3 Questions

3 Questions with Ryan Pierce

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Artist Ryan Pierce on exploring the wilderness, developing outside hobbies, and remembering why
we make art.

3 QUESTIONS is series of brief, three-question interviews with PNCA’s visiting artists and lecturers. Each year, PNCA attracts innovative, thoughtful, and creative makers and thinkers who share our belief in the transformative power of creativity. In three short answers to three short questions, these artists offer perspectives on career, motivation, and transformation. When available, we include links to audio recordings, transcripts, slideshows, or video.

The Low-Residency MFA in Visual Studies welcomes Ryan Pierce as part of the 2012-2013 Graduate Visiting Artist Lecture Series. You can listen to a podcast of his lecture here.



“This is the best ‘job’ in the world.”


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Photo by Heather Zinger ’10.

What advice would you offer current students about to embark on a career in the arts?

I encourage students not to forget that this is the best ‘job’ in the world. It requires countless sacrifices and endless persistence but you only have to spend a few hours with an elder artist to see that the rewards are worth it.

I also advise students to get involved in something that’s not art related and to talk about their projects to people who are not familiar with contemporary art. It helps one keep a realistic perspective about the world of art and artists.


How do you maintain your creative practice? What keeps you motivated and engaged?

Other artists motivate me. When I’m exposed to work and ideas that are better or smarter or just very different than mine, I feel inspired. This happens often.

I am also motivated by plants, books, weather, political movements, history, humor, discomfort, coffee, travel, tragedy, dreams, and wild animal sightings, among other things.

Could you describe a moment or experience that profoundly changed the nature of your work?


When I was nineteen I left college and spent several months hitchhiking around the US, Mexico, and Canada, exploring small towns and the wild places of the West. To be very vulnerable and simultaneously self-sufficient is a humbling and empowering experience. I associate this time with the decision to commit to a life as an artist, although I think it caused my parents to worry for awhile.






RYAN PIERCE is an artist whose work draws on ecological theories to portray possible futures. He exhibits internationally, and has received recognition from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Art in America, Art Papers, and residencies at Caldera, Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, and LKV in Norway. In 2008, he co-founded Signal Fire Arts, a wilderness residency program that provides opportunities for artists and activists to engage in the natural world. Pierce has taught art at colleges and universities throughout the Portland area including PNCA and most recently served as a Visiting Professor at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. Ryan contributes essays on art and politics to regional publications. He is a life-long backpacker, a volunteer hike leader for Bark, and a certified Wilderness First Responder.

— Posted on 07/29 at 02:39 AM

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