Ursula Von Rydingsvard: The Labor Versus The Idea

Ursula Von Rydingsvard: The Labor Versus The Idea

words & images by Taylor Kigar

"Moja", Ursula Von Rydingsvard
“Moja”, Ursula Von Rydingsvard

Working with thousands of cedar 4×4’s everyday, Ursula Von Rydingsvard creates monoliths from compartments. She brings together small individual pieces and somehow fits them into towering, undulating masterpieces that seem unbreakable. This physical contradiction of creating compartmentalized monoliths makes her work powerful to view, and her concepts of opposing ideas makes it equally as engaging to interpret.

"Moja" detail, Ursula Von Rydingsvard
“Moja” detail, Ursula Von Rydingsvard

Von Rydingsvard was born to a Polish and Ukranian family living in Nazi Germany. Her father was subjected to forced labor during the war until the family of nine finally embarked on a seven year journey to America. But once they settled in Connecticut, they realized that the hard work didn’t stop there. Von Rydingsvard speaks openly about her experience as an immigrant and how it has affected her work: “Our first consideration was always ‘is the family going to make it?’ It was branded in our heads. It wasn’t even verbalized, we just instinctively knew it. The only words that were exchanged were in connection with assigning labor. That working hard was the answer to life. The lesson was absorbed to the extent where I have to give myself talkings to all the time: It’s not always the hard work that does it, it’s also the good ideas.” (Interview from ART 21)

"Plate With Dots", Ursula Von Rydingsvard
“Plate With Dots”, Ursula Von Rydingsvard

It’s this constant inner battle between back-breaking work and unique ideas that is so apparent in Von Rydingsvard’s art. In Shadows Remain specifically, the show consists mostly of pieces that are roughly modeled after utilitarian objects, no doubt acting as a homage to the necessary, never ending work experienced in her childhood. In the piece, Plate With Dots, the utilitarian is combined with aesthetic, and what results is a spectacular combination of the physical and abstract that battles for space inside her head daily.

The few sculptures are housed on the edge of the museum, where one of the glass walls overlooks the courtyard. Viewing the pieces in tandem with the greenery outside frames them in the perfect environment, and the natural light pours supple shadows over the smooth cedar. Photos don’t do it justice, and this one is a must see in person.

Von Rydingsvard champions cedar for its “sensuous nature”, and always attempts to make each piece feel like “fabric in the wind”. Her preferred method of cutting is with a circular saw, and though it’s unorthodox for that material, Von Rydingsvard and her team practically perform acrobatics everyday to create monumental, completely organic works.

"Echo", Ursula Von Rydingsvard
“Echo”, Ursula Von Rydingsvard

But for an artist that works almost exclusively in cedar, Von Rydingsvard has a very peculiar relationship with it. To start, after working with the material for so long she’s become allergic and must spend everyday in a fifteen pound air suit for eight hours or more. However, the most interesting thing about Von Rydingsvard and wood is that she’s not nostalgic or attached to it. She’s actually on a mission to try and break people’s “sentimental attachment” to the material. She explains that wood should not appear in a land of elves or in storybooks for children– wood is not cute. But this is not meant to be seen as anti-green or anti-environment. When putting into perspective her constant themes of contradicting forces, her work only achieves real power by convincing the viewer that wood is strong. By making this stringent material yielding and organic, she can clearly express the battling oppositions of her life: the physical versus the abstract, the art versus the utilitarian, and the labor versus the idea– but even still, shadows remain.

Catch the show at the SCAD Museum of Art from April 15th-September 22nd.

We all March for Art March!

Desotorow Gallery abuzz over Hayden John's exhibition Manifest.
Desotorow Gallery abuzz over Hayden John’s exhibition Manifest.

Words and Images by Kayla Goggin

Another month, another First Friday Art March! This month’s Art March brought in even more artists, vendors, sights and sounds for locals and tourists alike to enjoy than ever before. Scattered throughout the downtown area and along Forsyth Park, the night was alive with live musical acts, gallery opening and closing receptions, innovative local craft vendors and great food and drinks (of course, Desotorow’s signature lemonade made an appearance!)

Hayden John in front of his group of works titled Tarts.
Hayden John in front of his group of works titled Tarts.

