Arts & Entertainment

Riley uses art to express religion and femininity

By Maddie O’Shea
Lead Writer

Senior studio art major Bethany Riley, who has a concentration in photography, has unveiled her first solo art exhibit in Sharadin Art Building titled “These Our Misdoings.” The exhibition is available to view from Dec. 1 – Jan. 21. 

Over the past three years, she has been developing pieces for the exhibit, which focuses on themes of religion, women’s bodies and sacred objects.

“These Our Misdoings” is available in Sharadin’s Atrium Gallery and has an alternative viewing style. The show features a pew and stands that observers can kneel on to view photos in boxes.

Previous to her exhibition, Riley has shared her work at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Boundless: Arts and Intellects conference at Millersville University. In that work, titled “How High and Tight Are You?” she explored similar themes of femininity and religion in an accordion book. 

During her time at KU, photography and sculpture have become Riley’s strongest styles. 

“I always start with a lens-based approach,” Riley said. “I prefer film over digital photos, and I turn them into photobooks.” Photobooks, to Riley, are a sculpture form of pictures. 

One of Riley’s favorite ways to photograph is known as wet plate collodion. Wet plate collodion is a process that includes pouring chemicals into glass that is used in a camera. Riley has set up a darkroom in her apartment’s bathroom in order to execute it.

“It’s hard because the chemicals you’re working with are dangerous,” Riley said. “You have to know what you’re doing and understand the chemical process.” 

Riley was raised in a military family and grew up in Japan on a small, tropical island called Okinawa. While trying to do college overseas at the American Military University, she didn’t enjoy online general education courses. Confused on what direction to go, she focused on one skill she loved: drawing. 

Riley found KU randomly but took a chance on its art program. Originally, she entered KU as a drawing major, but after a year, she switched to photography. 

After graduation, Riley plans on becoming an Artist in Residence at KU. In addition, she is considering grad school. Riley has applied to UPenn, Tyler’s School of Art, Rutgers and UNC. Up until a year ago, she wasn’t sure about pursuing a master’s degree, but in her senior year, something clicked.

In the meantime, Riley wants to build her portfolio. She has done this by choosing a personal theme and applying that to each class. 

She notices some art students get tired of studio classes by the time they are seniors. In turn, they go with the flow of assignments instead of making it their own. According to Riley, people who truly want to be artists find interests and find a way to talk about it with any medium. 

Riley’s general advice to underclassmen art students is to build relationships with professors and not take their time for granted. 

“Go to their office hours and let them get to know you,” Riley said. “Professors will get invested in your work, and their support is the greatest thing.”


Categories: Arts & Entertainment