Copper in the Arts

June 2010

Ginny Ruffer: Finding Art in the Everyday

By Rebecca Troutman

Copper Sculpture Music of a Leaky Faucet. Bronze, stainless steel and glass.

Photograph courtesy of Ginny Ruffner

"Art is art," says Ginny Ruffner from her studio in Seattle, Washington. "You just use what you have to make it happen." Her simple philosophy would explain why she is inspired by everything from genetic engineering to basketball's Steve Nash. "He's a basketball player, but I think what he does is art," she divulges.

Ruffner cut her teeth at the University of Georgia in the '70s, where she earned her MFA in painting. What she had around her eventually developed into her particular brand of colorful glass and lamp design art, shaping her into the sharp-witted woman with wild curls in her hair and an army of student assistants who wish to see the world through her eyes. Free to embrace individual projects during her schooling, she began painting on glass and layering it to form 2-D and 3-D pieces. The lamp builder, sculptor and pop-up book author was born.

As a 39-year old with an established career in the art world, Ruffner was nearly fatally injured in a car accident in 1991. Though doctors believed she would never walk or talk again, she says she was determined to recover her speech so that she could tell them to respectfully "drop dead" for that discouraging diagnosis. Indeed today she is working and she admits to doing a fair amount of her work over the telephone, and is famous not only for her artistic vision but for her resilience.

Copper Sculpture Mind Garden. Glass, steel, bronze, and rose petals.

Photograph courtesy of Ginny Ruffner

She is currently working on a combination of blown glass and fabricated bronze to create massive sculptures evocative of DNA. Her process of design involves practical considerations of physics, so her sculptures are hollow. To achieve this she eshews lost-wax casting for individual fabrication, creating the desired shapes based on cuts, folds and welding. "If you imagine how you can cut a sheet of paper and glue it to make a sculptural object," she explains, "well that's how we approach a sheet of bronze to create a sculpture for me."

s she looks to the future, Ruffner hopes to continue her pop-up books-what she calls "literary sculpture," and attend the premiere of a documentary about the sculptor's life at the Seattle International Film Festival in June, entitled Ginny Ruffner: A Not-So-Still Life. True to the form she has made for her life, Ruffner is always eager to find art in the seemingly non-artistic parts of life. "Something that I've never done before, that's what I want to make," she says. "I just don't know what it is yet!"


Ginny Ruffner, Seattle, WA

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