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Meet Donna Ruff

Today we’d like to introduce you to Donna Ruff.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was born in Chicago where my grandparents had a scrap paper company. As a very small child I’d go to the warehouse with my father and be fascinated, and a little frightened of all the huge bales of shredded paper. But I always had something to draw on. We moved to Miami Beach when I was eight, and by then I fancied myself as an artist.

Many years later as a single mother, I worked as a freelance illustrator in New York, Illustrating children’s books, packaging, and cosmetic ads for Lord & Taylor. By the time my son was grown, and I had some resources, computer-generated illustration had taken over, fees went down, and assignments became less frequent. I had always wanted to devote myself to my own work, so I went to graduate school, earning my MFA, and committing to my own art practice. I moved to Brooklyn in 2000, but then, after many years in the northeast, I decided to move to Santa Fe, NM, where I taught at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and enjoyed a beautiful and productive life as an artist. Four years ago I moved back to Miami Beach, coming full circle, and I love being close to my family. So I’ve moved around a lot more than many people, and have dear friends all over the country.

Please tell us about your art.
The early days at the warehouse had made an indelible impression on me, and my work is often made with, or on paper. I had started as a painter, but I learned printmaking and papermaking in grad school, which continues to inform my work. I’ve made drawings from burning, from cutting, from alternative photography methods- using existing papers and making my own too. I’m interested in pattern, text, and design, but also in communication and the lack of it. I’m somewhat of an activist for social justice and my work in recent years has been with newspapers, specifically the rapidly disappearing print editions. I work in series, and my largest body of work transforms existing front pages into lace-like constructions that bring attention to news stories, usually about women and children in difficult circumstances.

Paper is an interesting material to work with. It’s fragile, and it can be ephemeral, but can also be molded and manipulated, and there are books and manuscripts from many hundreds of years ago still in existence.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
There is nothing new about this, but certainly, the lack of affordable studio space is always an issue, especially in Miami, where developers have free rein to tear down existing housing and warehouses and put up apartment buildings. There are a few wonderful organizations in Miami helping artists, but it’s somewhat of a losing battle in the long run. Some artists circumvent the studio necessity by focusing on work that takes place in the community, or performative work. Making objects is not a definition of art anymore.

Of course, finding the time and resources to make work is difficult, and artists must have the drive and stamina, not to mention resilience in the face of rejection, to keep working. I once heard a Cuban artist talk about how they would manage to find materials despite hardship. There’s nothing easy about doing this- but there is great satisfaction in being able to make your voice heard through art.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My studio is at the Laundromat Art Space, 5900 N. E. 2nd Ave. We have a gallery, and there are openings generally once a month when our studios are open as well. I’m represented by Rick Wester Fine Art in New York, located in the Chelsea art district. He always has an inventory of my work, and I have a solo show generally every two years. I’ll be having a solo show at Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco in January 2020. Anyone who would like to be informed of upcoming shows is invited to email me, and I’ll be happy to add them to my mailing list.

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1 Comment

  1. Sara stites

    February 21, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    Very interesting to learn of your past & to see this gorgeous, meaningful work.

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