Friday, December 31, 2010

what I'm thinking...

Planning for a "new genres" class I hope to teach.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Drawing America by Bike

Just what it sounds like. Eric is riding his bicycle all around the US, drawing, and blogging / facebooking about it. I especially like this image from his time in Knoxville. I think I know these people...or I want to.

You can track the man in "real" time with this handy google map. 

View Larger Map

Monday, December 27, 2010

Order and Access are Delicious

My husband introduced me to and it's been a valuable tool. Delicious is sort of like a link library where you store and catalog sites of interest. You can search for anything that interests you and see the sites bookmarked by other users.    Here's my list of bookmarks on the site: Katie Ries

Monday, December 20, 2010

Some body

I've taken home several odd grotesque vegetables with plans to draw them. Their body forms are so pleasing to me. As is the visceral moment when the root finally releases from the soil.

This drawing (and another which didn't turn out as well) mark the end of my procrastination. Or an interruption to it. As an added bonus, you can purchase the drawing here.

Tonight marks the rare overlap of the winter solstice and the lunar eclipse.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wear It

Although I'm not inked myself, I appreciate much about this piece. It comes by way of Esther Garcia of Butterfat Tattoo in Chicago. File this under: things to hold you over while it's icy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Littlest Print Exchange

Exchange portfolios are one of my favorite practices of printmaking culture. A group of artists are given (or agree upon) a theme, dimensions, and an edition number. Each artist receives a complete set of all the prints. Often two or three of the portfolios will go into special collections, be sold by the organizer, or go on display.

In the case of the Littlest Print Exchange, organizer Christopher Clark gave participants the theme of "cliché" and the littlest print dimensions of 3" x 3". The resulting prints offer insight into the minds of the fifty-five artists who participated in the exchange as well as a nice survey of the diverse aesthetics of print media.

Click on the image here to visit the Littlest Print Exchange site and browse a gallery of the 2010 images.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Oh Painting

I waver continuously in my understanding of how an image may affect us. Mark Rothko is quoted as saying that he wanted the viewer to fall to his knees and weep before Rothko's paintings. I've never fallen to my knees and wept before a painting, certainly not in any of the privileged institutions where one can see a Rothko in the flesh. That said, some images speak to me. Most often the work makes me want to make work.

The paintings of Sam McKinnis make me wish I were a painter. Or that I were fabulously wealthy and could buy several of his portraits. Shown here is McKinniss's virtuosic study for a portrait. Browse through his series and wish you were a lithe young thing in the Boston area.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Then It Hit Me

Scanning old photos and found this.

New York City, 2005.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cobblery, Shoe Making

I'm beginning a project in which I hope to make myself a pair of tall fashion boots out of leather (or hide) that I tan myself. A brief google search for "shoe making" turned up this gem, Ms. Mary Wales Loomis. She asks, "Have you ever thought about making your own SHOES? I did."

Yes, Ms. Loomis, I too have thought about making my own shoes. It did not occur to me to make my own pumps, but now that I've seen this glorious display I'm considering getting set like Ms. Frizzle for my next job interview. Ms. Loomis is an example of why I love DIY. She ripped up a pair of shoes to learn how they were made; she cast her own "lasts" using plaster of paris in a pair of existing shoes; she starts teaching her shoe making; and then she publishes a book. Right on sister.

I'm reminded of the craftastic Zen saying, "To make a kimono take apart a kimono." Or something like that. I've found this to be especially true with other clothing projects: careful deconstruction reveals the process in a poetic way. Perhaps I will be heading to AmVets tomorrow to find some boots for an informative and Zen dismantling.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Time is a Luxury

I finally made the sumac tea. It's pretty easy: add cold water to the berries and let sit for a while. Strain and drink. As reported, it is very much like a lemonade. I would like to add that it soothed my hangover, cured my acne, and made me a sparkling wit for 24 hours, but that is not true. It is refreshing and simple. That's enough.

Since graduating last year and starting work at Beardsley Farm I've been cooking more. My half CSA share from A Place of the Heart Farm has helped push my food experimenting. As I write, napa cabbage sits in brine waiting to become kimchi. In November I'll attend a canning class by my friend Kat Raese. I enjoy the labor of cooking as much as I like to eat the food, but am continually amazed at how easily I can pass several hours cooking. And then it's time to think about the next meal.