I started my march at the locus of the night’s activity: the Desotorow Gallery itself, which had the honor of hosting local painter Hayden John’s very first solo exhibition. John’s work radiated a vibrancy that spilled out onto the street and drew people in all night. With a strong emphasis on curvilinear line, the incorporation of highly graphic style elements, and the mixing of found objects into the paint, John’s work has a certain Pop Art feel.

An art marcher inspects the candles at Wildwood General Store's booth.
An art marcher inspects the candles at Wildwood General Store’s booth.

He spoke briefly to me about his interest in removing the hand of the artist and creating a more streamlined, mechanized aesthetic with his Orb works–arguably the focus of the show. For me, the stand-out works were from his Tarts series: paintings of women on large glass panels, experimenting with depth on an extremely flat plane and introducing foreign elements like crushed glass beads and glitter into the paint medium in a style reminiscent of Jasper Johns.

Two girls show off their crayon melt art.
Two girls show off their crayon melt art.

Moving out of the gallery back on to the street, the surf rock band Wave Slaves soaked the Art Market with energy. At the Kids Crafts area DesotoCorps member JoJo Acosta worked with children to create melted crayon art while parents had the chance to peruse the elaborately decorated vendor booths lining Desoto Ave. Leatherworkers/Designers from Well-Loved, candle-makers from Wildwood General Store, metalworkers from H&M Creative Works of Savannah and bakers from Paws Out pet bakery were just some of the diverse group of vendors who came out to participate.

A DJ spins records outside of Graveface Records & Curiosities for Vinyl  Appreciation Night.
A DJ spins records outside of Graveface Records & Curiosities for Vinyl Appreciation Night.

From there I made my way over to Graveface Records for their Vinyl Appreciation night where I found a whole new round of excellent music and oddities to check out. I grabbed a pack of 90′s pin-up trading cards and walked down to Non-Fiction Gallery to find out which artists had won a place in December’s group show. Ahrong Kim’s Disco Mind, a work that immediately struck me as a stand-out piece at the opening reception, was among the winners (which included Max Shuster, Jenny Eitel and Perry Angelora). Many congratulations to the winners and runners-up–we look forward to seeing December’s exhibition!

Several of the photos at the Sentient Bean as part of All Walks of Life, Inc's exhibit Myblock: Uncompromised.
Several of the photos at the Sentient Bean as part of All Walks of Life, Inc’s exhibit Myblock: Uncompromised.

From there, my route took me to the Sentient Bean which hosted an exhibition called “Myblock: Uncompromised”. The photographs displayed were all taken by students of the Film and Photography program of All Walks of Life, Inc. AWOL is a non-profit that provides arts and technology education for at-risk youth. This show offered a totally different mood and aesthetic than any of the others of this month’s Art March. The raw, unfettered honesty of the photos was, in some ways, a reprieve from the often intensely labored-over feel of some local shows. Any proceeds from the show go directly back to AWOL to help fund future programs. If you would like to support their cause, the show is still up and I would strongly encourage anyone who missed it on the Art March last Friday to check it out.

Artist Andrew Humke in front of two of his graphite drawings at Sicky Nar Nar.
Artist Andrew Humke in front of two of his graphite drawings at Sicky Nar Nar.

My next stop was a visit to Sicky Nar Nar to check out Andrew Humke’s solo exhibition entitled 5 Drawings. The exhibit consisted of five large-scale drawings that Humke told me are just the beginning of a whole new aesthetic for him. Blending architectural and organic forms, the graphite drawings are much more about process than concrete, examined themes. Citing the flat two-dimensionality of classical Fresco paintings as an influence, Humke is focusing on creating his own evolving symbology. It seems too early to make any sort of critique on these new works as they are just the first layer in a rich strata that the artist hopes to soon build. The next few months should bring some interesting developments for this burgeoning local artist—we can’t wait to see!

Walts & Co. perform for the crowd in Foxy Loxy's courtyard.
Walts & Co. perform for the crowd in Foxy Loxy’s courtyard.

I wrapped up my night at Foxy Loxy, sipping on their signature sangria while Walts & Co played classic folk in the courtyard. Regrettably, I missed out on the Starland Cafe ceramics exhibit Plates and Platters, but with each Art March offering up more and more events to attend and vendors to meet it can be hard to fit all the fun into just one evening! We hope that you and yours had a great time this month. We can’t wait to see you in October.

