We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeremie Riggleman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeremie, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I’m from the Midwest. Born in Michigan but did a lot of growing up around Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. I didn’t entirely understand (not that I do now) what it meant to be from the Midwest until I move to Los Angeles. Midwest folks have a certain vibe (I’ll let you fill in the blank here), and I think I was drawn to people like myself. Eventually I became more appreciative of the diversity of thought and lifestyle. Perhaps now I’m able to take the best from both places and integrate it into my life and art. For example, I spent years driving around the Midwest photographing lawn ornaments in peoples’ yards (flamingos, frogs, gnomes, etc). I would knock on their door, introduce myself and talk with them about the creatures they had on display. It was neighborly and in all the years I did this, there was only one time when I was asked not to get my camera out. When I went to LA I was looked at side-eyed, like “what are you up to?”. There was a level of suspicion to the work, often was turned down, and the movie industry had trained people to want to get paid if pictures were going to be taken in their yard. Additionally, yards are different in the city, and not nearly as much kitsch lawn ornamentation. This initial interest was in the objectivity of the documentary-style approach slowly developed into composing my own scenes with purchased lawn ornaments. This transition was pivotal in finding my own voice and augmented the former use of ready-mades. The expansion beyond truth-telling into story-telling has now led me to painting, sculpture, performance, street art, and installation. In more recent work, the message or concept dictates the medium and technical approach. Each project feeds the next and the conversation continues into acrylic painting, spray painting, bronze, steel, ceramics, resin, t-shirts, and stickers. The evolution in my use of materials and process has a lot to say about high and low art and the importance of subject matter. More than just elevating kitsch, it brings value to the individual piece and elicits a rainbow of possible meanings.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In my work, I play within a spectrum between trickery and frankness. I use the iconography of animals and the various connotations that we bring to each creature to display harmonious contradictions. Sheep, foxes and frogs are some of the animal stand-ins that I use to explore my past, tackle the present, and make propositions for the future. These creature-characters move between alienation and assimilation, balancing complex polarities of high versus low, fabricated versus found, precious versus quotidian, without versus within. Narratives of mythology, folk art, pop culture, faith, and childhood are embedded in these works, opening up endless discussions and difficult questions. Ultimately, the conversation that my work engages in comes from the realization that the world that we can see, taste, and touch is largely artifice. And by extension, almost everything is fair game to be copied, borrowed or questioned. In an effort to connect with the audience in a comprehensive way, I intend to blur the line between high and low, fun and serious. My attempt to elevate lawn art into characters to be revered and followed, akin to a celebrity, flips cultural power dynamics. What if there were a maximalist world where lawn art creatures were central figures in our lives? By promoting them this way, I draw attention to the arbitrary nature of the things that we imbue with value or place in hierarchy. It is a ridiculous and hopeful proposition: to make this fun and engaging for the audience, while also giving them something to take away with them.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would head to Catalina Island for a few days. Hike to Little Harbor Campground and stay the night. Zip line on our way back to the ferry. Follow that up with a day on La Cienega in Culver City and check out Walter Maciel Gallery (always worth the trip). A Dodger game at home along with a trip to (I know it’s simple, but it’s a favorite) Tender Greens in Pasadena. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
“How did you end up with an artist?!” This is one of our famous family quotes- someone asked of my partner shortly after meeting us. Being married to an artist can be a little…tricky….sometimes. As an artist and teacher there are many times when I feel like I have two full time jobs, plus we are juggling young kiddos at home. So I owe a lot to my wife! She has been supportive of me and my work, and patient when I’m preparing for a deadline or getting the next exhibition ready.