This experience reinforces for me that the obesity epidemic (and our other failings of health, both physical and ecological) are far more complex and difficult than a matter of will or making good choices. It's hard to argue for things like canning your own food (which takes several hours) in comparison with buying canned goods from the grocery store. Especially when the store bought food is so inexpensive. I have the benefit of several factors that make it easier for me to cook and experiment with things like canning and kimchi, but chief among them is time. I have time to cook because I don't work three or four jobs or have several children or older relatives in my care. Were I responsible for feeding people beyond myself and my husband, you can bet there would be a couple nights of fish sticks and ketchup.

I enjoy fantasizing about a life lived more closely off the land: growing more of the food we eat, having bees, making our own clothes and furniture, etc. etc. but the reality of that lifestyle is that it demands a lot more of your time. As of yet, I cannot figure a way to be the super urban homesteader and have a contemporary career. I follow the flickr images of a woman who goes by the name Wilderness Gal. She and her husband and daughter are living a back-to-the-land life of homesteading. It looks gorgeous and rugged, but it also seems isolated and all consuming. Their sustenance is her primary occupation, where as I approach things like gardening and wildcrafting as hobbies with aesthetic and metaphoric value.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Way You Do One Thing

A friend of ours recently mentioned the expression, "The way you do one thing is the way you do all things." The truth of the sentiment makes me cringe: the way I do most things is not the way I want to do all things. To quote Issa, "And yet, and yet." And yet I rush impatiently into many situations only to find myself wishing I'd had the presence of mind to stop for a red hot minute and make a plan. Or change my shoes.

Today as we traveled up and down I-75 I saw clumps of staghorn sumac growing in edges of the fields alongside the highway. Since last fall I've been wanting to harvest the berries and make the lemonade-esque drink I've read about. Additionally, it is supposed to rain tonight and I'd heard that it's best to harvest the berries before a rain drains them of their flavor. These details converged in my mind and generated a sense of great urgency that propelled me to rush out to the embankment near our house as soon as we got home. Despite the fact that it was dusk and I was wearing cowboy boots, I made for the sumac I'd seen growing, slipped through to the other of the chain link fence, and started skittering up a steep slope towards the plants.

After watching me fall clumsily through the tall weeds, a burly neighbor yelled up to ask just "What the hell are you doing?" I told him. Twice. And then skittered away trying to look like I had every business stumbling through the brush and hoping he wouldn't call the police. None of the young sumac plants I found had berries-- they don't produce until at least a year of growth-- and I realized I would have to hop the tall fence in my stupid boots in order to avoid backtracking down the steep hill. I ripped my t-shirt in the process but avoided skewering myself on the fence. When I finally found a plant with berries, I was so eager to make up for my earlier mistakes that I greedily broke a primary rule of foraging and harvested all three clusters--rather than leaving some to reseed or for other foragers to harvest.

The way you do one thing is the way you do all things. Next time I will do the one thing with better planning and more reasonable shoes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Raise the Roots

I am excited to announce "Raise the Roots: A dinner to celebrate and support CAC Beardsley Community Farm." This fundraising dinner will be hosted by the Tomato Head on Market Square, Monday evening, November 22nd, from 6-9 pm. Tickets are $25 and available for purchase here or by clicking the button below. Dinner will be prepared by Tomato Head owner, Mahasti Vafaie, and Maryville Tomato Head cook, Robert Birkholtz. Doors open at 6 pm and the buffet dinner will be served at 7:30. Please help us spread the word about this event and about the important work of Beardsley Community Farm.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Process

Image of fork, knife, and spoon with roots at their bottom. Copyright, Katie Ries 2010

Preparing for the Beardsley Farm fundraising dinner to be held at the downtown Tomato Head.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Rough quick sketch and colored final image proposing a podcast project to be completed at an artist residency. It pays to draw better sketches first and have less photoshop clean up to do, but I was in a hurry and kept it very loose. I like to keep some of the drafting lines in the final, but am not sure how much that helps the image.

