Reece Museum (ETSU / 363 Stout Drive, Johnson City, TN April 5 - July 2nd

Christian Rieben

Folly: recent work by Christian Rieben is currently on exhibit in the Reece Museum July 2, 2021. Rieben, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Art & Design at ETSU, paints a world where whimsy and tragedy cohabitate—where Lewis Carroll meets Carl Jung, and the bluebells toll for thee.

Overall, Rieben says his work could be divided into two categories — those politically motivated and not politically motivated: “The larger paintings are older and were motivated by the political landscape of the last five years. They are allegorical in nature, with characters and actions standing in for principles and philosophies. The smaller works are less specifically political, although philosophical interpretations are easy to make,” Rieben adds. The artist portrays a world that is “imaginative and sensual, but also enigmatic and potentially dangerous” through the twelve paintings featured in Folly. He states, “For me, the most compelling fairytales were those where ‘happily ever after’ was not a foregone conclusion. The protagonist may survive but there will be a heavy price paid. Happiness means more when risk is involved.”

Rieben received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006, and taught multiple art courses there. He also taught at Loyola University, the College of DuPage, and the Dolphin School in Berkshire, England before accepting his current position in the Department of Art & Design at ETSU. After living and working in Chicago and London, Rieben was eager to take a break from big cities. Rieben moved to Johnson City and began teaching at ETSU in 2016. Speaking of his new home here, “I look out from one side of my house and see Buffalo Mountain, I look out the other and see pastures and woods. It is refreshing.” As an art professor, Rieben uses teaching as a tool. He states, “Teaching painting keeps my studio practice from stagnating. I am often reminding myself to practice what I constantly preach to my students: nothing is precious, confound expectations, paint with conviction.”