Place through media: art’s dystopia and utopia compete at Ink and Clay 42 

Monarchs, from my ink painting, Pulse, and Nubia Bonilla’s Micaella’s Journey

The Kellogg University Art Gallery at Cal Poly Pomona delights art lovers with Ink & Clay 42. Artists explore both media in a variety of forms and — whether by curatorial design, artistic coincidence, or some other joyous trick of fate — tackle visions of utopia and dystopia in a contemporary context. 

David Avery
The ink works, including the Juror’s Choice Purchase Award Winners, David Avery’s No. 2 and No. 4 from The Coming of the Cocklicranes series, and my own Pulse, provide the darker view. 

Anthony Lazorko and Edgar Ivan Rincon

From the lonely paths in Anthony Lazorko and Edgar Ivan Rincon’s woodblock print, Crossroads, to the dual views of Colleen M. Kelly’s Naked Under Her Clothes pieces, the ink works challenge by asking viewers to engage with the unexamined. Indeed, Kelly’s Cursive Study, which received on of the Juror’s Choice ink awards, is a beautiful testament to the dying art of handwriting. 

Colleen M. Kelly

The flicker of Roland S. Escalona’s Close Quarters is more reminiscent of a perpetual storm of life, even in its electric patterning, than it is of the light one might seek in life. And though the crisp, white, neatly cut row-houses huddle close, they ultimately feel cold, the individual lost in a hegemony of enforced sameness. 

Meriel Stern and Catherine Burce

As a counterpoint, the clay works were often delicate, bright, and reflective of hope and promise. 

Stern, detail

Meriel Stern’s showstopper, Domestic Flow 3, an installation of porcelain ‘basket’ forms, is beautifully reminiscent of the sea. It’s undulations, structure, and color are both wave and whale-like, while the subtle blue gray swirls mimic microscopic life. You wish to fill each precisely hung vessel with whispered memories. 

Similarly, Ethan Snow transports us to a bright and mechanical future; the pastel pinks, golds, and whites in his porcelain ‘idols’ have both the whimsy of space-fantasy and the thoughtfulness of form. Snow’s Central won the Curator’s Choice Honorable Mention. 

Gina Lawson Egan

Whimsy was also on display with Gina Lawson Egan and Annie Nguyen’s latest works. Both artists, staples of the Ink & Clay exhibitions, delight with new stories and characters in their familiar creative styles. 

Not all ink works were dystopian, such as Barbara Foster’s woodcut, Telltale Signs, and not all clay works were hopeful. Pascual Arriaga’s Exposed is a truly sobering sculpture that reveals as much as hides. 

Overall, the exhibition delivers on its long running promise for fine art. There were a couple of misses for me but I’m honored, once again to be among such a talented cast of artists. From virtual reality to porcelain quality, Ink & Clay 42 is an excellent destination for art lovers. 

Catherine Burce, winner Curator’s Choice Purchase Award
Peter Mays, executive director of the Los Angeles Art Association and Gallery 825, served as curatorial juror alongside Denise Kraemer and Patrick Crabb, who served as jurors for ink and clay works respectively. The exhibition, which was curated by The Kellogg University Gallery’s own Michele Cairella Fillmore, runs through October 27, 2016. You can view all the works, including mine, on the Ink & Clay 42 site. 


Update 10/19 – I had wrongly spelled Meriel Sterns name, misnamed Barbara Foster, and incorrectly named the shows curator. Corrections are reflected above with apologies. 

The Birth of Creation: myth in watercolor 

There are many stories of the beginning and they all begin with light. For the Ancient Greeks, Chaos sprang from the nothingness, her life a stark contrast to the Void. From the joining of Chaos and the Void was Light. That light, for many Polynesian’s, was the Voice of Io – the all-father. When he spoke, the darkness was illuminated and the empty spaces were filled with expanding life. His songs became the fabric of reality, each thread an infinite piece in the tapestry of the universe. 
Out of the darkness is a series depicting the struggle of existence through a lens of global storytelling. Pieces 1-5 won second place at South Bay Contemporary’s August show, 2014, Juried by Scott Canty. Truly an honor.

