|Deena Des Rioux:
New York, Paris & The Big Woods
By Michael Evans
Originally published May, 2000
A rainbow hovered over Kalispell, Montana on May 5, 2000
as Deena Des Rioux (right) began her reception for the "Robotic Portraiture" show
at the Hockaday Museum of Art. Philippe Des Rioux (left) kept his camera rolling,
as Deena fielded questions from one and all.
(Photo-Collage by Michael Evans)
Deena Des Rioux started, as planned, wired for sound and chatting
with visitors. The lovely, echoing, wooden ambience defeated all
efforts to eliminate feedback in the sound system, so the reception
mutated into a lecture-demonstration. During the course of questions
and answers, a conversation developed between Deena and the audience
about her career, and her still-futuristic works.
"Adversary? Proponent? My view of technology is: 'what if?' "
She waved her hand around the North Gallery. It's anybody's guess
if I'm an advocate or an opponent. If I went on, I'd be saying
it twice -- but I try to do it with humor."
"Do you expect a computer to be magical -- to do this stuff by
itself?" she spoke of her digital medium. "I had a strong background
in the visual arts … learned how to do this in an hour … and stopped
The subject hopped around from the business of art: "Never let
a lead drop! What spare time? I spend an equal amount of time
promoting and doing my art -- that's an improvement -- it used
to be 2/3 promoting and 1/3 art!" To feminism (briefly), to the
never-revealed age of the artist: "People try to accept or reject
you based on age -- You don't like the work? That's OK -- dismiss
it on THAT basis, then!"
Deena talked fast, unless she speeded up:
Someone asked, "Does the art lead you as it goes?" She said "Sometimes
-- it happens."
"Do you model from a live person?" She said, "I don't hire models
-- we do each other favors." She mentioned her friend Esther Grillo
again, and pointed behind her right hand to an African character,
"This is me! (The audience thought -- huh?) A combination of Grace
Jones and ME!"
She mentioned other digital artists like Gary Hill, and Cindy
Sherman, "A precursor -- she gave me the inspiration to go ahead
and do a montage."
The issue of counterfeiting came up -- "Do you want to hear the
story?" she asked, and everyone did.
In brief, when she visited an exhibition in 1994 at the Museum
of American Art in New York, she saw one of her own pieces presented
as a still video. (Coincidentally the image is behind her in the
"I took out my (business) card and showed it (to the offending
artist), mentioned that it was published in four catalogs, and
he said 'See you in court.'"
She told how she saw the museum director, who said "I'm sure it's
just a coincidence."
The heat was up in her story -- she told of letting neighboring
galleries know about the situation. When she went back to the
Museum of American Art, "It was gone."
She cautioned all artists to copyright their works even though"
"The Library of Congress is overwhelmed with stuff!"
After many twists and turns the conversation looked to the future:
"There's a holographic type of technology in the commercial sector
that I want to bring into the Fine Art sector -- people actually
think an object is there, but right now 8 to 9 inches is the largest,
and if you want to WOW somebody, you can't do it that size." (She's
thinking more like 36 inches.)
The evening later broke up into dinner and individual discussions.
The next day started as workaday documentation in the Hockaday
for Deena and her husband Philippe, but ended up with an auto
tour of Glacier National Park in the late Spring, guided by Art
Sedak, and greeted by a family of bears.
"We had quite an adventure!" she said over the phone.