Art philosophy lecture, artist talk planned at Upstairs Artspace

Published 12:35 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

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“Wow, just wow!”

“Amazing show. Unbelievable work.”

“Belongs in a museum!”

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Reactions to Kristi Ryba’s show, “Like an Epiphany,” on display through May 24 at Upstairs Artspace in Tryon, have been laudatory. Due to the community’s interest in the show, the gallery has planned two free and open-to-the-public events for the last week of the exhibition. 

The first is an art philosophy lecture on Sunday, May 19, at 3 p.m., titled “A Philosophical Look at the Socially Conscious Paintings of Kristi Ryba.” Led by Deborah Fitzgerald, PhD, the discussion will examine how Aristotle’s view of the purpose of art fits with Ryba’s vision. Fitzgerald will also examine the philosophical debate as to whether art should ever be political and look at Marx’s claim that all art is political. She plans to discuss how Ryba’s work connects with that of other artists with similar visions, including Raphael, Giotto, Shepard Fairey, Barbara Kruger, John Heartfield, Picasso, and many others. 

The second event is an artist talk on May 24, the last day of the show. Since Ryba was unable to attend the show’s opening to deliver an artist talk, she will be present for a closing reception from 5-7 p.m., with a walk and talk beginning at 5:30 p.m. In her talk, she will discuss her motivation, methods and processes, and other reflections on her stunningly detailed, politically reflective works. 

Ryba’s 18-piece show in the gallery’s lower level includes paintings of current and past political figures depicted in the style of paintings and manuscripts of centuries ago, done in gouache or egg tempera on vellum with gold leaf. 

At first glance, the viewer might mistake the personages for Renaissance European royalty, religious figures, or grand images common to Medieval artwork, iconography and altarpieces. But upon closer examination, the people depicted are U.S. political leadership, dressed in the costumes of Renaissance life, placed in environments reminiscent of centuries-old illustrated manuscripts, and accompanied by calligraphy quotes and shimmering gold leaf. 

RSVPs are not required, but if you register through the gallery’s Events tab on, you will receive an emailed reminder closer to the date, and you can add the event to your electronic calendar. 

Upstairs Artspace is located at 49 S. Trade St., Tryon. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 12-5 pm. Call 828-859-2828 or visit for more information.