Previous Shows

    Cedarburg Cultural Center
    Cedarburg, Wisconsin
    Scout Gallery
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    (Invited )
    Arts Mill
    Grafton, Wisconsin

    INDIANA GREEN 10TH ANNIVERSARY Cedarburg Cultural Center Cedarburg, Wisconsin
    POLISHED Scout Gallery Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    NOHL SUITCASE GRANT SHOW MIAD Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    (Invited )
    PAULA AND SARA’S INFINITE Arts Mill Grafton, Wisconsin

    2019 UNCONVENTIONAL POV Artless Bastard Gallery De Pere, Wisconsin
    IMAGES 9 Gallery of Wisconsin Art West Bend Wisconsin
    ABSTRACTS MATTER 311 Gallery Raleigh, North Carolina
    WOMEN’S WORK Old Courthouse Gallery Woodstock, Illinois
    EVERYDAY FEMINIST Wilson Cultural Arts Center Brookfield, Wisconsin

    2018 EVERYDAY BEAUTY Blue Awning Gallery Port Washington, Wisconsin
    (Solo show)
    CULTURE JAM Redline Gallery Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    FIGURE SHOW Var Gallery Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Juried)
    LANDSCAPE SHOW Gallery of Wisconsin Art West Bend, Wisconsin
    WINNERS SHOW Gallery 311 Raleigh, North Carolina
    CONVERSATIONS IN COLOR Gallerie M Milwaukee, WI
    (Invited for solo show)
    MODERN LANDSCAPE Redline Milwaukee Milwaukee, WI

    2017 LIGHT WORK Gallery of Wisconsin Art West Bend Wisconsin
    (three person show)
    WATERCOLOR USA Springfield Museum/Art Springfield, Missouri
    NORTHERN NATIONAL Nicolet University Rhinelander, Wisconsin
    ART AT THE CENTER NAT’L SHOW TR Community Center Overland Park, Kansas (juried)
    ABSTRACTS MATTER 311 Gallery Raleigh, North Carolina
    (juried) awarded Best in Show
    WISCONSIN VISUAL ARTS Walker’s Point Center/Arts Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    2016 FORWARD 2016 Charles Allis Museum Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    DISTURBANCES IN THE FIELD Lakeside Legacy Gallery Crystal Lake, Illinois
    (Solo Show)
    PHOTOGRAPHY SHOW Emerald Arts Center Springfield, Oregon
    NORTHSTAR NATIONAL Lakeville Arts Center Lakeville, Minnesota
    WATER MEDIA SHOW (juried)
    ALTERED REALITIES Jed Malitz V2 Gallery New Orleans. Louisiana
    Invited artist (juried)
    A CULTURE OF IMAGES Springfield Art Association Springfield, Illinois
    THE ABSTRACT SHOW Brickton Arts Center Park Ridge, Illinois
    SELFIE Converge Gallery Williamsport, Pennsylvania
    WINGS AND WATER Biennial River Arts on Water Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin
    EQUALITY MATTERS William Woods University Fulton, Missouri
    (juried) awarded Best in Show

    2015 REAL PEOPLE (juried) Old Courthouse Gallery Woodstock, Illinois
    National Abstract Show Garfield Park Arts Center Indianapolis, Indiana (juried-painting)
    DISTURBANCES IN THE FIELD Frank Juarez Gallery Sheboygan, Wisconsin
    (2 woman show-photography only)
    12x12x12 (invited-painting) Frank Juarez Gallery Sheboygan, Wisconsin
    WOMAN (distinguished from men) The Jazz Gallery Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    (invited-5 woman show)
    Group Show (juried) Elk River Arts Alliance Gallery Elk River, Minnesota
    NUDE ATTITUDE (juried) Peoria Art Guild Peoria, Illinois
    DISTURBANCES IN THE FIELD Art Space Vincennes Vincennes, Indiana
    (Solo show photography & painting)
    International Open (juried) Peter Miller Fine Art Providence, Rhode Island
    CoPA Midwest (juried) Walker’s Point Center for the Arts Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    RE-PICTURING PHOTOGRAPHY Union Street Gallery Chicago Heights, Illinois
    BRUSH WITH BURDEN (juried) LSU Botanical Gardens Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    2014 Group Show (juried) Freeport Art Museum Freeport, Illinois
    Group Show (juried) Water Street Studio Gallery Batavia, Illinois
    SKIN DEEP (solo show) U. of Wisconsin at Sheboygan Sheboygan, Wisconsin
    KINETIC HUES Adler Center for the Arts Libertyville, Illinois
    Group show (artist and curator)
    INDIANA GREEN (juried) Cedarburg Arts Center Cedarburg, Wisconsin

