Guest post by A.Martinez
Kate Ruggeri is a Chicago-based artist, DJ, and curator who has shown at Roots & Culture (Chicago), Green Gallery East (Milwaukee), Western Exhibitions (Chicago), and Important Projects (Oakland). She is one of those people who exudes a humble cool, yet is enthusiastic about all she’s committed to, and excited about life and the people and things in it. After a handful of years of staying in touch from afar, I wanted to connect more closely to ask Kate some questions about her life and her work before she moves to New Haven in July to pursue her MFA at Yale.
A.Martinez: Were art and making art important to you from a young age?
Kate Ruggeri: Oh, yeah. Totally. My parents were always really encouraging. In elementary school I started taking drawing classes outside of school. I won a few poster contests. I used to do this thing every year called The Olympics of The Visual Arts, which is a New York State program. Pretty much you assemble a team, work on a year long project, and then compete against other teams. When I got a little older I got really into dark room photography. You know, carrying a camera around all the time and developing film in your bathroom. My mom and I took figure drawing classes together. A lot of colleges have art classes for kids during the summer, so I was always doing that too.
Martinez: How long have you kept a journal? And what does this practice of journaling do for you and your art practice?
Ruggeri: Since elementary school. I think my first one has a little lock on it. I never really stopped. It’s actually super important, to clear your head, to drain it. I try to write every day. I feel very scattered if I don’t. For art making, it’s good for me to work through ideas and to understand impulses I have. Often I make something and I’m not sure why I made that decision or was drawn to that form. Writing brings everything to the surface. It brings clarity. Studio work is one way of thinking and writing is how I detangle everything. Not just artwise, but life wise. It’s all the same, of course.
Martinez: How long have you had your own studio space? What does it look like?
Ruggeri: After school I had a tiny studio in a building across from Moonshine on Division. It’s been torn down since. I’ve been in the spot I’m at now for a little over a year. It’s a co-op at Damen and Fulton. I moved in there after my old spot on Elston burned down. We have an entire floor that is divided amongst us. My studio’s a mess. I see other people’s studios sometimes, and they have a turntable and little plants and it’s very cozy. My place is like a construction zone. I like that better. It lets me focus on the work.
Martinez: What is a typical day in the studio like for you?
Ruggeri: Nights are better. I like working when no one is around. You can play music loud. I believe in a witching hour. It really depends, though. I usually am working on one sculpture and 4-5 paintings at the same time. If I just finished something big or just installed a show, I draw and watch movies at home. I don’t really have a routine. Ben Medansky once described his ceramic studio as being around a million crying babies. That’s how I feel in there. I work a lot in series, so I just treat 6 pieces at the same time, and then have some experiments going. Right now I have some exercise balls I’ve been sort of doodling on. Then I’ll carve on these wood paintings until my hand hurts. Then I’ll cut some wood shapes out to paint. Or dump plaster on something. It’s a mix of working on very planned pieces and experiments. Everything always changes though.
Martinez: How do you begin a painting?
Ruggeri: Putting something down, anything! I break it in. I try not to think about it too much and just get the ball rolling. Usually it’s a good color.
Martinez: You work in both 2D and 3D- how does a piece become one or the other?
Ruggeri: When I was in school I used to trip myself up with that question. I can say now that they’re all paintings. I’m a painter that has sculptural impulses. I try to feed both ways of making. I try to be democratic about it. The larger sculptures can be exhausting to make, so there is often a down period of just painting and drawing before starting one again. Material, color, and mark making can drive a piece to be 3D or 2D. Finding a good object. Seeing a particularly inspiring show of painting or sculpture.
Martinez: What artists inspire you?
Ruggeri: Philip Guston, Mike Kelley, Matisse, Picasso, Claes Oldenberg, Cy Twombly, Franz West, Rauschenberg, Joan Miro, Giacometti, Sterling Ruby, William J. O’Brien, Jonathan Meese, Mary Heilmann, Huma Bhabha, Gerhard Richter, Howard Fonda
Martinez: You have a pretty extensive record collection and DJ monthly at Danny’s. Do you feel there’s a connection between your music endeavors and your art-making?
Ruggeri: Yes. It feels very connected.
Martinez: What musicians inspire you?
Ruggeri: Parliament/Funkadelic, Dead Moon, Congos, Minutemen, Bad Brains, Robert Wyatt, Brian Eno, Miles Davis, Captain Beefheart, Sparks, Beach Boys, Lee Scratch Perry, Roxy Music, De La Soul, Neil Young, Patrick Cowley, Big Star
Martinez: What do you typically listen to while in the studio working?
