catalog essays

Exactly when I first saw Ruth’s drawings and paintings in the flesh is vague, but I can still feel the resonance and rush of a subtle and very moving show at Haverford College in 2002. And that was also the first time I met Ruth.

Intimate in size, the images reached out compellingly beyond the surfaces on which they were drawn and painted, and the hand revealed there said a lot about the nature of her felt response before nature.

Ruth’s work entered my visual life slowly, but after the Haverford show I wanted to see more, and the paintings later exhibited at Lohin Geduld gallery in Chelsea left a residue of memory that didn’t evaporate quickly.

A collector friend in NY acquired a few paintings from the first show at Lohin Gallery and I often sat quietly with them in his apartment and saw much there that at the time spoke directly and tangentially to my own emergent questions in paint.

Ruth’s eye and hand are accomplished and precise, like I’m in the presence of a knowing and seasoned artist and yet, the canvases convey no sense of having arrived, nor any evidence of the mannered certainty that so often comes with figuring out who one is. Each painting feels fresh, shaping its own conclusions, and the color complexions are nuanced and very personal.

Take the painting Enamel Jug Still Life, which I remember seeing either at a show at the New York Studio School or the exhibit in Western Connecticut along with Andrew Forge’s paintings four or five summers ago. I’ve shown it in classes for years now, and I never tire of looking at in in real life or in reproduction. Of course, though, reproduction cannot compete with seeing it in the flesh.

Evident in how Ruth uses her brush, the complex tension between the painter and the painted is really what the painting is about. I’m thinking of both the material sense of tactile touch—how her brush leaves its footprint, and also a more conceptual kind of touch related to intentional choices of drawing and design within the abstract narrative.

A sense of slow dialogue always seems to be at the center of the painting, asking the viewer to also pay attention with care and to move slowly. For me, the experience is not only about coming closer to the formal reality of the painting, but I’m also made acutely aware of how I am asked to watch myself watching, and that in fact I’m invited as a participant into the grip of a spell that will not let go, nor do I want it to.