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EXPO Profile: Visual Artist Reilly Sinanan

: Video by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Visual Artist Reilly Sinanan

: Reilly Sinanan, in his studio, holds up a photo from the Holy Land of an immersion baptism in the river Jordan. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Visual Artist Reilly Sinanan

: EXPO 14 .

EXPO Profile: Visual Artist Reilly Sinanan

: Reilly Sinanan in his studio in the Cornish Centennial Labs. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Visual Artist Reilly Sinanan

: Reilly Sinanan in his studio in the Cornish Centennial Labs. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Visual Artist Reilly Sinanan

: Reilly Sinanan in his studio in the Cornish Centennial Labs. Photo by Mark Bocek.

EXPO Profile: Visual Artist Reilly Sinanan

: Installation view - SOIL art gallery; Reilly Sinanan, "Untitled" - 2014, inkjet print (8mm film still), cotton nautical flag, plywood dollies, casters, gold-leaf, dimensions variable (, Seattle, WA). Photo by Reilly Sinanan.

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Senior Reilly Sinanan is an artist searching for a language as he prepares for his part of EXPO’s BFA exhibition.

It doesn’t seem possible that Reilly Sinanan (AR ‘14) has not yet graduated. He has been working so steadily outside the confines of Cornish that many must assume he’s an alumnus, not a senior.  Though it’s true that an increasing number of students are involved in off-campus collaborations with graduates and professionals, no one has done more in this area than Reilly. He has produced work with his own collaborative company, Wood, and performed as a member of the Degenerate Art Ensemble, a groundbreaking collaboration led by Cornish alumni whose reputation is soaring. Too, he has spent a lot of time outside of Seattle in residencies such as AICAD’s New York Studio Residency Program run through The School of Visual Arts, Diego Piñón’s Butoh Ritual Mexicano in Portland, and with Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s La Pocha Nostra in Tucson. But Reilly has not graduated; he can be found pretty much every day in his Centennial Labs studio preparing work for EXPO’s 2014 Art and Design BFA Exhibition.

Check out the EXPO 14 page and other student profiles.

Reilly Sinanan has been closely associated with “loud” art, as he would put it, the over-the-top, performance-based work of Degenerate Art Ensemble and the aforementioned residencies like that of Guillermo Gómez-Peña, who will be at Cornish next week. Now, however, he is in a “quiet” period, more reflective, focused on the search for a language that will act as the basis for his work going forward. Language and its construction is something deeply ingrained in Sinanan. He joined the Pentacostal Church in his early teens, a charismatic religion known for its practice of glossalalia, or “speaking in tongues.” “I was pretty heavily involved in the Pentacostal Church for about 10 years,” he says. “Within the circle that I was a part of, that was something that we practiced. I started speaking in tongues when I was, like, 13. It was just like a normal thing for me.”

The objects and images Reilly is surrounding himself with in his studio are centered on his reaction to the years he spent with the church, how it changed him and how it is still lodged in his pscyhe. The idea of baptism lies heavily with him — not the tame, splashing of water on a baby’s head on a Sunday afternoon, but the act of being grabbed by the head and shoved under the surface of water. Baptisms such as these are like drownings in an important way: the initiate is “killed” to the old ways of life to be reborn, it is hoped, as someone different, someone who conforms to “a better way.” It’s a lot to have banging around your brain. Images of water abound in the room, with a collection of black flags and low-slung wooden dollies with hidden wheels “to carry the weight.” He moves these pieces around as he would as phonemes of a created language, searching for an assembly that can become words, that can communicate. The finished “text” viewers will experience starting May 9 will be result of Sinanan’s personal exploration. Some might have seen earlier versions at the recently closed “Kinetic Thirds” at Seattle’s SOIL Gallery.

Sinanan sees his a parallel in the work he does now with the glossalalia he used to practice. “The way that I think about those sorts of ideas or that sort of coded language or personal language in relation to my work is what I’m interested in. There is this underlying narrative,” he says. “It is a form of self-expression. I relate to a lot of the formal qualities of the Minimalists, but it does come from a more personal place, my work does.”

But Reilly understands that his work is a curtain hung between his experience and the world — perhaps all art is like that. Viewers will need to be willing and active participants in its meaning. “A lot of my work is opaque and cryptic, and it’s sometimes hard for people to access.  I equate that to the phenomenon of speaking in tongues — and the idea that, biblically, one of the functions of speaking in tongues is for the public assembly. Someone will get up and give the “message” in tongues, and someone else will get up and give the translation. When you apply that to the process of art-making, I think it’s very similar. The artist is getting up and presenting this in some ways coded, opaque, cryptic “message,” be it through images, text, objects, performance, then other people are getting up and giving an explanation.”

He thinks people will access what he will exhibit. “We look for understanding. We like to understand things. We like things to fit into our categorical way of seeing the world.”

An important component of Cornish’s end-of-the-year EXPO, the BFA Art and Design Show is an annual exhibition celebrates the achievements of Cornish’s graduating seniors by acknowledging their contributions as professional artists and designers. The exhibition is May 09 – 24 at Cornish’s main campus in the Denny Triangle, and attendance is free. There is an opening party on May 9, which, if true to form, will be wildly well attended. Check this site for more details, including locations.


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