"Drawing in Space"
Whitney Alves

Those who entered Ruth's piece titled Drawing in Space, were invited to encounter an "undetermined reality" within her euphoric and whimsical internal landscape. The installation was a milieu of delicate glimpses of nature, manifested via drawings and sketches from Ruth's past works. The elegant fragments hung weightlessly in space, transforming the once empty Kimball Gallery into an unrecognizable and fantastic vista with an unforeseen path. Each visitor experienced something completely out of the ordinary which was unique to their personal encounter. Because of this comfortable and beautiful unfamiliarity, one could approach this experience in several different ways and interpretations, making this piece completely multifaceted and multidimensional. This, to me, is the definition of a successful work of art.

Ruth's piece reminds me of the way I live my life; warily tiptoeing through with careful arrangement and treating life with the upmost delicacy that it deserves. But as I learned this summer- my first summer out of my home in Mendocino, CA, and in the de Young museum- there is an art in maintaining enough spontaneity to be distracted with life's unexpected diverging pathways; which lead to discovering something previously hidden or overlooked.

As a college student, I am programmed to plan. Everything. Planning creates predictability which eliminates fear of the unexpected. This tendency to consistently plan is provoked when I am constantly asked what my plans are, exactly, on an hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly basis. About my haircut next week. About my boyfriend of two years. About the clubs I am president of and the shows I sing in. About final exams. About studying abroad. About my honor's thesis.

About what I am going to do with my life once I graduate.

I am reminded every day of the importance to plan. I am told to plan my journey through existence with precision and diligence: in order to make the determined agenda manifest itself, as planned. Ruth knows this about me. I am the "class president" type, she says.

Though however much I plan and predetermine, there will always be an everlasting presence of spontaneity that distracts from this preparation. By working with Ruth this summer in the Kimball Gallery, I learned that life is unconstrained no matter how organized, and through all of this systematizing lays a comfortable chaos. Like my experience in Ruth's Drawing in Space piece, I know that I will find my pathway through life's beautiful and natural distractions, all on my own and unintentional, in harmonious disorder.

When I entered Drawing in Space, I immediately recognized the crooked path, but only after I was inside. This is an important factor in the success of this piece. There are several ways to view the installation which makes this work of art brilliantly versatile; from the front entrance of the gallery, from behind next to the life-size glass windows, from the side against the wall, from the top (where Ruth spend a lot of time up on the scaffolding!) and so on. For me, the best angle in which I experienced this piece was most definitely once I found the beginning of the path, inside, surrounded. This curving transition mirrored the crooked streets of San Francisco that lay just a few hundred feet outside the gallery, and also the curvy coastline of Northern California. In this sense, the feeling of traveling through a bent corridor was recognizable to those familiar with the city and California's natural landscape. However recognizable the curvy internal landscape was, on the other hand, the feeling of floating through the delicate sea of gently hung fragments in space created an entirely unique perspective.

Ruth's perforated fragments which hung buoyantly from the ceiling provided a textural dimension to her piece. This theme of perforated and dimpled texture reminded me of the copper walls on the exterior of the museum. I appreciated the ability to see through the barriers, in both of the perforated exterior of the museum as well as Ruth's sketched fragments, which presented a screen of visibility and protection. Because these fragments were not opaque, the elegant beauty of the filtered light which passed through their openings casted glimpses of color in to the space. Compared to the outer walls of the museum, braced in eternal solidity as an architectural form, Ruth created a continuously free-flowing motion to her piece by hanging the fragments to delicate strands of fishing line. This caused the strands, as light as a feather, to move naturally with the wind that passed through them. This idea is simple yet sophisticated; the fishing line was an essential tool which allowed for the overall graceful fluidity of the piece. The relationship between the fishing line and the fragments is what successfully provided the invisible space and the ability to move through it. By implementing references to California, San Francisco and the de Young Museum, and adding her own personal artistic vision and aesthetic, she transformed the space into something entirely unique and not mundane.

Ruth was careful in her rendering of the installation by leaving enough room for unintentional inspiration and free-flowing creativity as the work progressed. There were predetermined details combined with spontaneous moments of creation. Ruth composed a versatile piece that displaced its visitors within an unfamiliar realm. Concurrently, she offered an unforeseen curvilinear pathway into the ulterior reality which was not recognized outside of the installation. The undetermined diagonal pathway made itself present to those who chose to be distracted from their routine, and once they entered the piece, they were so grateful that they did.

During my experience with Drawing in Space, I realized that there needs to be a healthy amount of structure and spontaneity in order to maintain harmony, and an imbalance on either side results in failure. By living in a fast paced world, which thrives on the basis of strict organization from a personal level to an international one, it is important to be distracted with life's unexpected diverging pathways and beautiful, awe-inspiring glimpses of the natural world, however constrictive your life may be. Ruth constructed a beautiful installation with delicate glimpses of nature that formed an unforeseen path- an overall awe-inspiring internal landscape- which symbolically and formalistically reminded me of my life at this point in time.