There is a lot happening in Kathy Ruttenberg’s figurative narrative work. Noted in the review of her work in Ceramics Art and Perception by Janet Koplos, the overture of fairy tale whimsy is quickly changed to a darker and bloodier take on relationships between the subjects. Koplos’ review was not particularly energizing, and somewhat echoed my initial reaction, but I kept coming back to the images, intrigued, so I went looking for other perspectives. At ArtsObserver.com I found another review, which was equally perplexed but willing to suspend that uncertainty and take in more of what there was to offer. (http://www.artsobserver.com/2012/05/11/kathy-ruttenberg-despite-appearances-the-earth-exhales-is-no-fairytale/)
As I have been working through the narrative pieces I have been pursuing the past two semesters, two things have become very apparent to me: 1) I am unexpectedly a huge fan of the dichotomies between beauty/ugliness, love/hate, dependence/independence, dominance/submission, agency/forgiveness, and all of the grey and overlapped areas these things inhabit, and 2) I need to let go of my inner resistance to non-literal figurative sculpture.
These two realizations become particularly clear in relation to Kathy Ruttenberg’s work. Her play with/manipulation of “normal” relationships in the sculptures embody a lot of what I love about those grey areas. Who is the care-giver? Who is the dominant force here? What transpired to create this havoc? Is there beauty under the chaos? How can something that could be so sublime become so unsettling? I am still digging through Kathy’s portfolio, and hope to find further explanation as I go.
Addendum: Actually, I hope I never find any answers, and can just keep thinking about this.