The above are images from Patterns Are For Breaking, a video installation presented at the Portland Winter Light Festival in 2017.
Between river and sky are fractals–never-ending patterns, infinitely complex, recurring, similar at varying scales. They are created by repetition of a simple process–complex outcome from repetition of simplicity. Fractals are feedback loops of imagery that manifest in pretty much everything–from our own replicating cells and neurons, to the branching of trees, snowflakes, lightening, river and erosion patterns, to galaxy formation. Because their value is unpredictable, they are chaotic systems. In their manifestation, they are chaos being ordered–or at least re-arranged– into beautiful abstractions. Indeed, fractals are considered the visual images of dynamic systems, the pictures of the Chaos Theory. We are built of memories. We are continually metamorphosized by the never-ending onslaught of change that adult life delivers, that we remember, reinterpret. It could be said that the human experience is the Chaos Theory enacted. We are living the same looping patterns that The Godfathers immortalized: Birth, School, Work, Death, and yet every single one of our experiences that fill this space between land and sky is unique. Our experiences and memories build on themselves to affect who we are, and in this way we are dynamic recursions of intellect and nature, things in our control, out of our control, habits, and patterns. Video feedback produces light beams with a cross-section that is a fractal pattern. Video feedback is where video artistry began, in the 1960s in Greenwich Village. It is old school analog, and we are bringing it forward to the current to discuss and to show in light, this imagery as metaphor for the unique, chaotic, beautiful, unpredictable process of living. The imagery was created with video feedback from two camcorders, mirrors, toys, children’s plastic jewelry, the Willamette River, and the people attending the festival. Patterns are for breaking. Are for exploding into color and shape with the help of light. Are for not knowing how or why things happen but accepting they do, they will. And sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it’s so bright it blinds us, sometimes it hurts, other times it illuminates the dark parts of ourselves, sometimes it’s all we’ve got.


The above images are from Braille Constellation, an installation originally in the 2016 Portland Winter Light Festival (and again asked to return in the 2020 event) of hundreds of LED puck lights placed a Braille pattern to spell out a quote from French World War II pilot and author Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “I, too, in this flight, am renouncing things. I am giving up the broad golden surfaces that would befriend me if my engines were to fail. I am giving up the landmarks by which I might be taking my bearings. I am giving up the profiles of mountains against the sky that would warn me of pitfalls. I am plunging into the night. I am navigating. I have on my side only the stars.”
The quote is about his use of celestial navigation while flying at night over the Sahara Desert delivering mail to troops. The decision to focus on Braille is partly because spelled out with lights, it is simply beautiful. It also looks like stars, and I like the idea of inversion of sky and earth. I am also interested for this project as a light artist in the interplay between light and lack of light, in the metaphorical implications of sight, and when it is limited, or dark, how do we find the light and understanding. Meaning is in our interpretation, which is in formed by our abilities, our access to our five senses, our prejudices, our history, our hopes. Braille are letters seen by touch. When a sighted person reads Braille, they feel raised dots. This project explores ideas of perspective, of seeking light, of our reliance on habits and our five senses for navigation and understanding of ourselves and of each other. It’s about beauty in the things we don’t understand (such as a sighted person seeing a groundcover of lights in Braille, initially not seeing words or literal meaning, but rather abstracted visual and emotional meeting in the light patterns piercing the dark, stars on the earth). It’s about looking beyond the surface to discover deeper meanings. Interpreting. Honing our senses. To see what’s there when we don’t rely on our first impulse or the buffer of familiarity. It’s about starting over and learning a new navigation system when all is lost and one must start all over again without the compass they are used to. Stars could be words; words could be stars; sky could be earth; you could be me.


