• Best in Show Award at William Woods University

    Best in Show Award at William  Woods University

    Skin Deep #14 was chosen as BEST IN SHOW at the recent Equality Matters - Conversations on Gender and Race juried show at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri.


  • Wings and Water Juried Biennial

    Wings and Water Juried Biennial




    ALTERED REALITIES a new show of original work by Sara Risley will open on March 4th at the Jed Malitz V2 Gallery 615 Julia Street New Orleans LA. These brand new images on metal are one of kind with no limited editions or duplicates to be made. The show will run for two months.
    ALTERED REALITIES has closed!




    December Solo show at Lakeside Legacy Gallery Crystal Lake Illinois

    A Culture of Images Photography Exhibition Springfield Art Assoc. Springfield Illinois (juried)
    The Abstract Show 4 Brickton Art Center Park Ridge Illinois

    Altered Realities Jed Malitz V2 Gallery New Orleans Louisiana (juried)
    2nd Biennial Wings and Water River Arts Gallery Prairie du Sac, WI (juried)
    Selfies Converge Gallery Williamsport Pennsylvania (juried)

    12x12x12 invited artist Frank Juarez Gallery Sheboygan Wisconsin
    Midwest National Abstract Art Exhibition Indianapolis Indiana juried show
    Disturbances in the Field (photography) Frank Juarez Gallery Sheboygan Wisconsin
    Disturbances In The Field solo show at Artspace Vincennes Vincennes Indiana
    Real People Woodstock Opera House Woodstock Il juried show
    Women (distinguished from men) Invited artist in 5-woman show Jazz Gallery Milwaukee Wisconsin
    1st Annual International Open Photography Show (juried)-Peter Miller Fine Art Gallery Providence Rhode Island
    Brush With Burden juried show Baton Rouge Louisiana
    Nude Attitude juried show Peoria Art Guild Peoria Illinois
    Arts in Harmony juried show Elk River Minnesota

    Freeport Art Museum Regional Show (juried) Freeport Illinois
    Water Street Studios Gallery Anniversary Show (juried) Batavia Illinois
    Milwaukee Gallery Night at Timothy J
    Gallery Night at Hide House CULTURE JAM group show
    SKIN DEEP Solo Show at University of Wisconsin Sheboygan
    Walker's Point Center for the Arts Member's Show


    I am wildly attracted to that which disturbs the norm. I adore the odd angle, the quirky outlook, the extreme emotion. In moments of bliss, I cannot contain my smile or a laugh. In the depths of depression, I cry freely and respect the pain within me. I try to be conscious of all my thoughts and emotions and to be aware of what they offer me. The changes that life brings as we age, both physical and emotional, can truly disturb our normalcy. We have the choice to embrace these changes or ignore them. I choose to allow these disturbances to inform what I create.

    I use my camera to capture every day textures and flaws: rust on a sidewalk, worn parking lot stripes, reflections in puddles. I disturb these mundane images, layering, saturating, manipulating until they become an abstract expression only slightly reminiscent of their original source. By digitally disturbing the pixels,
    I create that which may disturb the viewer for its lack of easy answers.

  • Disturbances in the Field-Critical Analysis


    Disturbances in the Field Artwork by Sara Risley

    Review by Stacey Williams-Ng

    Abstract art, we meet again in the essay. Since the fauves and the expressionists first laid down drips and strokes that were intended more for feeling than for fact, we have been writing about and philosophizing on what non-representational art means. Sara Risley names her work after disturbances—are they disturbing?—and we gaze into the fields of them, peering around the surface for clues. There is little to be said about the importance of expressive line and color in an art world driven by concept, except to say that it is utmost. And no one knows this better than the so-called abstract painter, who toils to distill raw emotion and concept into visible messages.

    “I cannot stand,” sighs Risley, “how people will say when they look at one of my paintings, ‘I see it! It’s a shoe!’” Who can blame her, the abstract artist, if she tires of these all-too-human responses? But can we truly ever rise above our own psychology as viewers? Our eyes are trained to deliver meaning to our brains, and—shoe shapes notwithstanding—Risley’s paintings and photographs deliver truckloads of meaning, manipulating our retinas into believing a “reality” of depth, space, light, and motion. With a flick of her carefully loaded brush, Risley slashes a horizontal band that, from my perspective, could only be a moon reflecting on a lake surface… or is it? Layers of texture and color dance across the picture plane in these tightly woven compositions, creating illusions of reality and then just as quickly, they retreat back into lines and splotches on a flat surface, and our eyes blink to adjust. Perception wasn’t reality: my eyes lied to me.