Ruggeri: It’s different every time, chosen for the day and mood. But Nas “Illmatic” gets played a lot. J.Dilla, Shuggie Otis, Pastor T.L. Barrett, Skip Spence, Velvet Underground. Mixes from friends. Jorge Ben, Milton Nascimento, Witch, Amanaz are all good…
Martinez: Do you do collaborations with other artists?
Ruggeri: Sure, I’ve done it a few times. Right now I’m working on a collaboration with Alex Valentine. He gave me these plates to draw on, and then we’ll print them together on newsprint, and then use them to paper mache a sculpture. It’s great because Alex is primarily a printmaker and I know barely anything about the process. I love the idea of making a sculpture made out of drawing. A perfect hybrid.
Martinez: In 2012, you co-curated a show, “Quarterly Site 11: Line-of-Site“, at Western Exhibitions. How did you land this opportunity? What was the experience like for you? And do you think you’ll curate more shows in the future?
Ruggeri: Jamilee Polson Lacy asked me to do it. She’s been doing these curatorial series for a while now, asking artists to curate a show at a different gallery. It was great. I got to work with Alicia Chester and Karolina Gnatowski. It’s fun to be on the other side of things, and it gave me an opportunity to create a show entirely different from my practice. I really wanted to see a show of top notch performance work. Curating is a lot of work, but I would love to do it again. I think the trick is when you start to think, “Why isn’t ___ kind of work being shown? Why hasn’t someone curated a show about ____?” is when you should get on curating a show. I’m starting to feel that, but I would need the right time and space.
Martinez: You and I actually met while undergrads at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. What is something that has stuck with you from your education and experience there about being a painter, artist, or person?
Ruggeri: Something that always stuck with me is remembering how I felt there: supported, invigorated, and that changing the world was definitely possible. It’s good to protect that enthusiasm, even when you’re working 9 to 5 and feel too tired to go to the studio.
Martinez: How has your experience at Ox-Bow School of Art as student and then again as a fellow affect your art? How long were you there total?
Ruggeri: Ox-Bow. Oh, man. I first went in 2007 as a student, and pretty much tried to take as many classes there as I could. If you got work study, you just had to pay for the credits, which I needed anyway. I went three consecutive Summers and one Winter. The Summer of 2010 was great, I took a class with Jose Lerma called “Expanded Painting, Expanded Sculpture.” Not hard to see it was a big influence on me. I was really lucky to receive a Joan Mitchell Fellowship this past Fall and I was an artist-in-residence for 5 weeks. As a student, classes meet everyday. I also had to wake up every morning to clean toilets for work study. This time, as a resident, it was like being at a beautiful retreat. There were only other residents, I had my own studio, and I got to structure my own day. It was incredible.
Martinez: Congratulations on your acceptance to the MFA Painting program at Yale! What are you most excited about in starting this program in the fall?
Ruggeri: Thanks! I’m most excited about a fresh start. And making better art.
Martinez: What do you think are some interesting things happening around the city of Chicago art-wise?
Ruggeri: Ryan Travis Christian has a show up at Western Exhibitions that I need to get over to. William J. O’Brien at the MCA. Isa Genzken at the MCA. Alexander Valentine has a show at 3433 coming up.
Martinez: What are you currently working on?
Ruggeri: I’m finishing up a re-make of a sculpture I lost in the fire. It’s a harp. I just wrapped up these brooches I made for the Three Walls Gala coming up in June. Starting some new paintings. I keep thinking I need to stop because I’m moving, but I have some projects I want to do before I leave. I have an ongoing series of fake album covers, and I have a photo shoot coming up for the next installment.
Martinez: Your recent show, “Tropical Depression” at LVL3 just closed May 4th. Do you have any other openings coming up?
Ruggeri: No, thankfully! I’m moving to New Haven end of July. I’m trying to tie up loose ends.
Martinez: Is there a piece of advice, art related or not that you think of often?
Ruggeri: Say yes to all opportunities offered to you. Avoid excessive thinking about the past and future.
To find out more about Kate, her artwork and her upcoming shows go to http://kate-ruggeri.com/
All photos courtesy of the artist.
A.Martinez is a freelance art and music organizer living in Chicago, IL. She is currently working on a performing arts summer festival called The Living Loop, and will release her first book of poetry this summer.
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PLEASE NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED FOR NEXT TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 8TH AT 7PM DUE TO THE IMPENDING BLIZZARD. NOW YOU CAN STAY HOME AND MAKE COCOA INSTEAD!
My second and last, lovingly delivered plug of the day is Chicago-centric:Â ThreeWalls is presenting the first session of an ongoing series called the @work SALON. Tomorrow night, Tuesday, February 1, at 7:00 pm, they’ll be discussing alternative curatorial practices with Anna Cerniglia (Johalla Projects), Nicholas Frank (Inova), Aay Preston Myint (No Coast) and Kelly Shindler (Art:21). This is an open discussion that depends on audience participation, so if you’re interested in things curatorial, brave the coming blizzard and get your asses in those folding chairs (or on the floor, if you don’t arrive early enough)! The topic, and the speakers, all sound really terrific. Here are all the details, below.
