Moldy Fruit Sculptures Formed From Precious Gemstones Challenge Perceptions of Decoration and Decay

Bad Lemon (Creep)” (2019). All images courtesy the artist and Josh Lilley, London. Photographs by Lance Brewer.

Artist Kathleen Ryan creates a conversation between the beautiful and the grotesque in her oversized sculptures of mold-covered fruit. The New York-based artist uses precious and semi-precious stones like malachite, opal, and smoky quartz to form the simulacrum of common green rot on each fruit. Working at a larger-than-life scale, Ryan creates a foam base, rudimentarily painted to map out the fresh and rotten areas on the surface. She then individually places each gemstone, with varied shapes, sizes, and colors that emulate the shift from desirable to disgusting. Lemons are a particular favorite, but Ryan also works with oranges and pears, with each work scaling 6 to 29 inches. “The sculptures are beautiful and pleasurable, but there’s an ugliness and unease that comes with them,” Ryan told The New York Times.

Ryan is represented by London-based gallery Josh Lilley, where she had a solo show in 2018. This year, Ryan exhibited her work in solo shows at The New Art Gallery in Walsall, U.K. and at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as part of Desert X in Coachella, CA. The artist studied Studio Art and Anthropology at Pitzer College and received a Master’s of Fine Arts from U.C.L.A. See more from Ryan’s wide-ranging artistic practice on Instagram, and explore more of her work on the Josh Lilley Gallery website.

“Soft Spot” (2019), amber, amethyst, rhodonite, rose quartz, serpentine, tree agate, jungle jasper, smokey quartz, garnet, agate, turquoise, olive jade, bone, pink lepidonite, glass, steel pins on coated polystyrene, 6 x 8 x 6 in

“Emerald City” (2019), amazonite, onyx, quartz, rose quartz, turquoise, emerald, jasper, serpentine, smokey quartz, olive jade, fluorite, amethyst, tree agate, Ching Hai jade, lapis lazuli, agate, Russian serpentine, marble, ruby in zoisite, abalone shell, bone, coral, freshwater pearl, glass, steel pins on coated polystyrene, 18 x 29 x 20 in

“Emerald City” (2019), alt. view

“Emerald City” (2019), detail

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“Serpentine Flurry” (2019), serpentine, onyx, quartz, rose quartz, rhodonite, jasper, unakite, smokey quartz, amazonite, sesame jasper, olive jade, fluorite, lodolite, amethyst, tree agate, Ching Hai jade, lapis lazuli, agate, Russian serpentine, marble, ruby in zoisite, abalone shell, bone, coral, freshwater pearl, petrified wood, glass, steel pins on coated polystyrene, 23 x 25 x 25 in

“Bad Lemon (Sour Sparkle)” (2019), serpentine, aventurine, labradorite, rhodonite, rhodochrosite, pink aventurine, rose quartz, black onyx, citrine, unakite, tektite, smoky quartz, quartz, carnelian, limestone, pink lepidolite, tree agate, red agate, grey agate, black agate, breccicated jasper, hematite, mother of pearl, bone, freshwater pearl, 19 3/4 x 20 x 29 in

“Bad Lemon (Sour Sparkle)” (2019), detail

“Bad Lemon (Creep)” (2019), amazonite, aventurine, black onyx, Italian onyx, turquoise, labradorite, carnelian, ocean jasper, sesame jasper, serpentine, fluorite, Ching Hai jade, snow quartz, magnesite, agate, breccicated jasper, rhodonite, rhodochrosite, red agate, garnet, tree agate, rose quartz, amethyst, lilac stone, limestone, marble, mother of pearl, bone, freshwater pearl, glass, steel pins on coated polystyrene, 20 x 20 x 28 1/2 in

“Bad Lemon (Creep)” (2019), detail