Patrons of Maldoror's Frame Shop catch up and admire the latest works.
Patrons of Maldoror’s Frame Shop catch up and admire the latest works.

Curiosities at Non-Fiction

Jill O'Brien and Trish Igo "Hoarder"
Jill O’Brien and Trish Igo “Hoarder”

Words and Images By Kayla Goggin

Last Friday night saw the opening of Non-Fiction Gallery’s very first juried show: Curious Deviations. The show deals with the theme of the uncanny in art, “both the familiar and strange, feelings of tension, eeriness, or disquiet.” Juried by the four new, young artists (three painters and one photographer) who assumed ownership of the gallery in early July, the accepted submissions are a wildly diverse offering of media, ranging from both abstract and representational sculpture to conceptual assemblages to painting and collage. The scope of artists represented is refreshing (the show is populated by works from artists across the nation, not just those based locally in Savannah) and Non-Fiction’s choice of theme, the darker side of which they absolutely have not shied away from, is invigorating.

Upon entering the space, it is immediately clear that this is a very carefully curated show–this is not to say there is an air of timid self-consciousness, but rather a bold selfawareness. Heather MacRae-Trulson, a Non-Fiction partner, shared with me what a unique curatorial challenge the show presented: a national appeal for submissions via message boards and social networking resulted in a wave of over 150 submissions from roughly 50 artists. These were eventually pared down to the 27 in the final show, chosen intentionally for their highly individualized artistic voices. Gallery Partner Sam Bryer emphasized the careful consideration the jury put into creating a conceptual environment with the artwork, coalescing with a later discussion I had with MacRae-Trulson about the importance of the relationships between groups of works in the space. Bryer said, “Every piece responds to something else. Similarly, the uncanny isn’t uncanny unless it is compared to something else.”

Logan Rollins "All Is Fair", Kevin O'Malley "First and Last Breath"
Logan Rollins “All Is Fair”, Kevin O’Malley “First and Last Breath”

Bearing these ideas in mind, I spent some time exploring the space on my own. Jill O’Brien and Trish Igo’s Hoarder is one of the stand-out pieces, its taxidermic buck head jutting out from a wall mainly populated by photographs, collages, and paintings. It is a jarring interruption in an otherwise highly lyrical organization of artworks; its presence is disturbing, thoughtful and necessary as an opportunity for the patron to experience the uncanny rather than merely observe. An object made from what was once a living creature, Hoarder facilitates the response that is at the core of the concept of the uncanny: simultaneous repulsion and attraction. O’Brien and Igo’s shiny, pastel colored tumors both invite and disgust.

Jon Taylor "Sore"
Jon Taylor “Sore”

Nearby, Logan Rollins’ All is Fair is quietly placed with Kevin O’Malley’s sculpture First and Last Breath in a clever pairing evocative of the uncanny experience of body trauma, either in the case of loss of limb or mutation. Jon Taylor’s Sore approaches the same theme in a more tactile, visceral way–one can almost feel the abrasion on one’s skin, the suggestion of a festering wound becomes a commanding element eliciting a base impulse in the vein of Georges Bataille to inspect closely while cringing from revulsion.

Throng Kim "Disco Mind", Xhenjie Dong "Pixie and the Red Cross Society of China" (from the 'Recreating Myth' series), Kenzie Jarman "Ladylike"
Throng Kim “Disco Mind”, Xhenjie Dong “Pixie and the Red Cross Society of China” (from the ‘Recreating Myth’ series), Kenzie Jarman “Ladylike”

Throng Kim’s Disco Mind, Zhenjie Dong’s Pixie and the Red Cross Society of China and Kenzie Jarman’s Ladylike deal with themes of mystery and the eeriness of untold identity. Jarman’s piece seems to offer some nebulous feminist commentary, perhaps referencing Hannah Wilke’s Starification Object Series with its similar chewed gum motif obscuring the identity or beauty of a woman.

It is my opinion that this is one of the most conceptually successful shows I have yet to see in Savannah’s independent galleries, however you’ll have the opportunity to judge for yourself this Friday (Sept. 6) at the closing reception from 6-10pm. Four winners will be chosen to have their own show in December at Non-Fiction. This is a must-see stop on Friday’s Art March; it is rich, diverse, and will definitely command your imagination.