We are and are not (w)hole

Partial paintings


Laugh Line, Life Line, Crossed Line

“There are moments or periods when it would be wonderful to plan something and do it and have the thing only do what you planned to do, and then, there are other times when the destruction of those planned things becomes interesting to you. So then, it becomes a question of destroying – of destroying the planned forms; it’s like an escape, it’s something to do, something to begin the situation. You yourself, you don’t decide, but if you want to paint, you have to find out some way to start this thing off, whether it is painting it out or putting it in…”

–Franz Kline

I intended to paint about joy. Since I believe the human experience is ultimately good and beautiful, then I suppose in the end and in some way I have. But as I was unpacking my paints and paper and brushes in Siglufjörður, my life thousands of miles across the ocean brushed perilously close to gun violence, and an out of control fire eruption that threatened to consume half the city of Los Angeles and my children in it. Unexpectedly, and without any decision or choice on my end, what resulted became a response. 

We are whole. We are each perfect in our own way, my son’s school took care of him through the traumas he went through in an intense and frightening sleepless 6 days. My friends and family offered to fly to LA and check in on the kids. My son and daughter showed strength and resiliency no 18 and 20 year old should have to call upon at such depths and at such a profound life and death level. First responders went literally directly and without a night of sleep from a mass shooting to an endless, multi-week inferno to try to save every person, pet, and home they could.

We are holes. Shells of humanity, walking into crowded community spaces and opening fire. On the 307th time this year in my country they could have shot my son and his friends. A few days later his campus was placed on lockdown due to a credible bomb threat. Across Los Angeles, on my daughter’s campus, her school was placed on lockdown due to an active shooter threat. 

No picture is complete, can ever be complete, as long as there are such vacancies–in our community, in our country, in our laws, in our morals, in our ethics, in our values, in the standards to which we hold ourselves. 

We rise each day, and set out to do the same thing. Love our family, work an honest job, be happy. I set out each morning to paint the same painting in this series. I mixed the paints to the same hue, used identical water to paint ratios on the same paper. They are as different as days, and I had nothing to do with that. This is what these paintings became. 

My kids and I have seen a flatline in a hospital and have come to understand both the lines and endlessness of love. We have come close to it in our own bodies, in recent weeks, in recent years. We have learned some losses stay lost, some holes unfilled. You learn to not step through.

The mountains surround the village I’m in. They stop the sky. On November 15 they and the length of the fjord stop the sun for two and a half months. Everytime I look up at where their peaks and the clouds merge, there is always a line that is not quite a horizon, but something more. There is joy, or at the very least hope, in that, somehow.

We are and are not (w)hole

We are and are not (w)hole

Laugh line, life line, crossed line

What Remains


The exhibition images above are from pieces installed at Mount Hood Community College, and again at Gallery 114 in Portland, Oregon. Entitled, Why We Keep Going, the installation explored the reasons for continued forward movement built into human nature despite life’s inconsistencies. Rian distilled the motivations for continuing on to one of three reasons, curiosity, hope, or faith, a different choice for each individual, informed by history and circumstance.  Panels of scrim hung from ceiling to floor through which people walked, turning back panel after panel until they reached the back, which was a wall with the three words painted “Curiosity,” “Hope” and “Faith.”  Under each word was a painted square with a hanging piece of chalk. Gallery visitors made a hatch mark under whichever word was their main motivation for continuing on day after day, through layers of scrim, turning back the pages of this life size book they were walking through. The active viewer provided the movement for the piece, and also at the end, participated in the visual as well as conceptual evolution of the piece by marking their choice, indicating their thoughts and beliefs, and changing the physical landscape of the final wall by filling up the wall with hatch marks, tying in this idea of leaving one’s physical mark on the world. The installation was surrounded by the geography of Rian’s paintings, and in between those was ripped out pages from an old geography textbook from the 1930s. The project used multiples and grids to explore internal connections and dialogue with the landscape of stories lived, chapters of chronic illness, work with refugees, immigrants, combat photographers, single motherhood, and reconciling plans with the reality of how days unfold. The dense scapes carried threads of internal and external landscape coexisting as Rian works to define home.

Posted in Visual Art