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A look at Professor Jeremie Riggleman’s artistic style

Assistant Professor of Art Jeremie Riggleman’s “Zoo of Lusts” falls into the artistic category of kitsch, which he finds to be ironically beautiful. (Photograph provided by Jeremie Riggleman)

Assistant Professor of Art Jeremie Riggleman’s “Zoo of Lusts” falls into the artistic category of kitsch, which he finds to be ironically beautiful. (Photograph provided by Jeremie Riggleman)

By Becca Eis | Echo

Think of a fox. Words that come to mind might be sly, cunning and swift, but where do the associations between this animal and these characteristics come from? The answer to that question is explored in Assistant Professor of Art Jeremie Riggleman’s artwork.

Riggleman is interested in the concept of bestiary, a term for the link between animals and the personality traits we associate with them. One of his signature pieces entitled “Half-Ass Sheep” illustrates this. He began his process for creating this piece by thinking about what attributes donkeys and sheep have and what the Bible says about donkeys and sheep. He also wanted to play with the juxtaposition of humor and sincerity.

“I think that in some ways it’s sort of confessional,” Riggleman said. “It’s like I want to be like the sheep, but I’m not always, and I think that a lot of people can relate to that whether they’re Christians or not. I think people understand that there’s two sides to them. There’s a side that wants to do right and does do the right thing and makes good decisions, and there’s also a side of us that doesn’t always do that.”

Before Riggleman began sculpting his own animals, he spent time driving around the Midwest looking for lawn-art animals, photographing them and interviewing the home owners about their significance. When he moved to Los Angeles, he altered this process by buying his own lawn art and staging it in various locations such as backyards of abandoned homes. He would then use the series of photographs to tell stories.

While he was in Los Angeles, a friend suggested he begin sculpting his own animals. While he was opposed at first, Riggleman eventually warmed up to the idea and made his first mold of a fox.

“I think sculpture is problem solving,” Riggleman said. “It engages a part of my brain that I like to play with. So an artist is often making problems for themselves and then trying to figure out how to solve those problems in interesting ways that make the viewer interested in something that they care about.”

Riggleman begins his process by brainstorming in a sketchbook, prioritizing what he wants done first and considering the cost of each piece, all of which he is doing in preparation for his show in Metcalf Gallery this upcoming fall. Strongly influenced by his time in Los Angeles, Riggleman’s work emphasizes color and shine, causing his pieces to have an eye-catching, candy-coated look.

Recently, Riggleman’s “Zoo of Lusts” was chosen for a traveling exhibit created by Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA). The title of Riggleman’s piece references a C.S. Lewis quote from “Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life” that reads, “For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.”  The exhibit, entitled “The Beautiful” is currently at Calvin College.

You can learn more about Riggleman and his work at jeremieriggleman.com.

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