Tuesday, February 1, 7:00 pm
In the first session of the @work SALON series, we explore alternative models of curatorial practice.
In May 2010, e-flux editor Anton Vidokle published â€œArt Without Artists?â€ in which he described the dangers and demerits of the rising power of the Superstar Curator. The polemic essay elicited a flurry of equally polemic critical response from curators and artists, thus kindling the flames of a discontent with the increasingly independent role of the curator that have flickered since the 1970s.
In this SALON session, we respond to this discussion by proposing to move beyond it. Instead, we accept the premise of the creative curator, and ask: what are some boundaries-pushing, interdisciplinary curatorial models that fully embrace all the potential inherent in that role? How has the â€œeducational turnâ€ changed the stakes for independent and institutional curators? How are curators (aspiring or established) responding to, profiting from, or perhaps even ignoring, the academicization of their practice? And what are some thoughtful ways in which curatorial practice is responding to different institutional models, as well as reaching beyond the arts institution, to address activism and politics?
Invited guests Anna Cerniglia (Johalla Projects), Nicholas Frank (Inova), Aay Preston Myint (No Coast) and Kelly Shindler (Art:21) will help to lead a discussion that will address these questions and many more.
Anna Cerniglia is a curator, visual artist, and the director of Johalla Projects. She received her BFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2006. Over the past five years, she has worked throughout Chicago to convert unconventional spaces into alternative venues for exhibiting art. Cerniglia founded South Union Arts in 2005 and has since curated for ALLRiSE Gallery, Grolsch, Buchanan Art Project, Lakeview East Art Festival, and Johalla Projects. Outside of the United States, she has worked as an assistant curator as at Berliner-Liste and as a co-curator at La Porta Blu Gallery of Rome. Most recently, she has begun working with the aldermen of Wicker Park and Logan Square (Joe Moreno and Rey Colon, respectively) to foster and promote public displays of art.
Nicholas Frank is curator at the Institute of Visual Arts (Inova) and a co-founder of the Milwaukee International. He ran the Hermetic Gallery in Milwaukee from 1993-2001. His projects and work have been exhibited at the Tate Modern (London); KÃ¶lnischer Kunstverein (Cologne); Swiss Institute, Gavin Brown’s Enterpriseâ€™s Passerby and Small A Projects (New York); Angstrom Gallery (Los Angeles); Locust Projects (Miami); Hyde Park Art Center, SAIC Sullivan Galleries, and many others. His solo and collective activity have drawn attention from The New York Times, Art Forum, Art in America, Sculpture, ANP Magazine and New City. He has written on art and other subjects for New Art Examiner, Purple, X-tra, Sculpture and Artpapers. A current project is featured at the Poor Farm in Manawa, WI. Frank is represented by Western Exhibitions, and teaches at MIAD.
Aay Preston-Myint is an artist, printmaker, and educator who does collaborative programming with No Coast, Mess Hall, ACRE, and Chances Dances, and edits an online journal called Monsters and Dust. He has exhibited nationally in San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York, and has contributed original writing as well as had multiple reviews of work in the Chicago Reader, New City, Proximity, and AREA. He is currently an MFA candidate in Studio Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Kelly Shindler is currently completing a dual Masterâ€™s in Art History, Theory, & Criticism and Arts Administration & Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 2003, she has worked at Art:21, producer of the Peabody award-winning PBS documentary series, Art:21â€”Art in the Twenty-First Century, where she is presently Director of Special Projects and runs Art:21â€™s blog. She also works with SAIC’s experimental moving image series, Conversations at the Edge. As a curator, Kelly co-founded of the Package Deals film series, whose programs have screened in over thirty cities around the world. She has curated exhibitions and programs for the Australia Cinematheque, Oulu Music Video Festival in Finland, Scandinavia House in NYC, Sequences Festival in Reykjavik, and the Sullivan Galleries in Chicago, among others.
First: Duncan talks to Chad Kouri of The Post Family collective about their new space and what they do.
Next: Duncan talks to Shannon Stratton and Elizabeth Chodos of Three Walls about their recent expansion and the six-year-old sensibility within.
Finally: Joanna Topor and Terri Griffith talk about a book. I can’t improve on Terri’s e-mail to me. “The book is called Can You Ever Forgive Me by, Lee Israel. She’s batshit. The book is great.”
Ta-Da! 164 weeks in a row, without fail, what in the hell is wrong with us?