In-Sync with Rory Coyne… (interview)

Rory Coyne

This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with Chicago artist,  Rory Coyne. Do not miss his personal recommendations at the end of the interview.

Rory Coyne is a well rounded and talented Chicago realist painter.  Not only he has control and mastery of technique but he also delivers captivating metaphors that engage the viewer into a conversation with his/her own identity. Over the years, I have enjoyed his evolving half human, half animal compositions. His portrayal to our accepted or denied “otherness” is embodied in the corporal mutation of the flesh. It is in this mythical struggle of dream and reality that one comes face to face with a great artist and human being.   Do not miss his work at “From Motion to Stillness” exhibition in the Zhou B Art Center (Opening: Feb 15, 2013).

Short Bio:

Rory Coyne is emerging as a leader among a group of dedicated painters working in the contemporary allegorical realist movement.  He entered school with an inclination toward illustration but after a single painting class his dedication for painting has only continued to grow.  He began serious study of classical master works at SUNY Fredonia, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 2003.  He then entered the graduate program at the University of New Mexico where he continued exploring and developing his love for classical, figurative technique, while also pursuing teaching.  After receiving his Masters of Fine Art in 2007 he moved to Chicago where he still keeps his studio.

While Rory has always worked in a narrative tradition, while earning his degrees the influence of myth, fable, and allegory on his work became more and more important, giving rise to a very particular kind of grandiose story telling that he pursues in his daily studio practice.

Rory’s work is represented by FM* Gallery in Chicago, IL

Art Statement:

I create allegories that speak to issues of private contemporary society. The subjects are often therianthropic, or zoomorphic, figures; some animal parts morphing into the human body elegantly, while others protrude instead. They are an extension or form of the “self”, a reflection of identity – not to be confused with spirit guides or totems. The symbolisms created within my work, stem from personal experiences in day to day living, often using animals to signify emotions and reactions in relationships.  As with many myths, the characters within my work are not subject to just one gender or physicality.  We are witness to the “common” person lifting their glamour to reveal the daemon of our minds.  My works are observations and commentaries on daily living through the use of allegory.




Sergio: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree you received?

Rory: BFA: State University of New York college at Fredonia

MFA: University of New Mexico

Sergio: Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?

Rory: I have alternating points of view on school, but ultimately I am where I am because I evolved from there.  Did it prepare me?  Again it’s conflicting.  I feel that undergraduate school prepared my work ethic the most, because of my teachers. I discovered the general  direction of the type of work I wanted to create.  I started school wanting to be an illustrator with high hopes of enticing readers into stories of fantasy and science fiction.  Then I took a few painting classes and decided it made more sense to paint my own ideas and worlds rather than other people’s.

In graduate school I continued on the direction of painting and exploring myth and narrative, while actively developing and honing my skills.  I focused more specifically on the type of work I wanted to actively pursue.

Sergio: What is one thing you wish you had learned at art school?

Rory: In both undergrad and grad school we were really left to our own devices to explore ideas and techniques, so in terms of ability I could have used more guidance.  I sometimes wish I had gone to an atelier for technical bootcamp, but my ideas developed more freely I believe because I didn’t.

Sergio: What is your website?



Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?

Rory: Myth is my consistent inspiration, but more recently it has been tattoos.  It adds another amazing layer of personalized symbolism to the model that I am completely fascinated with.

Sergio: Describe your creative process.

Rory: To get my creative juices flowing I need to read, something that I tend to forget due the maddening chaos of the art world.  I’ll stare at the blank pages of my sketchbook, which remain blank because of some creative amnesia until I realize I have not read in a long time.  Being an artist tends to get in the way of being an artist.  Once the ideas flow, it’s a matter of working out compositions and models and getting right to work on paintings or drawings.  I prefer to just do some thumbnails, rather than fully realized sketches, before going into the final piece, otherwise I’ll get bored before I even get to the final surface.  Drawings may take a few days to a week, whereas a painting can take a month to two months roughly.  It all depends on time and distractions, which there too little of on the first and too many of the latter.  The work is done when it’s done, without any science assigned to it.

Sergio: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?