I hope to try and complete this project with or without the residency, but the support would be helpful. Cross your fingers and pray to your favorite deity for me, please.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Tomato does a chin up.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Friday in Knoxville

Tomorrow is the first Friday of the month. In Knoxville (as in many cities) that means that many galleries host opening receptions for their new shows and several businesses stay open late. Although there has been in the past some disagreement over who "started" First Friday or who "owns" the event, it happens all over and without any overarching management. I think that's a great thing. While I hope for the continued development of Knoxville's art culture and scene, I do not think that management or cohesive advertising is the way to do that.

I think that the best way to develop Knoxville's art scene is to participate in it. Make art. Look at art. If you can afford to, and the spirit moves you, buy art. The First Friday gallery walk is a great point of entry. Below is a map of SOME of the galleries participating in First Friday festivities. I hope this can be a truly collaborative map. If you would like to be an editor of the map, please drop me an email or comment and I'll add you in. Once added, you will be able to add other collaborators, in addition to editing the map as you see fit.

View First Friday Galleries in Knoxville in a larger map

Monday, August 30, 2010

More Warming Up

Sometimes I think the warm up and practice stuff ends up nicer than the finished big works. This is a small study for a smaller print.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Warm Up Drawings

Some drawings in which I tried to think of unusual scenes or phrases and draw them quickly.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Worthy: 2

In June I had the opportunity to travel to Poland (and briefly to Berlin) for a printmaking exchange with students at the Art Academies in Poznań and Wrocław. It was not an especially productive trip in terms of making work, but it was profoundly inspiring in terms of art heroes. In addition to the hyper-talented students with whom we stayed (among them Ania Czuż, Agata Gertchen, and Marcin Szewczyk...with more coming to visit Knoxville this fall) we were fortunate enough to visit the printshop wonderland of Keystone Editions in Berlin.

Keystone Editions is the print home of Sarah Dudley und Ulrich Kühle, two Tamarind-trained printers who wandered the (printmedia) globe gleaning tips and tricks for setting up a functioning printshop. Their travels and observations have paid off, in addition to good light and exciting editions, Keystone has some damn fine feng shui. It made me wish I had a couple more years of school left so I could come intern with them and live in Berlin...

So here, I salute the worthy and well-planned efforts of Printmakers Sarah Dudley und Ulrich Kühle. Long may they and Keystone Editions live. And if you're heading to Berlin (or have deep pockets to purchase art) look them up here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Worthy: 1

I've been admittedly slack about ye olde bloggery, but I don't think anyone is losing sleep over it. Onward and upward and outward now.

In honor of getting back in the game and things that are great (summer, swimming, reading, the public library, etc.) I bring you People Worthy of Praise, No. 1 (of many?), Molly Adams.

I met Molly in college and soon recognized her superior style, intellect, and ability to put-an-assclown-in-his-or-her-place. She now produces radio for in Chicago and maintains and maddeningly interesting tumblr feed. Seems like every time I go there all I want to to is reiterate and repost the interesting stuff she's found. I especially appreciate her for keeping me updated on contemporary feminism.

So there you are, Molly Adams, worthy of praise. Alright now.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Treading Water

What next? What next?

Oh this?


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Camera, Camera

I am traveling in Poland now. It is on the whole more similar than it is different, but I find myself seeking out and photographing the details that are "foreign" to me. Neither my traveling companion nor I speak Polish. It is frustrating and a little hollow not to interact with anyone but the young and educated, although we have been profoundly grateful to the young Polish folks who translate between us and, say, the train conductors.

There is something consumptive about being a tourists and I haven't quite figured out how to own it well. We have only a month, which will end soon, and then we return to the US with anecdotes and photos. On that subject of photos and the tourists who take them, I present Camera, Camera a film by my talented friend Malcolm Murray. This is only a trailer, you'll have to attend the LA Film Festival in mid-June to see the world premier, but even this small bit hints at the way the camera facilitates and distorts our consumption of foreign culture. If you're in LA, or know a film or travel buff there, encourage them to make a point of seeing Camera, Camera.

