Growing up in an artistic family, it’s no wonder Riley Bridenhagen followed suit. Surrounded by painting, photography, and overall creativity, the Bridenhagen family (Fred, Stacy, and sons Marshal and Riley) all offer something unique to the Door County art world. Most recently, Riley has created a series of beautiful leaf art like nothing you’ve seen, aptly dubbed “Door County Autumn Colors.”
Hiking is one of Riley’s favorite Door County pastimes, something he enjoys with his long-time girlfriend, Megan McCloskey. “Door County’s natural beauty rivals any photo you see in National Geographic,” Riley notes. He’s an avid traveler and photographer, most recently having spent time in Hawaii and Thailand. While hiking in Door County one autumn day, the pair came across a stunning maple tree that seemed to consist of every color in the spectrum. The couple collected some leaves that day and his creative wheels started spinning.
Shortly after researching conventional ways of preserving tree leaves, Riley came up with his own way of safeguarding both organic matter and the inherent colors. He began arranging the leaves on white background paper in a way that made the vibrant leaf colors and leaf vein patterns (venation) pop out. With 10-12 leaves in a row, ranging from yellows to oranges to reds, the metamorphosis was mesmerizing.
Although Riley won’t reveal the process it takes to stabilize the contents, he’s excited about the popularity of his framed leaf artwork. While some of the larger pieces are definitely pricey, mainly due to his time-consuming preservation process, he’s started making smaller framed pieces with only 2-3 leaves, as well as beautiful prints, making the new medium more accessible to a wider range of visitors to the family’s galleries in Fish Creek and Ephraim.
See Riley Bridenhagen’s “Door County Autumn Colors” series and his original landscape photography at Art of Door County (Founders Square, 4199 Main Street, Fish Creek; 920.868.1008) and Water Street Gallery (9930 Hwy 42, Ephraim; 920.854.5215).
-by Laurel Ciohon