Ryan Greis is playing with things. Lots of them. Ronald McDonald, Socks, Men and meat, Men sniffing panties, George W., Primates, Jesus and the Devil… At this point, it may be easier to list what it is that Ryan hasn't incorporated into his work.
His characters are sometimes misshapen. Macabre. But all in all, lighthearted. Playful. Colorful and bounding off the canvas. He takes the received view and contorts its face a little, in the end, creating some caricature of what once was. And what still is, if you look at it right.
Take a look at his work, and the natural question, arises:
What inspires your work?
To which, Ryan curiously answers:
Grimm Fairy Tales, Smurfs, medical books, Hee Haw, Germany, religious
iconography, Kentucky, the child collector in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,
Bluegrass music, Terry Tunes, sausages, 70's kid's shows, skin disorders,
Halloween and genitals.
All of these filled up some portion of my childhood. Growing up in Kentucky
was interesting because I heard all the stereotypes about Kentuckians but I
also saw the people that fit the stereotype. I grew up around them.
What ideas are you playing with in your pieces?
I'm fascinated with the stereotypes that people have about "hillbillies".
For some reason, there are a LOT of hillbilly dolls/figures put out by the
Asian market in the 1960's. Their interpretation of "hillbilly speak" is
especially humorous. I started collecting Asian-manufactured vintage
hillbilly figures a few years ago because I was fascinated with their
I'm just playing on stereotypes. But I'm creating art with an insider point
of view. I'm taking society's views and adding my own twist.
I add genitals to some of the pieces because I feel like these characters
are in a sort of tribe, not aware of the outside world.
Ok, so with all that said, what do you hope people will take from your work?
I think I'd like people to view my work as a different form of "folk art". I
never did care for folk art but I do like the concept. Folk art is literally
the art of the people. I'm painting my interpretations of the people that
surround me. I paint what I know.
Who are your influences?
Charles Bragg, C.F. Payne, N.C. Wyeth, Mary Blair, Norman Rockwell (not to
sound too cliché), J.C. Leyendecker, Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle
Ryan's Brief Bio
Inspired by all things disfigured or ill-proportioned, his pieces combine
serious talent with an off-the-wall sense of humor, for an illustrative
style that is all his own.
Growing up in Kentucky, Ryan was surrounded by a culture of people seemingly
cut off from the "outside world". Many of these people showed evidence of
severe Appalachian upbringing. Their faces were "naturally" contorted and
warped from years of hardship or simply from a short family tree. These
people became a major inspiration in forming Ryan's illustrative style. To
practice his portraiture, he used obituary photos from the local newspaper.
Visit Ryan Greis' website at: www.ryangreis.com