CAMERA, CAMERA - Trailer from malcolm murray on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I'll be posting photos here for a while. Also, if you're on the skype, give me a ring at kt.ries. English feels good like a hot shower or a rich meal.

Over and out.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Leaving Home

Every time I prepare to leave a place, my nostalgia for it spurts out of control. Right now, as I prepare to head to Poland for a month, I am especially infatuated with Knoxville and the people here.

In addition to viewing my home and life through rose colored glasses, our damn sweet dog was almost squashed flat by a car today. I had a swift vision of puppy guts and blood, but she was not hit and emerged with only a broken harness to show for the event.

Lord, increase my bewilderment.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The First Land Scouts

Although there have been many who signed on with the Urban Land Scouts, this young person and his mother were the first to send in photo documentation of their scouting.

I am thrilled both to see the second phase of this project start, and to see all the spring plants blooming in the woods around them. You can see more photos at

Monday, April 19, 2010

Special Tea

This tea comes from Sally Payne by way of my mother. We drank it all summer when I was younger. The taste signals to me the promise of summer and leisure. It is simple to make, very sweet, slightly caffeinated, and good with ice.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


uls ries urban land scout stewardship patches

Friday, March 19, 2010

Contemporary Labor

Urban Land Scout patches in the digital flesh. You can earn yours soon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010


This is a QR code. It is a two-dimensional pattern which can be scanned by smart phones much like a barcode. According to wikipedia, QR stands for "quick response", as the pattern is intended to be decoded quickly. This one here directs scanners to the nascent blog of the Urban Land Scouts. I'm trying to formalize my display for the gallery and thinking this might be a funny way to represent the blogging badge.

Here also is an image of that badge (pre-embroidery).

Come to the Downtown Gallery in Knoxville, TN from April 15-30th to join the Urban Land Scouts and start earning your badges.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How To Do What

I have not yet met Sue Bell Yank, but I occasionally turn to her blog about "Writings about the social in contemporary art."

Her most recent post speaks to my experiences both with the Birdhouse and my earlier visit to Colorado College, a liberal arts college in Colorado Springs and my alma mater. While at CC I gave a talk about my own work, which is increasingly socially-based and (I hesitate to write this) "post studio". I also talked briefly about the work we do at the Birdhouse. I spoke with a couple of students about how the Birdhouse runs-- for example, are we a non-profit? How does it work? Who are the "members"?-- and answered a surprising number of questions about how I was able to make a living making art. I was honest about that: I do not seek to "make a living" doing the work I do. At the very best, I hope to stay in the black (see this post), but I think a lot of these students are stuck in a semi-obsolete model of Artist makes Object, Someone buys Object, and Artist makes Money. Very few of the artists I know make even half of their income from selling works of art. It's a nice thing to do, but we also supplement our incomes by teaching, giving lectures, doing commercial work, or having paying jobs that are entirely separated from our studio practices. You've got to hustle, right?

Sue Bell Yank talks about her frustration(?) with students who want a How-To guide to community-based social work. As with so many things, the answer is to jump in and do it. Each situation is unique and specific. As to running a successful non-profit she writes,
"These things are dependent on people you know, the strength of your mission, your ability to express it, the appropriateness of your location, your relationship with funders, your prior experience."
I hope that we as a nascent collective will remain flexible and able to express our mission well. I hope that for myself as an individual too. We shall see.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thoughts Counting

I don't know if it really is the thought that least not in art. Even if art is conceptual and not object based, you've still got to face the issue of presentation. And presentation, it turns out, matters. I think I've got in mind what I want to say, what experiences I want to impart, and (to some degree) what objects will be in the gallery, but I cannot yet put my finger on the presentation.

Here below is a drawing made in pursuit of that elusive presentation and tone of voice.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Future As I Know It

Just today I accepted an Americorp position to work at Beardsley Farm doing outreach and farm work. I am very glad to be entering that community and grateful to have some sense of what the future will hold. Now to nail this thesis business.

You can read more about Beardsley Farm here.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I am lucky to work with many talented and grounded people. Jarred Elrod is someone who I admire for both the quality of his work and the way he integrates his design practice with his life. To wit, the video below, which he made with two other talented young designers, Greg and Christian.

