Ryan Arthurs is a visual artist living in Buffalo, New York. He received his M.F.A. in Photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2012 and a B.F.A. in Studio Art from Carleton College in 2005. Ryan is currently a printmaking artist-in-residence at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado through December 2017.
Prior to completing his studies, Ryan spent over five years working for contemporary art galleries in Sun Valley, Idaho and San Francisco, California. He managed vintage and contemporary photography collections for Gail Severn and Robert Koch Gallery, and assisted artists and photographers Deborah Oropallo, Olivier Laude, and Christina Seely with various projects. After completing his graduate degree Ryan continued working for artists, including fine art aerial photographer Alex MacLean, artist Steve Locke, and photographer Sharon Harper.
Ryan was a photography teaching assistant at Harvard University in the Visual and Environmental Studies department from 2013-2016 and has also taught photography classes at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He is also a founding member of Houseboat Press, a photography book publishing company that has exhibited both nationally and internationally.
For the past three years I have been making photographs between Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Scotland. In this body of ongoing work I distill history into visual elements. I am interested in images that denote deep, glacial time. A time before man when the Earth was covered in ice and continental forms were unmapped. The work contains ideas about immigration from Europe to the New World of Atlantic Canada. It imagines challenges of a transatlantic journey, hopes of a better life, free of famine and persecution. It represents months-long oceanic crossing, fear of a new landscape, homesteading to survive the biting Canadian winter.
Expanded Statement for Strata
The military employs a unique language – verbal, written, visual – to describe their rituals, routines and traditions. This is true within each branch, each division, and each unit. Queer servicemen likewise, used a coded language to seek one another out and develop their community under the surface of strict military order. I hand paint various military phrases with adhesive and gold leaf, selecting each for its coded double-meaning, to call attention to this unique and groundbreaking network of Americans. Phrases like “ one of the boys ” and “ deep cover ” hint at their presence and the fine line between sexual and non-sexual friendship, camaraderie, and brotherly love.
Expanded Statement for Signal Watch
My work in progress, Masculine Decoys, consists of portraits of Navy sailors silkscreened with decorative floral patterns. These patterns act as a form of camouflage, concealing the decoys with a lattice of navy blue flowers. The silkscreens also incorporate designs from naval signal flags and pennants, an alphanumeric code that was used to create unique visual communications. Even in the days of radio and satellite communication the U.S., Navy relied on alphanumeric signal flags and pennants for visual signaling; these signal flags allowed vessels to communicate while maintaining radio silence.
Expanded Statement for Masculine Decoys
As an artist and photographer, my work focuses on themes related to masculine identity. It explores the physical, mental, and bodily spaces where men go to assert their strength and prove themselves. Previous photographic series have focused on military men, outdoorsmen, white water kayaking and other adventure sports. Traversing harsh environments, my subjects, test the limits of their courage, flirt with danger, experience adrenaline, and rely on the bonds of friendship for survival.
Whereas earlier work used the natural world to explore themes of strength and toughness, my current work uses vintage military snapshots to investigate the bonds of friendship, playfulness and vulnerability of men in the military. This series, titled R+R (Rest + Relaxation), captures servicemen in moments of ease, play and vulnerability. Hanging out, swimming, smoking, drinking, and playing cards, these soldiers have let down their guard, both physically and emotionally. Freed from their duties, my subjects develop openly affectionate friendships and seek comfort in the simple pleasures of recreational activities in order to pass the time and distract themselves from the anxieties of war.
Expanded Statement for R+R
THE HEIGHT OF LAND
"Perhaps it is God's will," writes Dillon Wallace, "that I finish the work / of exploration that Hubbard began" (from The Lure of Labrador Wild, 1905). For those who hear it, the call to travel north becomes insufferable. In the summer of 2012, I gave in. Five companions and I journeyed over 800 kilometers across the Canadian tundra following the Hubbards, route down the George River. Who can say what voice utters this call? It speaks to our most vulnerable selves. It teases out desire for adventure, pride, or love. It never grows silent.
The photographs in The Height of Land attempt to capture in image what I cannot put into words. The selection explores the daunting physical and spiritual commitment it takes to cross a body of land and the importance of companionship in an uninhabited country. Some images exhibit bodily or emotional duress and may leave the viewer wondering 'why did someone choose to spend large quantities of time and money to finish this trip?' The space opened between the image and the viewer's understanding-this is where the lure of the north speaks, insistent and patient, waiting to address anyone who hears it.
Expanded Statement for The Height of Land
Shortened Statement for The Height of Land
I am interested in the male figure as a source of scripted desire and concealed shame. To download or send a digital image, it must be transcribed into binary, and re-formed upon each viewing. This code precedes the image; it limits it; it determines it. Like digital technology, queer desire must travel down previously prescribed paths. It must find a way to fit into spaces that were not designed for it. And yet, the most subtle gaze or action (or pixel) can alter the entire frame.
Expanded Statement for Virtual Spaces
NORTH OF HERE
For the past year, I have been photographing white-water kayakers, canoeists, and the rugged landscapes they travel through. This work aims to push aside traditional concepts of pastoral aesthetics and capture the beauty and desire that paddlers exhibit through their spirit. My subjects are defined by what they do, and they become themselves in the doing. They desire to return to a more simple, off-the-grid way of life one that is full of challenge, adventure, independence and spontaneity. I'm fascinated with photography's ability to express the intimacy between the paddler and the challenges posed by his journey.
Expanded Statement for North of Here
To view images from the series North of Here