Jay Riggio

Age: 37
Find him: @jayriggioart
Hometown: I grew up in Franklin Square, N.Y. But I’ve always considered Brooklyn my home.
Inspiration: My ideas come from the countless unanswered questions I have about myself and the world I live in.
Words of wisdom: There are no answers, only questions.
Go-to artists: Ray Johnson, Raymond Pettibon. Daily, I’m inspired mostly by musicians like Simon Joyner, Elliott Smith and Jason Molina.
Art of Tröegs piece: I just started cutting up DreamWeaver and came up with the idea to put a mask of wheat on this old Hollywood pinup. I ended up using dozens of those tiny stars from the label to give it some depth. There’s a lot going on there.
I’d like to grab a beer with … The person who invented Swedish Fish. It’s the best candy in the world. And if we had enough time together, I think I could convince them to send me some free samples.

They say a man’s bookcase will tell you everything you need to know about him.

Jay Riggio’s has a lot to say.

There’s Coyotes and Monarch Butterflies. Basic Microwaving. The College Basketball Book and How to Heal a Grieving Heart. Early Man. Island Life. Skulls.

A good chunk of Jay’s skinny Brooklyn apartment is buried in books. He gets them at yard sales and second-hand stores. Others come from friends and family. Occasionally he’ll fish one out of the trash.

“My girlfriend’s bummed about that.”

But it’s not the words that tell Jay Riggio’s stories.

Jay spends his days cutting and pasting, and his next piece – and the one after that and the one after that – is buried somewhere in those bookshelves. He just has to unearth the right pictures, cut them out and piece them together.

“When I started doing this, I didn’t even know there was a medium of collage. I didn’t know there was an art knife. I didn’t know there was a cutting board that they sell at art supply stores. I was using a box cutter and Elmer’s glue and tape.”

In those early days, Jay just did his thing and left it at that.

“I would go to my 9-5 job and work and then come home and make art. I didn’t really show it to anyone. I just didn’t feel like I had a place in that world of art.”

In April 2011, a friend convinced him to set up a Tumblr page. He started posting his work. People noticed.

“Once I put it out there and was getting a response I was like, ‘Oh wow, people actually like what I do.’”

Next came Instagram, and the momentum kept building. These days, he shares his work with more than 20,000 followers. In a leap of faith, he left that 9 to 5. Sure, the steady paycheck was nice. But the freedom to spend his days cutting and pasting – what he calls his obsession – holds more value.

“This is the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Art of Tröegs

It’s your turn to get in on the art. Take a piece of Tröegs – bottlecaps, cans, labels, whatever – and create a piece of art. The winner will be $500 richer, and they’ll get their name in lights when we open our brand new art gallery this summer in Hershey, PA. MORE