The seven pieces recreate the cosmos using Athabaskan, Polynesian, Greek, Aboriginal and Indian mythologies.

K Ryan Henisey is an LA area artist. His works are presently on display at Kellogg University Art Gallery’s Ink & Clay 42, Viral RK25 at Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland, and at the Newhall Aquarium. 

Portraits link the past and the present 

When they come, black booted and their sirens blazing, the community shuts its doors and draws its curtains tight. To the neighborhood, emergency sounds mean another black boy may die tonight.
On November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice was shot and killed by two police officers.

Tamir was in a park, with his toy gun. When the call was made to emergency services, Tamir was described as “a male sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people,” “probably a juvenile.” Tamir was fired upon twice, fatally struck once in the torso. The investigation into Tamir’s death is ongoing but failures of justice and controversy surrounding police-involved deaths of other African American children has caused unrest in neighborhoods throughout the United States.

Tamir was 12 years old. This occurred in Cleveland, Ohio.

Hands up. Don’t shoot.


Parts of #BlueHolocaust are currently on display at Betti Ono Gallery as part of Viral: RK25, recalling 25 years of police brutality. The piece is six 20×20 watercolor and ink portraits in black frames. $7,200. Ten percent of the artists profits will be donated to support social justice in the US. 

K Ryan Henisey is a protest artist living in West Hollywood, California. His art often confronts violence faved by marginalized communities. 

Pulse, Orlando: There are no safe spaces

Pulse, Orlando

There are no safe spaces.

Boys at my high school jumped the gay kid, Michael, after he came out. They teased him relentlessly. They hit him. They tripped him. They drove him from school.
I was the next in line when it came to queer hatred. They called me faggot and queer and gay boy. Once, someone threw an open container of milk at me as I walked through the full cafeteria. I was soaked, my jacket ruined. The Principal told me that I had brought it on myself.
‘What do you want me to do?’ the good, Mormon community member scowled at me from across his desk. More than half my life has has passed since then but I still remember.
There are no safe spaces.
A frame of the departed unites the disparate elements of the work.
As a grown man, the hate can be constant. My one haven is home — West Hollywood, a gay neighborhood carved from the heart of Los Angeles. In the seven years I’ve lived there, I’ve only been derisively called a faggot on two occasions, both by teenagers.
But before I moved to an urban setting, I taught in California Public Schools and lived in a large commuter community in suburban LA County. At least once a week I was called faggot, queer, pervert, or in some other way made to feel uncomfortable in my queer skin. This was always in public spaces; parking lots, the mall, the grocery store, coffee shops, restaurants.
It was so common that I felt normalized to the jeers. I barely heard them. I’d wave them off. At the time, I felt that I couldn’t affect the behavior of strangers; so I ignored them.
Work was worse. Children regularly tossed homophobic epithets, both in my direction and broadly to each other on campus. Each year at least one parent would pull their child from our district because they believed people like me shouldn’t be allowed to teach.
Teachers and administrators were useless in their support. Once, when I filed a formal complaint, the teachers on the task force became angry with me for making a big deal out of ‘a little name-calling’ (as if they let a child call them faggot without consequences).
There are no safe spaces.
The city glows with change.
My friends and I made places for ourselves at the local gay bar, the book store, and my apartment. We were a cohort of camaraderie  that helped each other exist in the world that didn’t want us.
Even together, there was no guarantee of security. At coffee shops, the common assault was from good Christians calling us sinners, shielding their children, or worse, saying they’d pray for us. At the book store, it wasn’t uncommon to be called a faggot or dyke if we lingered too long before the single shelf of queer books (my entire literary access to queer publications).
I can recall two shootings at the only gay bar in town, unabashedly named The Back Door, though I’m certain there were more. One happened during the day, a bit of drive by vandalism. The other happened when I was there – a couple of shots our direction from the parking lot. No one was hurt. I don’t think the police believed/wanted to believe that it happened.
There are no safe spaces.
When we stayed in Fairbanks, Alaska, my boyfriend and I slept in separate beds. There were rooms with larger beds available but for our safety he chose a room with twins.

