Creativity: The Flowering Tornado: Art by Ginny Ruffner. (Learning from Exhibitions)

By Johnson, Mark M. | Arts & Activities, June 2003 | Go to article overview
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Creativity: The Flowering Tornado: Art by Ginny Ruffner. (Learning from Exhibitions)

Johnson, Mark M., Arts & Activities

The creativity behind Ginny Rufner's art is a direct reflection personality and character of the artist. Few artists over the course of a care have so closely used his or her own life experiences and personal philosophy to develop a variety of themes and to present ideas straight from the heart. Her concepts have evolved over decades and often are presented in a monumental style and scale that cannot be overlooked. Her works, whether made of glass, bronze or installation materials, are extremely personal and passionate.

Creativity: The Flowering Tornado, Art by Ginny Ruffner, is a project that has evolved over many years. Components of the exhibition, installation and publication can be traced to concepts and objects, achievements and aesthetics, considered by the artist many times in the past. Thus, this exhibition presents lampworked glass sculpture from the last 20 years alongside her newest installation of large-scale sculpture, which includes many familiar motifs such as a flying tornado, animal trap, flower, heart, arrow and chains. Each of these objects refers to a specific symbolism involved in the creative process.

A distinct component of this project is an exhibition pop-up book that entertains and educates the viewer/reader with paper-engineered objects mirroring those in the show and accompanied with text by the artist. Here we learn firsthand that chains suggest that we shouldn't get tied up in the small stuff. A flower reminds us that "every concept or thing is beautiful in some way," and that recognizing beauty in everything requires awareness.

The trap tells us to avoid the trap of fear. "Fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of the unknown are all traps for your creativity." An arrow encourages us to put our will into action, "in other words--make it happen." The tornado is the unstoppable force and opportunity of creativity, which "exists in every situation, in every response, in every person."

Over time, Ruffner has incorporated dozens of different objects as the centerpieces for her sculptures. As suggested, sometimes a singular motif conveys an independent message, while in other sculptures, items are grouped to form a glass still-life sculpture whose parts combine to offer the meaning. Whatever the case, Ruffner's artworks are technically sophisticated, visually stunning, and filled with wisdom, wit and whimsy.

Ginny Ruffner graduated from the University of Georgia in 1975, with a degree in painting and drawing. Soon after, she landed a position with Frabel Studios, where she learned how to flamework glass. In 1984, she taught the first flameworking class offered by The Pilchuck School of Glass and, the following summer, moved to Seattle.

In 1986, inspired by Marcel Duchamp's masterpiece, The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even, Ruffner discovered a way to meld her education as a painter with her training as a flameworker. She began to see her sculptures as canvases for her thoughts. Her work took on a joyous, narrative quality that captured the attention of art critics and collectors alike. Her work graced the covers of glass publications and was featured in major exhibitions in top galleries and major art museums in America, Europe and Japan.

In December 1991, she was involved in a life-altering traffic accident, which left her in a coma for five months. When she awoke, her identity had been erased. Ruffner had to relearn everything, from her favorite color to who she was as an artist.

Amazingly, she returned to her art only seven months after the accident that nearly killed her. With the aid of her team, she has continued to create her painted flameworked sculptures, but with themes that reflect the unexpected turn her life has taken. Rather than dwell on the tragic circumstances of the accident, Ruffner sees it instead as a challenge, one that she celebrates as she meets the day-to-day rigors it dictates.

Many artists have aspired to walk in her footsteps, but Ruffner stands alone among flameworkers.

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