Written by Betsy Abraham Saturday, 05 October 2013 00:00
It began with a crucifix.
Alice Riordan was at St. Mary’s in Roslyn when she saw a crucifix by internationally renowned sculptor George Gach. She was inspired by the beautiful piece and decided to take Gach’s sculpting class. Now, 35 years later, Riordan has a
career making beautiful, intricately detailed clay sculptures.
“I fell in love with the medium,” Riordan said. “It’s very forgiving and easy to work with.”
Next month, several of her pieces will be on display at the Seven and Seven exhibit at LIU Post at the Hutchins Gallery in the Schwartz Library at LIU Post. The Seven and Seven show features seven local painters and seven local sculptors.
Riordan is no stranger to the arts, getting started in elementary school when a teacher noticed her skills and told her parents to find an art teacher. She worked with a painter in Garden City from seventh grade until college and then began her career teaching art at Merrick Avenue Middle School.
She spent her early life focusing on painting, but loves the three-dimensional aspect of sculpture.
“It’s so different than drawing and painting because drawing and painting is an illusion. You’re only looking at your model from one direction. Sculpture is real,” Riordan says. “It’s tough to get a composition because you have to get a wonderful composition all the way around -— from the back, the front, the side — it all has to work.”
Riordan makes the clay sculptures in the basement studio of an Old Westbury house she has called home since she was 16. She hires a model to pose and says though she sometimes starts a sculpture with a specific goal in mind, it may end up taking an entirely different direction.
“It always ends up where I want it to be at the end,” she said. “It could change midstream, because of a tilt of the head or feeling I’m having. It just happens and goes right into my hands. Sometimes you don’t even know how you’re doing something until you have to explain it.”
The vast majority of Riordan’s sculptures focus on the body. Riordan says she has always been fascinated with the human figure, especially female forms. Her works stand apart from others not only in the intricate detail, but in how real the anatomy looks, from the curve of the hips to the crease of an eyelid.
Riordan says that more than doing a reproduction of a specific woman, her sculptures are intended to evoke an emotion.
“I’m really involved with the spirit of women,” she says. “It’s not a portrait of one specific woman, it’s our nature. I want to evoke a feeling.”
She says that she gets her inspiration from everyday life --—whether it’s a pose someone’s sitting in, an expression, or an emotion she’s feeling. She’s consistently thinking of new ideas for sculptures, as well as new ways to sharpen her skills. She is continually taking art classes and recently began painting again after a 30-year hiatus.
“I’m passionate about the arts and anything I can do with them,” she says. “And it has been an amazing life because of it.”
From October 6 to 31, Riordan will have several of her pieces showing at the Seven and Seven exhibit at the Hutchins Gallery in the Schwartz Library and LIU Post. The Seven and Seven exhibit features seven local painters and seven local sculptors. For more information visit www.sevenandseven.org.