Be careful how you look at Kathy Ruttenberg’s art. It requires you to dislocate yourself from reality and enter her world, where she defines and defies perspective, proportion and the boundaries between man and animal. Only when you accept these rules, can you fully embrace it. Follow the white rabbit.
Studying art all over the world, in New York, Morocco and Venice, Kathy now lives and works at the top of a mountain in Woodstock. Inspired by nature, travel and anthropology, she creates clay sculptures and watercolours of bizarre imaginings that exist between dreams and nightmares. Like Snow White, Kathy lives and works among her pets and muses of sorts – rabbits, pigs and animal friends – producing her mind-bending works from life. Her new show at Stux Gallery, New York, is a collection of sculptures entitled ’The Earth Exhales’, a fitting name for the artist’s work on many cosmic levels. First finding Kathy’s work on a poster and moving image piece for the Woodstock Film Festival, i-D online dropped our logic laws at the door and tumbled down the hole to talk to the artist about muses, myths and art-at-large.
Where’s your studio and what’s the setup there? My studio /my home is a mountain top fairy tale… which is the inspiration for my work. My studio is a sacred space where I spend as much time as my schedule allows.
Having travelled/ studied/ exhibited in Italy, Morocco, New York, Brazil, what is your favourite city? Where do you feel most inspired? Cities are where the planes land, I like to spend my time of travel far from urban centres… places where cell phones do not work and bed time is when the generator goes off.
I noticed there is no text in your book ‘Confessions of a Tree’, do you feel art should be explained, or left open to interpretation? I would like to find a writer but I do not want boring empty art jargon. I think if there is text it should be romantic fiction but maybe I should write something for the book. After all it is my visual diary!
Your work explores nature, dreams, nightmares and an element of fairytale and myth. How do you conjure your ideas? Do they ever scare you? Darkness does not scare me. I am a visionary it seems as I will have visions of pieces and ideas as I go about my day, being in my studio around my work often inspires visions, some of my most creative times are in an aeroplane, I like to go business class so I can spread out to do water colours. Travel is SO inspiring, for instance being in the forest of Peru inspired a year’s worth of work. Putting myself in new situations of course changes perspective.
Would you describe your work as surrealist? I try not to put my work in any category as I think this could create restrictions.
You have a lot of animals around your studio, are they pets? Muses? If a muse can double as a pet then yes my animals are muses, I wish I had a human muse as this sounds like a fun relationship to have with someone.
How do people react when they see your work? What reaction are you looking to evoke? If people are open to trying to see things from a different point of view they usually enjoy my world, if people cannot let go of their reality then the work usually challenges them, I like that a viewer needs to try to enter the work to understand my language. I do not think about how people will react while I am making the work, if it is a piece that I feel is successful I am not worried. I actually think your question is interesting as it reminds me that art is a language and to have more command I must think of how the work is being translated. I want to take the viewer on a beautiful journey into a magical world where even flowers have feelings, the anthropomorphic sensibility is certainly a mindful place.
Kathy Ruttenberg ‘The Earth Exhales’ is showing at Stux Gallery, NYC from 22nd March – 5th Mary 2012.
Text: Sarah Raphael