Bio & Statement
Ruth Brownstein Bio and Artist’s Statement
Ruth Brownstein was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew up in southern New Jersey, Tennessee and Ohio. She has a BFA in Painting from Ohio State University and a MFA in writing from Lesley University in Cambridge Massachusetts. She is a Muscular Therapist and a teacher of the Alexander Technique. She has done art for many years as well as improv comedy and a one woman show called “My Life As Seen Through The Eyes Of Joseph Campbell”.
“The only thing we directly encounter, the only experience we concretely have, is our personal life.” William James
“Everything the same; everything distinct.” Zen Proverb
For many years I imagined looking out of my window with supernatural powers that would enable me to see beyond my immediate surroundings. Kitsch and junk in home design reflects the saturation of the military industrial complex in our lives. Seeing oil fields, people without water, the hazardous waste dump where the waste from my car went – consequences of capitalism that I, in my comfort, could turn away from. During the process of this contemplation, which has been an inquiry into what it means to be present, I have experienced the relationship between what I choose to see and how I feel. I have learned that there is a relationship between buying clothing and the pollution created to ship that clothing around the world. Yet this information rarely changes my behavior. I often wonder what is required to change behavior? Are social media technologies a help in this regard or a distraction? Is truth the news we hear about war or is truth the peace of a garden? And how does this look? My art explores questions about the different realities we are presented with – what we experience in the moment and what is conveyed via our information sources. What are our references for what is true, present and real? From outer space, Africa may be a half inch away from Boston, and from my window I can only imagine the distance. The disconnect from the effect of our behavior on others and the planet is problematic to me, and for many years my work has been a way of being a witness to that disconnect.
My more recent work is similar to free writing in that I quickly create a drawing or painting with no editing. I then go back into the piece looking for images or themes or, simply, the next color or pattern to add. I cut up old work to use. I paste materials on the surface I am working on. I go back in again and again until it is complete. A story often emerges which could be childlike or more serious.
In this process, I am working with the unknown. I do not know where I am headed, and I delight in the experience of not knowing and in the immediacy of working this way with humor, color, layers, poignancy and juxtaposition of patterns and form. The immediacy also matches my impatience with myself and the issues I see in the world. I keep an emotional and psychic balance by working this way in these chaotic times. I make something beautiful, whimsical and serious all at the same time.
The common denominator in all of my work is playfulness. I juxtapose subject matter, colors and patterns, ironies, form and content: humor juxtaposed with seriousness. In much of my earlier work I was exploring what being distracted looked like in a violent, disturbing society. My current work is about being present without too many concepts of the world I see. Allowing images to emerge. Allowing texture and color and meaning to emerge
I ask myself these days how I might merge my concerns that appeared in much of my early work with a desire to explore the unknown. The answer may lie in the fact that no matter how present I intend to be, I see the world in pictures. Whatever I create is my mirror. I understand my experience through my work. I see what I am thinking by looking at a finished piece. I continually question what I take for granted, what I call reality and what I call the truth.