    This is the symphony of a skillfully executed painting—it carries the viewer’s brain to a place that is, by definition, different than what the artist felt, and different still than the viewer next to him. Drips, smears, strokes and fields disturb the surface area and cut through one another in ways we have seen in our own travels and we make mental connections to them. How many of Risley’s marks are purposefully trying to evoke a moon? “That is a rusted sign. It must be,” says your eye. But there’s something obscuring your view—hanging vines? Or no: it’s rain dripping down the window threatening to erase everything before you like cheekfuls of tears.

    Risley has chosen limited palettes on the paintings, where a single bright color is used alone with black and white to create the maximum impact that such contrast can deliver. Looking at them in sets, it’s hard to imagine that the pink series is not about teenage lust, but again, that is merely my own read as a viewer, entitled to my own elicited feelings. Truly, I could not have seen a truer view of strained adolescent rage than the black smear like so much mascara dripping down the fuchsia leg warmers puddled in the corner. In the blue paintings, urban scenes of rushing cars and mottled graffiti make this series seem utterly at odds with the pinks.

    And then I blink: actually that was all my imagination, and Sara Risley meant none of that whatsoever. It was only a magic trick.

    White disturbs black, black disturbs white, red says, “I am hot blood—do not ignore me.” “Look at me,” says orange. These paintings ring with everything and nothing, clamoring to bring your own memories back to you in ways that are both disturbing, yes, but also sublime.

    The photographs, too, are completely abstract—that is, they appear to be “abstract,” because you won’t know what you are looking at. But, like a film that touts its basis in a “true story,” these highly manipulated photos have transformed from their original appearance as captured scenes of everyday life, and become pure shots of feeling and color.

    Your eyes will lie to you. These “Disturbances in the Field” are here for you to view and wonder. What are you really seeing?


    Sara Risley’s Parallel Universes

    Review by Amy DeLap curator for Disturbances in the Field

    “The self--terrible and constant--is for me the subject matter of painting.“
    Barnett Newman

    Disturbances in the Field is an apt title for this show. Sara Risley’s paintings demonstrate a particular interest in the power of art to cause disruption in the “field” of normal patterns of thinking. She presents in this exhibition two bodies of work from 2014 - 2015, which offer different but related interpretations of this premise.
    The series of acrylic paintings on canvas carries the overall title My Disturbance. These were inspired by a friend who asked Risley if she had ever worked with the reduced palette of black and white and one color. The answer was no – up to that point she had consistently used a wide range of saturated hues. This question was posed at a time of significant and distressing loss in Risley’s personal life. Taking on a new direction and challenge in the form of painting seemed the way forward. The resulting canvases are large, looming, energy-charged vehicles for conveying a range of intense emotions.
    Risley’s photographs, based on digital images, connect her new direction in acrylic painting with her work done in previous years via the common theme of disturbance. The photographs are at first glance quite different from the paintings. They are smaller, with square rather than rectangular formats. The paintings are spacious and airy, the photographs are packed with biomorphic

    shapes in a wide variety of brilliant colors. The paintings are done directly; the brush strokes are a record of the artist’s gesture. The photographs happen in stages, with final pieces that have the uninflected surfaces of computer prints. The first decision is what to photograph. The subject might be a scene from nature or it might be one of Risley’s own paintings (many of which appear to be based on landscape). As the photograph is taken, camera manipulations in the shooting process move the image toward abstraction. Then comes work with the image on the computer before it is digitally printed. Photo-shop alterations add linear textures that both emphasize and offer counterpoint to the now non-objective forms that comprise the composition.
    Risley speaks of “disturbing the pixels” until what is created causes a parallel disruption in the viewers mind. As in the work of the Abstract Surrealists of the 1930’s, her work overall seems to present that which is familiar and should be recognizable. Yet it eludes specific narrative.
    Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue? Barnett Newman asked this iconic question in the title of a series of four monumental paintings done between 1966 and 1970. One might wonder how vertical bands of saturated color in the form of paint on canvas could be threatening. Yet, two of these paintings were badly damaged by vandalism while being displayed in public museums. In each case, the paintings were specifically targeted by the attackers.
    Sara Risley seems abundantly aware of the power of color and gesture in painting to put before us big questions about the aspects of our very selves that we fear facing. What are we struggling toward, and what are the obstacles? Yet, she also suggests that the disturbances thus generated, when embraced, can inform who we are and what we create. Sara Risley knows we should all be afraid of red, yellow and blue, but also that such fear can be bracing, celebratory and ultimately liberating.

  • Indiana Green Catalog

    I am excited to announce I have been included in the 5th Anniversary Indiana Green show and one of my images is on the catalog cover!