This is exactly how I felt today after a meeting about my own thesis project. Thanks friend.

the act of sitting from Jarred Elrod on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

No Patron, No Product

In the spirit of commerce, patronage, hierarchy, the-myth-of-genius, capitalism, and/or the democracy of the multiple I bring you: the PayPal button.

Clicking on the button above will allow you to donate real live USDs to my thesis project. My hope is to establish a temporary store in which gallery visitors can "purchase" plants, seeds, and seedlings in exchange for committing to specified labor and stewardship. Instead of paying for the plants, the purchaser will sign a contract and be documented. You, potential Medici of contemporary art, can help make that happen.

My hope is to distribute at least 12 semi-mature fruit and nut trees, which I estimate will cost approximately $40 each. If you would like to sponsor a tree, click yonder button. If you'd like to get involved in the project in other ways, please send me an email or consider coming to the Volunteer Interest Meeting, Thursday, February 11th, at 7 pm.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Pecan Branch

pecan branch, originally uploaded by kt.ries.

From East Knoxville. The fall of 2008 was much drier than 2009 and yielded many more pecans for my friend Charlotte, from whose tree this branch fell.

Charlotte tells me that every year several pecans root in her yard and make small saplings with deep taproots. In one of many failed art-gardening attempts last year, I took several pecans and tried to get them to sprout. No luck.

Thanks to Tour de Plants, we now have a 5' pecan tree in our house. We brought it in to avoid the freezing weather and there it stays. The mature tree could get to be over 60' tall and will potentially be dropping nuts on the ground. This limits slightly the public locations in which it will be welcome (e.g. not great for the greenway, no good in shallow soil, etc.). If you live in Knoxville, and have room for a pecan tree in a semi-public location, it could be yours. Let me know.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Student Labor = Free Labor

Design is work. Art is work. Both take time, skills, discipline, and materials. I often get the impression that those outside of these fields think that the work is accomplished through force of will and genius. I do not assume that Kerry Mitchell of rouXbarbeque lacks respect for design and art generally, but I do assume this contest is a great way to get a lot of young people to work for free. Sure, one lucky designer wins, gets paid and eats well for a while, but everyone else has just donated hours of their time and energy to a job. The design students I know at UT are already busy working their asses off. There's also nothing here to say that rouXbarbeque won't keep elements of your design(s) for future branding or other projects without declaring you the winner. Again, I do not doubt the good intentions of Kerry Mitchell and the rouXbarbeque crew, but I feel this aiming this contest at students is disrespectful of both the students' work and design as a practice.

Why not hire a commercial designer? There are many great firms in Knoxville? For example: Robin Easter or Yee Haw Industries. If rouXbarbque still wanted the publicity of a contest, they could contract a working designer for several options and put them to a public vote.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dog and Order

I was not especially keen on getting a dog. I am wary of the way we treat domesticated animals and selfishly did not want to have to look after anything other than myself and my beloved.

Thankfully, I misunderstood. It's not like that at all. I am grateful for the small dog who has entered our life. As Jane Goodall said to work around her desire to anthropomorphize the chimpanzees, "If she were human..." I would say that she is socially minded, high spirited, and happy. Currently she is tightly curled on the floor and sleeping.

Her animal-ness is a good reminder to me when I am trapped in a thought bubble and feeling as if my anxieties were of global importance. It is often good to take a walk and start anew.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Red Tide Poison

Found this propaganda gem in a thrift store in East Knoxville. I liked the simple two-color design of the cover and was surprised to find just how bat-shit-crazy it is. Not only is the body copy chock full of nutzo sentiments (published by the Soldiers of the Cross in Englewood, Colorado) but the previous owner has added her own dubious notes about the commie invasion. In addition to communists, the reader was worked up about "the Jews". She notes to herself, "Satan is destructive."

The text next to Castro reads, "old, ugly sloppy mouth/ He'd look real good with lipstick, a dress, and high heels./ The "bearded lady." ha ha" The reader/note taker goes on to highlight several communist ploys and notes they are "Carl's favorite tactics."

Scary and weird. Can't decide if I should throw the book away or keep it as a reminder of how deeply we fear perceived differences.