My present work evolved from early explorations in found object mixed media assemblage, stone and wood carving, welding junkyard hardware, ceramics, plaster casting and carving. Currently, fashion and apparel are recurrent themes in my sculptural work. I use found materials to build surreal wardrobes which reflect the personality of a real or imagined wearer. I attempt to comment on various aspects of my own and other women’s experiences and perceptions of self. My work was recently in several exhibits exploring how women create identity through apparel, including the Davis Art Center, The Bedford Gallery, and the Berkeley Art Center.
My own artistic pursuits began under the influence of my mother. My mother played with her body through decoration. She scrounged thrift stores for the unusual and unique and then performed impromptu fashion shows for the family. We drew the line when it came to the blond wig, but encouraged ethnic deviations and high heels. It was a tradition that my mother and I would go junking every Sunday afternoon. We would visit a wide array of garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores in an attempt to find treasures. My mother firmly believed if she searched long enough she would find here Giacometti sculpture. I of course didn’t know who Giacometti was, but was content to look with her. It wasn’t until many years later I realized what a profound effect those Sunday afternoon outings had on my life. I was getting a lesson in art history, as well as an appreciation and love for what my mother so delicately called “junk.” Still, to this day I keep looking for her Giacometti sculpture.
In my process of making art I lean heavily on lessons learned during childhood and refer to them materially through the use of paper dress making patterns and a variety of other recycled materials. I incorporate materials traditionally associated with “women’s work” such as buttons, knitting needles, and pins into my sculptures which reflect learned activities and cultural inheritance. Within the genre of portraiture the costumes/sculptures that I design arise from a collaborative working process. I invite someone into my studio, ask them who they want to be, why, and then I start designing the costume directly on their body. I make costumes to fit an individuals fantasy persona, taking into account their favorite fashion designer, who the individual wants to be, and who I want them to be. I then work with or against that desire. The process is a balance between conscious control, unconscious impulse, rational planning and intuitive gesture. Once the costume is complete I transform the costume into a sculpture giving the costume/sculpture a double identity. Each costume is accompanied by a set of individual persona. Each accessory is created to be materially, psychologically, and emotionally linked to the costume, and of course it is color coordinated to make a favorable impression. In addition, each costume is accompanied by a portrait (altered and presented as a mock magazine cover) of the person the costume was originally designed for performing the appropriate activity.
I investigate play within the arena of fashion and facade, an exploration of identity. This play with ambiguity and intimacy is centered upon the female body which lies beneath a code (coat, coating) of symbols, sometimes obvious, sometimes hidden. At the root of every sculpture is a woman, adolescent, or child stretching for acknowledgement. The gesture I am searching for is sexual, suggestive, and vulnerable. I am constantly referring back to myself in a personal search. It is my own identity that I question and play with by exploring the gestures of intuition in a self-mythologizing act of exposure.
Photos and press release for this artist.
Residency: April 2001 - July 2001
Art Exhibition: Saturday, July 14
Daphne Ruff's website