  • 365 Days/365 Artists

    I was the featured artist on March 6th!




    from Jeff Winke's blog http://www.electricdaybook.com/ September 7, 2012
    "There’s something chaotic and cool about Sara Risley’ s digital photographs. They are abstract studies with many looking like portions of stained-glass church windows or wall panels from an industrial paint booth after months of production. I find the colors and patterns soothing, much like a 19th century Impressionist painting. I could easily see pairing up a Claude Monet with a Sara Risley. I’ve got the perfect wall, but need to wrestle Monet’s 1872 Sunrise from the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris to match up with a Risley print. It could easily become my favorite view point with a cup of well-brewed dark roast coffee or a Waterford crystal wide-mouth glass tastefully filled to the bulge with a full-bodied Argentinian Malbec wine. Ahhhh that could be my own slice of paradise. Risley's unique giclee prints are available on gallery-wrapped canvas or watercolor paper. Editions are limited to 25. To see Sara Risley's work, visit http://sararisley.com/home.html"

    Gallery Night Fall 2011, MARN, Zimmerman Studios by LOCAL TROLLEY


    Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) opened it’s Beyond the Canvas exhibition at Zimmerman Architectural Studios Friday night. The work presented in Beyond the Canvas featured a cadre of artists taking inspiration from the rejuvenation of the Menomonee Valley.

    Their expressions took on a variety of mediums ranging from water color, collage, to photography created En Plein Air . Photographer and digital artist Sara Risley, whose submission won 2nd place in her category and visual artist Edmund Mathews’ work captures attention, along with many other excellent art pieces.

    Zimmerman Architectural Studios provided a tremendous venue for MARN’s Gallery Night event co-sponsored by the Menomonee Valley Partners and Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail. Vacant for several years, the expansive brontosaurus fossil of a building, just South of I-94, housed the Milwaukee’s Retort Building at the turn of the turn of the 20th century. The Retort Building operated a bank of coal furnaces capturing gas that circulated through underground pipelines into the City’s manually lit street lanterns, to illuminate the night. Reconstructed by Zimmerman in 2011, the restored Retort Building brings a spark the Valley.

    Digital Foreground by LOCAL TROLLEY

    With streaking complex patterns and distinct color palettes, Sara Risley experiments with unsuspecting motifs, splashing them with highly concentrated and intense tones. Risley’s creative work easily stands on its own, but also does well providing themes for promotional materials and other formats more deliberately aimed at communicating messages.

    Risley recently began experimenting with motifs evoked by a recent exhibition entitled Things on Strings, put on by Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN). Infusing the overarching concept driving Things on a String into her White Series, Risley’s knack for depicting rich textures springs forth. Aesthetically solvent, Risley’s stylistic investment in swatches and background choices build assets of unique artistic value, exercising her commitment to a hybrid technique.


    "Just framed and hung my three Sara Risley originals at my home in Arizona. I love the depth of color, intrigue of composition, and the artist's imagination expressed each piece. Thank you Sara."
    Peggy Fiandaca
    Fountain Hills AZ

    "Your colors and patterns are a conscious dream that really convey beautiful calm peaceful feelings to me. I really enjoy the others also that, even though have a more embattled feeling, make me really struggle to look for meaning. Most of the time I don't care what the original image is, I just enjoy the feelings they convey."
    John Ellis
    Phoenix AZ

    I am now officially a Sara Risley JUNKIE! I have my first two pieces and discussing the third! Oh hell there is no discussing I WANT IT!
    Marina Martini
    Hampshire IL

    "The art is SPECTACULAR!!! So much more fabulous in person! Can't wait to get it framed and on the wall. Thanks so much!"
    Dainette Craig
    Little Rock Arkansas

    "I just spent some time looking through your on-line portfolio and I know
    I have told you this before, but I must tell you again, when I look at your art,
    it makes me look at the colors of this world in a whole new light and how you
    can transform them into so many different images is just amazing to me. Thank
    you for making beautiful art! I'm honored to own several of your pieces, but
    also to have shared them with family as gifts and when I come into that big
    money (well probably before that) it will be difficult for me to decide which
    will be the next piece in my collection."
    Heidi Stearns
    Chino Hills CA


    Best in Show Equality Matters William Woods University

    Honorable Mention for a painting Art and Frame Show Sarasota Florida
    Notable Entry Theo Westenberger Estate Summer Photography Contest

    Best in Category Photography Adler Festival of the Arts Libertyville Illinois
    Third place Best in Show Abstracted Nature Skokie Illinois

    CoPA Midwest Juried Show

    Second Place in Photography for VIEW EAST at MARN Beyond the Canvas
    Honorable Mention in Photography for MILWAUKEE HEAVY METAL at MARN Beyond the Canvas

    MARN Mentor Program:
    Chosen as protégé in the MARN Mentors program for 2011-12 working with Valerie Christell.