Year Graduated: 2019
Charlee Riker was born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota in 1996. Throughout grade school she immersed herself into performing arts such as theatre, choir, and orchestra. She was in several design and drawing classes throughout high school, and in her senior year she took her first photography class with her mentor and teacher, Lisa Evans, who inspired her to continue to pursue her curiosity into this area of visual art. Charlee had originally planned to take a gap year to work and travel after her high school graduation; however, a month before graduating she decided to apply to attend the University of South Dakota that following Fall. Her freshman year, she began her general education classes on the path for nursing. When the Fall semester of her sophomore year came around, she took a film photography class, which reignited the passion for art that she had discovered in high school. Charlee then decided to declare an art major with an emphasis in photography and a minor in art history. Over the past four years, she has grown an appreciation for everything the Fine Arts Department had to offer. Her junior year, she found a deeper love for art history while on a Faculty Led Program to New York. She returned to the big apple her senior year to visit professional artists’ studios to get an inside perspective on the lives they lead. This again reinforced and validated her interest in continuing her education after receiving her undergraduate degree. Charlee has yet to decide which area of the artworld she would like to study next, but her dedication to the arts will live on.
This body of work is a product of combining my passion for both photography and makeup. My interest in makeup goes way back, as my childhood consisted of growing up in salon culture while watching my mother teach cosmetology. Every week she would come home with a new hair style, cut or color, and I fell in love with the smell of acetone and hair developer. Walking into the salon was as though I was being welcomed home. Naturally, the salon continued on to spark my fascination with the power of makeup—one can completely transform into a new version of themselves in a matter of minutes. I started wearing makeup in high school after watching makeup artists such as Jeffree Star, Tati Westbrook and Jaclyn Hill. For me it was magical, becoming the canvas for your own self-expression to manifest. You have the ability to create something so unique and tailored to a specific person, allowing them to be anything they want to be. Like makeup, color has the ability to evoke emotion, which both stimulates and calms the brain. My vision throughout the process of this series was to use my skills as a photographer to bring to light the commonalities in which color and makeup simultaneously affect individuals in a space that allows them to feel their best.