.

I Wish We Could Speak by Heather Riley

I Wish We Could Speak
7.75 x 5.5 x 1.75 inches
Oil and found wood on panel


Saturday in Lima by Heather Riley

Saturday in Lima
20.5 x 12 x 1.75
Oil, wood floorboard on panel


There has been plenty of work happening in the studio this past month. It’s always reassuring when the work gets into a bad place and then I eventually can get it out. Some works often have to be taken apart, painted over, or partially destroyed in order to move forward, but I have accepted this as part of the process. Both 328 (60 x 24 inches) and Witnesses (48 x 30 inches) below have gone through several lives and are finally settling into themselves. Balloons at Night (30 x 22 inches) always knew what it would be -and that happens sometimes too. All of the works below are still in progress.

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I’ve been busy in the past months making plenty of work and finally getting my studio site up and running. Check it out at

I’ve continued with the wood pieces that I started making in February, and they have lead to other work of course. After a trip to Lima, I returned home to find that most of my work has been dealing with density and space. Here is a little slideshow showing the work in progress in the studio right now:

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I have been picking up wood in my neighborhood – in the street, in the park. Wood that appeals to me is both organic (retaining some of it’s natural properties) and changed by human hands. These pieces are from a tree that was cut down with a chain saw in a park by my house. I found them both beautiful and fearsome – aggressive and small.

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approximately 6 x 10 x 3 inches

I have started making these drawings – and will be making several more. They are teaching me some things…

Process Drawing One by Heather Riley, a local Philadelphia artist

Process Drawing Two by Heather Riley, local Philadelphia artist

Yesterday I spent some time looking at work by Joan Mitchell, Franz Kline, Grace Hartigan and others – and then started this piece. Things have felt a little tight in the studio lately – could be the lack of critique, the smaller work, or myself being a little tense. I needed to loosen up a bit with the work so I just started to make something – not allowing myself to attach too much thought. I find that the work still has a more fresh feel if I don’t over plan. Over planning just causes issue — a flattening of an idea usually. So I have no idea what this will do – I am excited about the green… as it isn’t a usual color in my palette.

Witnesses by Heather Riley

Witnesses (Work in Progress)
Paper, graphite, chalk, acrylic and oil on paper
45 x 30.5 inches

Another piece affected by the land of the southwest – along with the consequences of a shifting relationship in my life. It is essentially about grief and loss, but with a wide open space to move into. I’m only in the 3rd or 4th layer, so this is just beginning.

Blue Beneath by Heather Riley

Blue Beneath (work in progress)
Oil on canvas
23.5 x 30 inches

I’ve been doing these little pieces on paper – I like doing them because they are fast and help me learn some new things for the bigger work. I seem to not want to fill up as much of the piece either, which is odd considering in the large work I find myself getting dense relatively easily. They are a bit like sketching for me – small, wonderful drawings about my larger work.

Get Newsy by Heather Riley

Get Newsy
Paper, sticker, graphite, acrylic and oil on paper
6 x 4 inches

A Story in Progress by Heather Riley

A Story in Progress
Paper, chalk, string, graphite, acrylic and oil on paper
6 x 4.5 inches

In my studio work post school, where I have more time to work on pieces, I have discovered that I can take something off the easel that I am dissatisfied with and set it aside. I rediscover it later and sometimes the timing is right and the piece does what it finally needs to do. This was the case with Notes (4). I knew when I first thought it was finished, that I was unsettled with it. Now I know it is what it is supposed to be. Happy as a clam with this one now. Don’t forget to check out the before

Notes (4) by Heather Riley a local Philadelphia Artist

Notes (4)
Paper, graphite, metal, ink, acrylic and oil on panel
24 x 18 inches

My works continue to be about cities, objects and belonging to those spaces. This piece is in the middle ground of progress for now – I’m not as sure where it will go — I am just trying to not get too busy with it — to micro. I find myself between to warring sides – space and full. I like this dichotomy in the work… the trick is to know when to stop. It seems that’s always the trick.

Smokey City by Heather Riley, local Philadelphia Artist

Smokey City
charcoal, graphite, glued paper, acrylic and oil on paper
41 x 22.5 inches

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