Rarely have I ever expressed affection to another man in public. Derision has even follow in private settings: I had once been told that my gentle touch, on the shoulder or thigh of another man, made others in the room uncomfortable — the same touch straight couples so easily take for granted.
I’ve refused affection in public more often then I’ve accepted. I like to think that’s a matter of taste and propriety; but if I leave out fear in this equation, I’d be lying.
There are no safe spaces.
A glowing heart releases forty-nine monarch butterflies into the Orlando sky.
When I woke that Sunday, a mind full of the upcoming PRIDE parade and a new project, I was appalled, but not surprised, to see that a gunman had killed twenty at a gay night club in Orlando.
Through the morning, I followed the story, weeping with the queer community as we learned that twenty was in reality forty-nine with more than fifty others injured. I stood beside my local community as we marched for PRIDE, signs silently echoing the loss in Orlando.
And even those moments were wrought with danger: a man headed to the event had been arrested hours before, his car laden with an arsenal and explosives: the worst members of Christianity represented their community with signs and bullhorns proclaiming that “God hates Fags.”
There are no safe spaces.
Indeed, since the massacre at Pulse, Orlando, politicians, pastors, and everyday Americans have proclaimed that the victims deserved their deaths for simply being queer (or queer adjacent).
These examples are a small taste of constant messaging of hate and rejection I’ve encountered in my experience as a privileged, educated, queer, white man in The United States. Is it any wonder that the Orlando shooter was motivated by a mix of self-hate, homophobia, and religious confusion? It isn’t to me for that is a world I’ve always known.
For queer people, there are no safe spaces.
Messages of rejection, hate, anger, violence, cruelty, and religion are so deeply intertwined in culture and belief that simply choosing to be queer is a radical act.
Before we know we are queer, we are told that we are hated. Before we have sexual desires, we are taught they are wrong. Before we understand our own bodies we are limited to the gender binary.
There is a long and rich history of queer humanity — from Alexander, who briefly united to world; to Richard, Lionhearted, who inspired it; to Alan Turing, who, though he managed to save the world, was ultimately persecuted and destroyed for being queer.
I had to hunt for my heroes and role models because they were hidden from me. History books didn’t mention them, or worse, erased their queerness.
There are no safe spaces.
To change what is, we must be willing to change the way we are. That starts with what we say to children and how we act in front of them. If we want to stop young men from killing others we must embody compassion for all.
In the absence of compassion, hate is allowed to grow.
There are no safe spaces. So let’s make them.
#ArtToEndViolence: Winner, Award of Excellence in Fine Art, Watercolors, California State Fair, 2015
K Ryan Henisey is a creative professional living in Los Angeles. His #ArtToEndViolence works have appeared in locations throughout Southern California, the titular pieces winning an Award of Excellence at the California State Fair, 2015.
Pulse is painted ink with minimal acrylic and sharpie pen on 140 lb paper, 42×42 inches.
Forty-nine monarch butterflies are shown emerged from a glowing heart. The artist narrative above is scrawled along a neon, Orlando skyline. The names of those killed during the massacre are written in red, blue, and black.
K Ryan Henisey’s other works can be seen at the upcoming Open Show, Play, at The LAMAG at Barnsdall and later this fall in Oakland for a second installment of Viral: 25 Years from Rodney King. #ArtToEndViolence is on display at the residence gallery at Wilshire / Vermont through 2016 and The Slumbering Sea and other select works are on loan to the Newhall Aquarium.

Desert Views


When the light and water are just right, poppies bloom across the desert. Ghosts of the past linger on the wind as shadows collect the heady scents of spring. Our home was made among the power lines and oil derricks of the California countryside; I have never known an uninterrupted sky.

Desert Views is watercolor and watercolor, wax crayon and ink on 140lb paper, 39 x 42 inches.