    Selected Previous Shows (continued)

    2009-2013 ART WITH A BAYOU VIEW (juried) University of La. Monroe Monroe, Louisiana
    ENIGMA VARIATIONS (solo show) River Edge Gallery Thiensville, Wisconsin
    PHOTOGRAPHY (juried) Gallery 224 Pt. Washington, Wisconsin
    ABSTRACTED NATURE (juried) Oaks Nature Center Skokie, Illinois
    INDIANA GREEN (juried) Frank Juarez Gallery Sheboygan, Wisconsin (un)FINISHED SHOW (invited) Frank Juarez Gallery Sheboygan, Wisconsin
    THE ABSTRACT SHOW (juried) Brickton Arts Center Park Ridge, Illinois
    MARN MENTORSHIP SHOW Cardinal Stritch University Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    (Juried mentorship program final show)
    COLOR DANCE (solo show) Gallery 2622 Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
    INDIANA GREEN (juried) Frank Juarez Gallery Sheboygan, Wisconsin
    WINTER SHOW (invited) F8 Gallery Bradenton, Florida
    URBAN ARTS SHOW (juried) Warehouse on Vandalia St. Paul, Minnesota
    ELGIN ARTIST SALON (invited) Elgin Arts Commission Elgin, Illinois
    SOULARD SHOW (juried) Soulard Arts Market St Louis, Missouri
    COLOR DANCE (solo show) SCarmody Gallery St. Louis, Missouri

    Honors and Awards
    2018 Best in Show Unconventional POV Artless Bastard De Pere, WI
    2017 Best in Show Abstracts Matters 311 Gallery Raleigh, North Carolina
    2016 Best in Show Equality Matters William Woods University Fulton Missouri
    2014 Notable entry Theo Westenberger Estate Summer photography contest
    2013 Creative Capital workshop (juried) through MARN and MIAD
    2013 Best in Photography Adler Center for the Arts Art Show
    2013 2nd place SAN Abstracted Nature juried show
    2011 MARN Mentorship program recipient (juried)
    2011 2nd Place Photography MARN Beyond the Canvas
    2011 Honorable Mention Photography MARN Beyond the Canvas
    1999 Pinnacle Award for Photographic Excellence National Individual Winner Prestige Portraits



    Conversations in Color
    Recent works in photography and painting

    The most striking feature of my work is color-- bright, intense, and vibrant. In my photographic art, the color might come from the subject matter or might be revealed when layering or saturating many images. I further explore color and expression through alcohol ink paintings. Often my paintings become source material for my photographic art. In both art forms, I hope viewers will be drawn to the images or colors that appeal to them. The intensity of the color can lure the viewer in to witness the often intricate details of lines and shapes within.

    I approach photography in an exploratory manner. Using my camera and I-phone non-traditionally, I look for ways to make the mundane exceptional and then experiment on the computer until I feel the final piece has been revealed. My alcohol ink work is a whimsical practice of both serendipity and precision.

    In my abstract photography and paintings, I present non-explicit images that can initiate conversation from the literal-“What is it?” or “How did you do that?” to the internal “What do I feel about this?” or “How is it affecting me?”

    I hope you enjoy my Conversations in Color, and that it provokes, inspires, and spurs thought and conversation. .

    “The most astonishing possibilities remain to be discovered in the raw material of photograph" photographers "must learn to seek, not the 'picture,' not the esthetic of tradition, but the ideal instrument of expression.”

    Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

  • 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!

  • 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


    Honors and Awards
    2018 Best in Show Unconventional POV Artless Bastard De Pere, WI
    2017 Best in Show Abstracts Matters 311 Gallery Raleigh, North Carolina
    2016 Best in Show Equality Matters William Woods University Fulton Missouri
    2014 Notable entry Theo Westenberger Estate Summer photography contest
    2013 Creative Capital workshop (juried) through MARN and MIAD
    2013 Best in Photography Adler Center for the Arts Art Show
    2013 2nd place SAN Abstracted Nature juried show
    2011 MARN Mentorship program recipient (juried)
    2011 2nd Place Photography MARN Beyond the Canvas
    2011 Honorable Mention Photography MARN Beyond the Canvas
    1999 Pinnacle Award for Photographic Excellence National Individual Winner
    Prestige Portraits