Originally Published,
May 2000
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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 painting overnight!"
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 photo above.)
"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.