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Liza Ryan’s decades-long artistic practice utilizes photography, video and mixed media to examine hierarchical power structures inherent to western culture. Her work often presents a symbiotic relationship between the human and natural worlds, supporting her convictions about interspecies solidarity. Through her practice Ryan has explored subjects such as metamorphosis, transformation and hybridization while challenging boundaries and binarism in general.

Liza Ryan’s work begins with her extensive research: readings in literature and poetry, ecology and biology, religion and mythology, and feminism and the environment. The merging of these interests fuels Ryan’s process of combining disparate elements and her practice in photography is oftentimes interrupted by subtle mark-making with gold acrylic, ink, charcoal and pencil directly on the printed image. The introduction of the artist’s hand to the photograph highlights the distinctive properties of her subjects. The mark-making is also symbolic of the care the artist has for her subjects and may be found in the form of a line highlighting the winding curve of an animal or the faintness of a horizon line.

A recent series, The Unreal Real, emerged from the artist’s 2016 trip to Antarctica where she had the opportunity to explore the South Pole alongside a group of esteemed scientists and ecologists. Their interactions combined with her physical immersion into the environment activated a profound inner recalibration, as she witnessed Antarctica come alive. As a result of this experience, Ryan became committed to protecting vulnerable places and life forms, ultimately shifting the primary focus of her practice from exploring the nuances of the human condition to a deep examination of current issues through subjects that have resonance beyond their literal representation.

Ryan carried her findings from Antarctica over to her current body of work which focuses on the octopus, as subject and the vehicle through which to examine prejudice and privilege. She was drawn to this particular cephalopod because octopuses possess extremely advanced cognitive abilities yet share little in common physically with humans and other mammals, making them the ultimate intelligent “other”.  Although it has been proven that octopuses feel pain, have distinct personalities, retain memory, problem solve, and use tools, their classification as an invertebrate deems them unworthy of ethical treatment or any sort of legal protection when being studied in laboratories or being prepared for human consumption.

Ryan’s fieldwork began by interacting with octopuses and scientists in aquariums and labs around the country. While working with octopuses the artist observed: “Octopuses change color, shape and texture, they stare at you and study your movements with curiosity and intelligence, they move with fluid, hypnotic grace. Eight arms, all containing neurons, and possibly independent thinking, snake around seemingly of their own volition. They are silent.”

With this body of work, Ryan emphasizes the intellect, and grace of the octopus and aims to elevate the animal from marginalized “other” to a creature worthy of respect, compassion and awe. Ryan’s images pay homage to this complex being and ask the viewer to question the hierarchies ordering human society. What if we embraced difference and reacted enthusiastically with curiosity to those unlike ourselves? What if we put our hubris aside and considered collaboration with different people and beings a necessary step toward expanding human intelligence? These inquiries continues to fuel much of Ryan’s ongoing practice.


Born 1965 in Norfolk, VA. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.


M.F.A., California State University at Fullerton, CA

B.F.A., Dartmouth College, NH                


Antarctica, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, CA

Wind(shield), Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, CA

Rare Bloom, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Santa Monica, CA                  
Fragment, Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, Hollins, University, Roanoke, VA (catalog)

Exploded Moment, William Griffin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Spill, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, Portland, OR (catalog)

New Work: Video and Photographs, William Griffin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Motion Pictures, William Griffin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA (catalog)

Fluid, William Griffin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
G- C Arts, Las Vegas, NV

Liza Ryan, William Griffin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Surface, William Griffin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Weight of Light, Herter Gallery, University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center, Amherst, MA                         
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Witness, William Griffin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, IL
Hollins University Art Gallery, Roanoke, VA


The Creator Has A Master Plan, Diane Rosenstein Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Book Club: Going Native, Durden and Ray, Los Angeles, CA

Recent Acquisitions in Focus: Latent Narratives, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA 
Beauty and the Beast: The Animal in Photography, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA

This Side of the 405, Ben Maltz Gallery, OTIS, Los Angeles, CA
Tapping the Third Realm, Ben Maltz Gallery, OTIS, Los Angeles, CA

State of Mind: A California Invitational, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA

Biennale of Sydney: Zones of Contact, Australia

Weather, William Griffin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Contemporary Photography from The Manfred Heiting Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Soft Machines, The Brewery, Los Angeles, CA

New Acquisitions/New Work/New Directions 3: Contemporary Selections, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
The NSM Vie Foundation and the MEP: Supporting Young Photography, Soobin Art Gallery, Singapore, China
Amerika-Europa, Ein kunslerischer Dialog, Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, Germany

Portretten & Stillevens: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Double Visions: Photographs from the Strauss Collection, University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach, CA
Inhabiting, Galerie Lelong, NY

California Invitational, Ansel Adams Center for Photography, San Francisco, California; University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach, CA
TCM at 12: Recent Acquisitions, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI
Summer Group Exhibition, Galerie Lelong, NY
Self/Developed, Eyre/Moore Gallery, Seattle, WA

Domestic Pleasures, Galerie Lelong, NY
Threshold and Domestic Space, Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, Virginia Beach, VA
Body/Language, SF Camerawork, San Francisco, CA
Sig-alert, Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZ

Degrees of Stillness: Images from the Manfred Heiting Collection, SSK Foundation - August Sander Archive, Cologne, Germany
Personal Visions, Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL
Lightscapes, Nevada Institute for Contemporary Art, Las Vegas, NV
Spread, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Luminous Code, Texas Fine Arts, Austin, Texas. Curated by Jennifer Blessing, curator at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY

Current Fictions: Work by Emerging Artists, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA
Documenta, Huntington Beach Art Center, Huntington Beach, CA
Pursuing the Undocumentable, curated by Sue Spaid, Los Angeles, CA 

P.L.A.N: Photography Los Angeles Now, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA


The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France
Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA
The Rosenkrantz Foundation, Berlin, Germany
The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH