Lee Riley MD
Mediums: Glass Arts/Jewery & Metals/Mixed Media/Sculpture
Working with glass fascinates Riley – “when the glass is molten it can be blown like gum, when warm it can be bent like putty and when cold, sculpted like marble.” Riley uses each of these phases of glass combined with its ability to reflect, refract, and bend light to create unique complex colorful works.
Riley grew up in Houston Texas where his grandmother, a well-known artist , instilled in him a passion for the arts. Unfortunately, she had lost a daughter at the age of nine to cancer. This event traumatized both his grandmother and his mother and ultimately led him to pursue a career as a cancer researcher and surgeon.
His advanced medical training prepared him for the technical portion of his profession; but not the emotional demands of his field. And since his specialty was stage IV melanoma, where the majority of his patients rapidly expired, he soon realized that he needed to recharge emotionally from day to day. Remembering his childhood roots, he turned to art. Eventually, he found working with glass fulfilled his needs; not only was he recharged, but he quickly became passionate about glass art.
With no formal training in glass or art, Riley sought classes and workshops starting at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem PA. It was his cold glass workshop with Martin Rosol at Corning Museum where he envisioned combining his interest in minerals with his glasswork. There were no instructors for this, but with his background as a chemistry major, perseverance, and luck, he was able to succeed.
In addition to “healing thyself,” Riley began incorporating art into his medical practice. Initially, he donated his art to support numerous cancer fundraising events. He made 700 glass “pink ribbon” pendants for a local breast cancer race, and now he works with a resident artist at his medical office to help patients create glass pendants during their treatments.
His first gallery show was a successful solo event with regional artists, physicians, and patients attending – the majority of his work was sold. With growing confidence in his skillset and creativity, he began expanding his work to include other mediums, but almost always with glass!
My work starts as a mental fusion of Nature’s vast minerals and all varieties and phases of glass. Conceptually these materials are worked to reflect hope, healing and the underpinning thought that “Life is a gift!” While this remains my primary aesthetic, I continue to explore other mediums.
I have spent the majority of my life learning and practicing my trade as a scientist and cancer surgeon. However, my training left me unprepared for the emotional weight associated with healing cancer patients. To become the physician I wanted to be, I needed to come to work every day fully recharged. Imagine sitting in front of a young mother, looking her in the eye, and saying “you have cancer.” My Art is about what happens next.