Lecture Review written by Charly Swing
Kathy Ruttenburg is extremely prolific. Her work is child-like, provocative, engaging and filled with symbolic imagery influenced by life experiences, her menagerie of animals, the seasons and her natural environment. Kathy's background is figurative watercolor painting and to this day she "sees in watercolor", but she works in clay because it is a medium which, as her first ceramics teacher at Village House Pottery freely told her, allows her to do anything she wants. She finds the texture and surfaces of clay to be seductive, "Earth and fire mixed into a cocktail of emotions!"
From Kathy's visualizations she creates fairytale worlds where everything imaginable is possible. When she moved from New York City to her country home her vision shifted away from detached imagery using minimal colors of grey, brown-red and ochre to vivid and lively expressions incorporating animals, trees, and mixed media. Within a short period of time her father passed on and her marriage ended, so she funneled the anger and despair into her clay work. To her surprise the pieces were approachable and "kind of pretty". With that a fountain of expression flowed from her dark misery and her work grew exponentially.
One moment in time was when she agreed, against her gallery reps' advise, to show her art in a flower shop, "The perfect environment for my work. And besides, the shop was right next door to the home of the woman that owns Macy's." Surprisingly, the resulting commission was one of my favorite installations of her work, mixed media ceramic-tree women floating amongst and juxtaposed against fashionably perfect and static mannequins within a sparse environment.
There truly are no limits to Kathy's enthusiasm to tell her stories and make art without boundaries. In addition to continually developing her visual language and interests, Kathy is making her fairytale imagery into light fixtures, jewelry, salt and pepper shakers, toothbrush holders, wallpaper, rugs and murals constructed from bathroom tiles. Who knows what will be next. As instructed so many years ago, Kathy makes anything she wants. And she's "Having fun!"
[ Watch the lecture from the New York Academy Art and Culture Fall Lecture Series at http://nyaa.edu/nyaa/art_and_culture/index.html ]