Ryan Wilks is a self-taught artist based in Kansas City, Missouri. Their work explores the various realities of queer existence. Primarily creating with oils, watercolors, sculptural assemblage, and ritual, their work sheds light on queer expression of spirituality and sexuality. Their bodies of work address and confront religion used as weapon and explores new modes of prayer through visual and participatory exhibitions. While religious and archetypal iconography such as the Devil and Lilith are seen within their figures in their paintings and used to express gender and queer ideologies, the work itself does not adopt the feeling of weighted religious rites. Instead, the work invites the viewer to participate in a modernized expression of spirit.
Through figurative and narrative drawing and painting, through community-based performance ritual and ceremony, I make art that explores the various realities of queer existence. Gleaning inspiration from centuries old religious iconography and the oral and written histories documenting the queer experience from the beginning of time to my own personal experience today, my work strives to depict the push/pull, persecute/elevate relationships of humanity, sexuality, and spirituality.
The use of more traditional materials and methods in my painting and drawing is an intentional nod to Italian masters such as Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael, but it is the playfulness of Matisse’s figures and the contorting figures of Schiele that have influenced my work the most.
Ritual and ceremonial performance is an integral aspect of my art. The use of objects, both found and made, and base elemental ingredients in occult practices are key components to my performances. Through movement, through ceremony, through studied and adaptive ritual, I am able to engage an audience and create moments of sacred memory. My performance work is created and displayed in tandem with my 2-D work and further explores concepts displayed within my paintings and drawings.
Through these methods of creating, engagement, and display of my art, I strive to express the personal narrative of my queer experience, of my peers’, of those who have passed, and, ultimately, for future generations to research, decode, confront, and enjoy.