Some art seeks to capture, in stark detail, the beauty of the natural world around us. Other art turns inward and seeks to transcend the natural world, illustrating the colors and symbols of the worlds within and the worlds beyond. The artwork of Reilly Stasienko — a 17-year-old visionary artist living in Miamisburg, Ohio — falls into the latter category.
When I spoke with Reilly, she was relaxing at a coffee shop, sketching out a commissioned piece for a couple who had found her work on Instagram. After I made the inevitable — and probably slightly annoying — comments about her age, Reilly and I delved into her inspirations, her artistic practice, and how it all interweaves with her spirituality.
Let’s get this out of the way at the top — you are currently a senior in high school. Where do you go to school?
I am a senior at Miami Valley Career and Technology Center — a career school for graphic art, but that is all just for advertisement stuff. I’m not quite as into that, and I do all my fine art separately.
It is really exciting that you are receiving commission work so early in your career. Do you get a good amount of commission work?
A fair amount. I prefer people to commission paintings, but that is expensive. A lot of people who see my art are broke college students. So, I usually just do ballpoint pen drawings for people or pastels — something quicker.
I feel very self-aware and confident in my art and with myself. And, I can trace a lot of that directly back to things I have studied, like meditation and spirituality. Anything in that world has given me perspective on the things that really matter to me — art, school, relationships. That’s given me a solid grasp on some of this stuff. I definitely have a lot of gratitude.
Do you have anyone in your life who is particularly encouraging of your artwork?
My dad is. He was a lot like me when he was younger — really into art. But, he decided not to go to art school. So, he sees that artistic drive in me and is a huge influence on this part of my life.
How would you describe your current artistic practice?
I try to create art as much as I can every day. Even in school, I will try to be drawing ideas for things. I probably spend two to three months on a painting. I’m trying to do larger pieces right now. Those might take a little longer. I try to spend about four to six hours a day with art.
My practice started out sporadic. I have always been creating art, but something clicked over the past summer. I figured out what mediums and styles I really like to incorporate into my art. I would say I’ve been treading a line between expressionism and surrealism. That’s what I am going for.
Do you know the artist Alex Grey?
Definitely. I love his work and the work of his wife, Allyson.
He’s a big inspiration of mine. He and Egon Schiele, Picasso, and any abstract figure artists.
The Greys might be the most well-known contemporary “visionary artists.” What does the term “visionary art” mean to you?
Anything that reflects and empowers human consciousness is visionary art, in my opinion. It doesn’t need to be full of symbols, like an Alex Grey painting. He has many distinct symbols in his art that are very spiritual and provide commentary on human consciousness.
But, I like to incorporate that idea of consciousness exploration into my whole body of work. A lot of the concepts in my art explore this idea of human consciousness. Visionary art, to me, is anything that transcends the borders of reality in Dayton, Ohio or Cincinnati, Ohio and brings to the forefront a meditative state of mind.
Is there a driving force within your own consciousness that compels you to create art?
Yes. Two sides of the same coin — passion and anxiety.
I am in this state of mind right now where I am like, “Oh my gosh, what if I get stuck doing some advertising job and I won’t have the time to be doing the artwork I’m doing, now?” I know that is never going to be the reality, but that’s still a fear I have. And, I always feel like I’m not creating enough — which, I guess, is my definition of an artist. Someone who always feels like they need to be creating. That is a big part of my life.
And the passion part, I feel intuitively that this is something I was put here to be doing.
You mentioned an interest in meditation and spirituality. How do you engage with these subjects in your life?
I don’t think you need to sit and stare at a wall for five hours a day to meditate or anything. I think it can be incorporated into any aspect of life, as long as you approach it with mindfulness and awareness toward the energy around you. I think just engaging with the thoughts floating around your head can be a form of meditation.
Anything creative takes some kind of spiritual force. I try to incorporate thoughts like that into my life at all times. It has really helped my art blossom.