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Return to: Ruth Wallen

Artist Statement


My art work centers around stories. Stories that reestablish connections, that make relationships, that kindle new meaning. My early work began with close observation of place. It was a deliberate attempt to slow down, to look and listen carefully. In response to the large scale of heroic earthworks, I began by looking at small details. I carefully defined small systems that were representative of large scale environmental dynamics. Through repeated observation of the tiny changes in these systems, by conflating time and scale, I attempted to provide an intimate view and deep appreciation of long term, larger scale environmental processes.

My work addresses the heart and mind, intuitive and analytical modes of thought. I draw from both art and science. I am particularly informed by new non-mechanistic scientific paradigms that are based on a holistic systems analysis that emphasizes form, the patterns of interrelationship, and defines the parts by the whole instead of visa versa. Furthermore, I recognize that science and culture are inseparable, while science provides tools to precisely understand the natural world, the questions posed by science are informed by culture. Through moving visual imagery, humor, or juxtaposition of disparate elements, I attempt to both explore and challenge cultural and political values that inform science and technological development.

Metaphor is central to my work. A good metaphor evokes a network of interrelationships and a layering of meaning. Metaphors help both to make apparent the qualities of existing patterns of relationship and to envision new types of interaction.

Most of my work is either site specific, responds to a particular environmental issue, or both. Additionally I often relate the political to the personal, drawing from autobiography or personal experience at a given locale. I define environment in the broadest sense of the term, and my work explores the sociocultural and political as well as physical and biological properties of a given system. Sometimes the complexity of ecological dynamics, or a particular metaphor, draws me to a given site or theme, but often times I have little idea of the shape of the work as I begin a project. My work therefore begins with extensive research. This "research" may take many forms including reading scientific literature, talking to both professionals and local residents, and most importantly exploring the site, walking, photographing, drawing, writing--paying attention to what I experience. The art work, including images, objects and/or text, arises from my exploration. I hope that my projects will provoke a similar investigation for the viewer, encouraging them to deeply experience the site or contemplate an issue, examine their preconceptions, and envision new possibilities.

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