Interview with Ruth Waldman
q) When did you start to make art?
a)I began making art very early on, as a child. My mother tells me that when all of the other kids were using the color straight from the paint jar, I was mixing colors like mauve. At age nine, I was introduced to the Impressionists and tried my first oil painting in the style of Claude Monet. Needless to say, I was humbled by the experience.
q)Explain your inspiration?
a)What inspires me is the desire to communicate about emotional and psychological states; I use visual art to speak about my inner life. For this reason, I have been inspired by the work of the some of the surrealists and Hieronymus Bosch, all of whom worked with visual metaphors in this way. In particular, dichotomy, and the joining of opposing forces –such as male and female, angelic and diabolic, tragic and comic—has long been a theme in my work.
q) In what way does your inspiration transform into ideas?
a)I work intuitively, and often begin a drawing with a very loose mixed media sketch on mylar in which I establish a composition and the relationship between the entities in my drawings. Although my work is not figurative in the classical sense, the creatures I portray are animate and are, in many cases, stand-ins for humans. From the outset, I felt that although I wish to speak about the human condition, working purely figuratively was too literal. I look at natural and botanical life and illustrations, and incorporate this research into my work. I think it is a question of how the inspiration and ideas take on a visual form.
q) Could your ideas be portrayed in any other medium? If so which?
a)Absolutely - my ideas could be expressed in painting, sculpture, printmaking or animation. In fact, the body of drawings that I have been working on for the past five years grew out of a series of sculptures that explored similar themes. While the drawings portrayed tension, the sculptures were under actual tension. I have one these works on my website, (the last image in Portfolio One) shown alongside some drawings.
As for other media, I would very much like to see my drawings animated and would welcome a collaboration with someone in that field.
q) What does being an artist mean to you?
a)An artist has the unique opportunity to work with his or her mind, body and emotions. Few vocations call for this triad. The emotional life in particular has little importance in most professional situations. I believe that when an artist makes work that communicates on these three levels, the work is powerful and successful. The viewer will then appreciate and receive the work on these three levels as well.
q) When does your art become successful?
a)My work is successful when it communicates in the above fashion, and when the viewer comes away both with the meanings that I intended and some their own subjective interpretations. In my studio I feel that a work is going to be successful when beauty and meaning come together.
q) Who prices your work? And how is the price decided upon?
a)The pricing of my work is decided upon between myself and the gallery that is showing the work.
q) What is your next move, project, show etc?
a)I currently am working on a body of work that explores the themes of genesis, growth, transformation, decay and death. Next year some of this work will be part of a group show at the Rockland Center for the Arts in New York, and subsequently I hope to present it as a solo show at a commercial gallery.
q) What are the pros and cons of the art market?
a)The art market is one the forces that allows artists to make a living (or some money) from the sale of their work. This in turn allows many artists to devote themselves to their artistic practice. At the same time, artists often feel pressure to meet the demands of the market, which can compromise the authenticity of their work. When I go to the art fairs, it seems that too much of the work presented is following some trend or other, and truly unique works are hard to find.
q) Which pieces would you like to be remembered for?
a)I think I have yet to make the work that I want to be remember for. I hope to have a long career, and to continue to grow. Although an artist like Lee Bontecou was successful at a young age, I think her best work has been the recent body of sculpture that she has made in her “golden years.” That said, I have done a couple of large and ambitious (5 feet by 4 feet) drawings, which were artistic turning points. Overall, I would like to be remembered for the unique contribution that my body of work has made.
q) Who has been the biggest influence on you?
a)Artistically: Lee Bontecou, Martin Puryear, Heironymus Bosch, Louise Bourgeois, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso. In life: my family.
q)Other visual artists that you like…
a)Chuck Close, Matthew Ritchie, Michal Rovner, Time Hawkinson, Julia Randall, Julie Heffernan, Angie Drakopoulos, Paul Klee, Richard Deibenkorn, and Jenny Sayville, just to name a few.
q) How much do you think hype affects the public perception of what good art is?
a)Quite a lot. This is true for fashion too. One gallerist once lamented to me that too often collectors buy with their ears and not with their eyes. The public is very susceptible to marketing -- how else could there be so much support for George Bush? At the same time, “the public” is also skeptical of modern and contemporary art, even if it is has become popular. One often hears the refrain “my kid could do that.”
q) Last CD you downloaded ?
a)A CD of children’s songs in Spanish, for my one year old son….who is becoming bilingual.
q) What makes you happy?
a)Laughing with my son, a good dinner and conversation with friends, walking on the beach, dancing, swimming in any body of water, a quiet evening with my husband.
q) What makes you sad?
a)On a personal level, any struggle within the family unit. On a more global level – the senseless, daily deathtoll in Iraq and the struggle in Israel/Palestine, Darfur, etc. etc. etc. The fact that what I think makes the U.S. a great country is being torn asunder by power possessing creeps also makes me sad. Even sadder, is that I (and others) don’t often really feel anything about all of the suffering around the world, let alone about the suffering of our neighbor. Unless it affects us directly, we don’t usually take it in. So, one could say, that I regret the lack of my humanity from time to time.
q) Last book you read?
a)“A long way Gone” by Ishmael Beah. This was possibly the saddest book that I have ever read, and also very moving.
q) What else do like other than art?
a)Life is full of pleasures: traveling, cooking, dining, reading, swimming, making love, cultural outings.
q) Final thoughts...
a)We live in a time when technology can open up a world of possibilities. The internet in particular has really changed things. Personally, I am tickled that my work is able to reach people around the world in this way.
Website: www.ruthwaldman.net or www.ruthwaldman.com