enpen: You get a brand new (still packaged chessboard, a post marked 1879 .02 Vermilion Jackson, a blue bic pen and some white 1" masking tape. What do you make of these?
Ruby Re-Usable: People are always trying to give me their junk, especially their styrofoam, I DON'T WANT ANY OF YOUR JUNK, THANK YOU!
There is this woman who lives in my neighborhood, she read about me in the "0" and started leaving me the stuff that she collects while walking around town. She is a Jehovah's Witness and so I imagine she collects it while knocking on people's doors. Odd stuff, like broken toys, colorful plastic lids, shiney wrappers, buttons, usually presented in a plastic take-out tray. I havent used any of the stuff yet, I am so intrigued by the motely collection. I just stick it on the shelf. Little time capsules. Besides, I generate plenty of junk on my own, especially living with 2 sons and husband. I specifically am into "domestic junk," stuff generated from my life as an everyday housewife, as oppossed to seeking it out in flea markets or salvage yards or Boeing Surplus. I started using plastic wrap when Marie P., who works at the Oly Food Coop, asked me if I wanted a roll that they couldn't use. It changed my life. Now I am doing life-sized sculptures out of plastic wrap and tape, also plastic bags and tape. I stuff them with bubble wrap that I beg for from downtown businesses. Its a very humbling art form.
So the above items? I would be excited about the tape, maybe I would use it for tape tagging, but a Bic pen? bleh, send me a sharpie! A brand new chess set? I've got enough chess sets, thank you. That gets passed on to some school or something. A 2cent stamp? Stamp collecting doesnt really interest me, I wouldnt even notice the postmark, sorry, I have no idea, am I supposed to MacGyver something here?
If you had super human powers, what would be your potentially fatal weakness? Why?
I would suffer from some sort of Cassandra Syndrome, where I would be able to see the truth and beauty that is hidden from the world, and dedicate my life to fighting for it, but no one would believe my visions.
I already feel like I know what is real and right but I can't convince others to listen to me. Maybe this is because I am an artist working in an unconventional media. And, of course, I am an unconventional female artist: a mother, and not young or cute or involved in the music scene. So, despite my hard work and modest success, I feel dissed, ignored, a pariah, a "prophet everywhere but in my own land." I get gigs as an artist-in-residence in Tacoma and Seattle and Shelton even, but very seldom in Olympia. Few folks own my artwork. Since I am not a painter or a potter, I cant get my work shown in the galleries here in town (my work is in the Black Front Gallery boutique, but I havent had a show there yet). It has been difficult for me to find a gallery that will show my work even though it has been exhibited in various museums like the Bellevue Arts Museum, Hallie Ford Museum in Salem, OR, Whatcom Musuem in Bellingham, and is part of the City of Olympia portable works collection (my work was on the cover of the Spring 2004 Arts Walk poster).
When you reuse an item and integrate it into a new work, how does it become art?
I dont use items that are special, that sounds more like "found object" art, which tends to be too precious. I re-use materials that are readily available and yet usually unloveable, like plastic. I started using plastic bags and plastic bottles to make doll-like figures back when these materials werent being collected for recycling yet. My signature series, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Being," started in 2000, when my then ten year old son, who was raised on whole wheat and tofu, demanded red meat and Wonderbread (he has since stopped eating the stuff).
I feel like it becomes art when it is formally introduced to the public for display. Until then, it is an idea waiting to be fully expressed. Art needs to be seen, which is why I am interested in public art and street art.
250,000 years from now Bag Lady, missing both arms, is unearthed during a highly contentious and contested dredging of coastal waters for the purpose of greater military access to the port. Her discovery causes an uproar. What are three things you hope they think about or as a result of her rediscovery? Why?
1) They wonder: What is she made of? what are these strange materials that are made from fossil fuels and don't biodegrade? 'cause she is made from (reused) plastic bags and (reused) bubble wrap and packing tape, but the question remains, why are these wasteful products even produced to begin with? Which is why I use them in my art work, to call attention to over consumption and waste.
2) They wonder: Why is she so thin? Is this the ideal woman from these times? Did this culture worship unmotherly female figures? She was cast from a size two mannequin, which is what was available to me; I have also used Kannako/Dumpster Values' plus size mannequin Brandy for another sculpture, but most mannequins have absurd proportions. I much prefer to use real people, although I cant always get real people to commit to staying still for several hours while I wrap them up in plastic bags or plastic wrap and tape.
3) They are filled with a sense of wonder about the Wonderbread and the other colorful and decorative patterns on the bags, wondering what the meaning of it is. Is this a mummy, wrapped up in the special cloth of her people? There is something slyly subversive about using junk food wrappers to make junk art. Wonder bread is the quintessential white bread, and white bread implies blandness, plainness, boring. She is part of the "Unbearable Whiteness of Being" series, in which I am exploring my whiteness.
I also did a "White Trash Wedding" series where I used lots of trash to make art that was white. It had its debut at Evergreen in 2002, which was fun. My first solo show, even though I am not a Greener.
It is my intention that my art work fills one with a sense of wonder and hope, not despair, even though waste is overwhelming, there are creative and viable solutions if we try!
Ruby Re-Usable's art is currently on display in the Art of the Written Word exhibit at the Arts Council of Snohomish County gallery in Everett until June 24.
The EnviroHouse at the Tacoma Dump is holding a group show featuring Ruby Re-Usable's art along with works by Barbara De Pirro, George Kurzman (another Olympian), Ruby the Resourceress and Holly Senn. The opening reception is June 21, 6pm - 9pm, and the exhibit runs through September 21.
Ruby's work will also be a part of Tacoma's Art on the Ave as an interactive exhibit featuring life sized plastic bag/plastic wrap and tape sculptures in a baby stroller, on roller skates, and in a wheel chair. Wheeling these sculptures around the fair will be encouraged. Some other figures will be stationary at a table with information about recycling.