If Idyllwild is a top-100 art town, Richelle Gribble, raised in Idyllwild, is the poised and precocious product of that milieu. At 24, she stands on the cusp of becoming a major voice in art and social entrepreneurship.
A 2009 graduate of Idyllwild Arts Academy, Gribble received the Richard H. MacNeal Award for Outstanding Graduating Senior, an honor that recognizes the graduate with the best record in both academics and art. In 2013, Gribble graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor of fine arts degree with minors in social entrepreneurship and marketing. She was one of only eight graduating seniors, and the only arts major, to be selected to give a TEDxTrousdale (TEDx for USC students) talk about her passion for art and social interconnectivity “What is Our Role Within a Networked Society?” is Gribble’s examination of how social interconnectivity transforms communities, influences and supports happiness and informs her artistic pursuits.
Gribble is currently based in three art destinations: Idyllwild, where she is again teaching at IAA; in Berkeley, where she is the youngest recipient of a Kala Fellowship Award; and in Seattle, where she is opening an art and science workspace with aerospace engineer Tim Ellis to explore the interface between art and technology.
The Kala Fellowship program is an annual international competition that grants eight artists cash awards, unlimited access to Kala’s Berkeley facilities, including a private studio and a show at the Kala Gallery. Gribble’s largest and most ambitious work, “Overview,” an 8-foot-by-18-foot mixed-media piece, is currently on exhibit at the Kala Gallery through Sept. 30. Gribble also is featured in a solo exhibition called “Wonder and Wander” at Lynnwood Gallery in Lynnwood, Washington, with a collection of her work that explores the intersections of art and science.
Inspired by John Cocteau’s belief that “art is science in the flesh,” Gribble’s exhibit combines natural, technological, social and material content to depict whimsical moments, alternating between magic and reality, both physical and psychological.
Gribble’s passion at this point in her career is to explore social connectivity, specifically as found within networks, both virtual and biological. “I like to weave in technology, connecting disparate topics — people, imagery and objects,” she said. “I use art to explore connectivity. For instance, a cracked pattern in pavement could replicate the patterns of a neural network.” Gribble notes that becoming aware of network patterns that exist in nature is a way to better understand and connect with virtual networks.
It is those interstices between biological and virtual networks that inspired “Overview.” She wanted to demonstrate that virtual networks mirror the natural and biological networks that connect us. “My piece was inspired by Frank White’s idea in the ‘Overview Effect.’” White wrote of the shared experience of astronauts seeing the Earth from space and how that affected them, causing them to see the Earth as a place of indispensable interconnectedness.
Gribble’s “Overview” incorporates arrays of networks, including molecular structures, social networks (icons for Wi-Fi, Facebook, Twitter, email), ants climbing through tunnels, satellites, foam, cars in traffic, rubber bands and celestial systems to show how we are inextricably connected and networked together. “There is research by neurologists that each tweet or Facebook post produces dopamine in our brains,” she noted. “It makes us happy to be connected.”
As is common with Gribble, her artistic explorations also are physical and intellectual journeys. In the process of creating “Overview,” she explores how the virtual networks connecting us may also be separating us. “I’m finding that contradiction with virtual connectivity,” she said. “It’s something I’m seeing as a result of having created this piece.”
As to the physical journey, Gribble explained that in creating a work of this size, she has had to journey from the micro (close up) to the macro (distance) to produce the piece — to execute the individual components in minute detail and also have them read as a cogent piece from a distance, the perspective of her audience.
If anything characterizes this young artist and intellectual, it is her optimism and her belief that connection is our shared goal as a species. “I have to connect,” she said. “I go stir-crazy creating in a solitary space. It is when I can show my work, that an audience can see it, experience it and comment on it, that my work and my life have meaning.
“Perhaps I’m now more hopeful,” said Gribble. “Creating ‘Overview’ has helped me to experience that it all weaves up into one thing — Earth, community, happiness, God.”
For more about Gribble, visit www.richelle-gribble.com.