Rory: Definitely both.  I find myself terribly distracted at times by it, like being hypnotized by mind numbing tv with moving shapes and droning noise.  I get caught up in my absurd fleeting jealousy of other artists and their infinitely growing likes on their work, and seemingly never ending success.  Then either I catch myself and realize the stupidity of it, or my fiancée Lauren will shake her fist at me because she sees that as me being too hard on myself. All I can say is don’t belittle a red head’s true love.  However, at the same time I love how easy it is to connect to other artists, communities, galleries, and admirers.  I have made many friends that I wouldn’t otherwise have met, and I have connected with artists I have admired since I was in undergrad.  It also allows me to share my work to wide audience, without ever having to leave my studio.  With self control I think social media is one of most amazing revolutions for the art world.

Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?

Rory: Not feeling disheartened by the extreme challenge of being an artist.  How many other careers have the qualifier of “starving?”  The amount of juggling you have to do to even just do your work is absolutely absurd.  It is incredibly hard work, and it doesn’t pay off until much later, and having the patience to accept that is hardest part.

Sergio: How much does the art market influences your art production/output?

Rory: In terms of what I enjoy to paint and what I will continue to produce not that much.  Once in a while if I feel like I need to cater more to sales it tends to slow down me down and ultimately I go back to what I actually want to paint anyway.  I do try to create various sizes of work that is a bit more salable than my larger than life canvases.

Sergio: What’s next for you?

Rory: Busy-ness! Lets just go chronologically while at the same time inducing the anxiety of listing all the things I need to prepare for. I am obviously part of the great exhibit you and Didi Menendez (creator of PoetsArtists Magazine) co-curated, “From Motion to Stillness.”  Very excited to show with these great artists, a lot of whom I have been in contact with through Facebook and excited to finally meet in person.  Then I have a studio sale at FM*Gallery on Wednesday, Feb. 27, which all work prior to 2012 is showing for majorly discounted prices (something that I will not do again).  Next is “Circus Pony” at Liminal Alternative Space in Roanoke, VA, which is curated by another fantastic artist, Susan Jamison.  Currently I’m working on a painting for the 5th Anniversary Show at Last Rites Gallery in NYC opening April 15, which I’m very excited to be a part of.  Then opening a week later at Gristle Tattoo I am part of their “Metamorphosis” exhibition, which is also in NYC.  Then I think I have a so called breather, while Lauren and I prepare for our wedding in July.  Then followed by my next solo show at FM*Gallery opening in September.  These are just the ones that have been confirmed, so it might only be a sampling of what is to come.



Sergio: What excites you and dislikes you about your local art scene?

Rory: Chicago is town with many little communities all over, with many crossovers.  However Chicago in general holds on to Mafia mentality leaving little room for growth unless you know this person or the other.  You constantly hear about the same artists and same galleries, while ones emerging claw up by nail and tooth.  It seems to cling desperately to the imagists and the predominant awfulness of SAIC.  You can see these same dinosaurs walking around in their sweatpants and beer gut accessory producing the same work they created back in the days of yore.  But at the same time I absolutely love this city for it’s community of emerging artists, art centers, and galleries.  They are open armed and supportive and fight with determination for Chicago’s art scene.  They are the future and is slowly gaining more momentum while breaking away from the Mafia, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Sergio: What is your take on the current emphasis on contemporary art fairs?

Rory: They influence who you want to represent your work, because you want them to show your work at the fairs where most of the market seems to be.

Sergio: Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past?

Rory: Incredibly tough question.  Yes I think it’s incredibly valuable in terms of a certain validity as an artist, but at the same time because of social media it is up to the artists to spread the word about shows and draw in the crowd.  However then you have galleries who have a great reputation who draw in the crowds already, so it’s a mixed bag.  I continue to strive for representation by galleries I admire and have a good reputation among both artists and collectors

Personal Recommendations:


Joseph Campbell’s series on the Masks of God

Art museum…

Well I moved to Chicago greatly motivated by the Art Institute of Chicago.  However currently I’m day dreaming about spending days drawing and drooling at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Then again how can I not mention the amazing collection of the RIJKS Museum in Amsterdam.  I could easily spend days in front of their Rembrandt collection.

Contemporary artist (other than yourself)…

Lauren Levato.  Not only do I admire her amazing work, but being with her has pushed my own art so much further.  We have only been together a year and a half, and it’s our best art yet.  Imagine what will happen as time goes on!

Now if you don’t accept that answer then I’ll say Odd Nerdrum and Steven Assael because of their influence on my work early on.

Place to be inspired by…

Any art museum that has some of my favorite artists.  According to Lauren apparently every time I go see masterworks I come back invigorated and paint better.

One sentence advice for an art student…

Read, write and draw.

Chicago cafe/restaurant…

Publican Quality Meats.

YouTube video…


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