Friday October 3, 2014 | by Claudio Martino

OPENING: No retrospective, Ginny Ruffner museum exhibition keeps focus on latest work

UPDATED 10/30/2014

Few people in the world have exhibited as much resilience as artist Ginny Ruffner, who has overcome extreme adversity through her will and by the sheer force of her creativity. The devastating 1991 car crash that came very close to ending her life and her remarkable artistic career, did neither. In fact, she defied her diagnosis and soon learned to walk again, and with equal swiftness reengaged her art career with even greater intensity, harnessing the power of imagination. A new museum exhibition devoted to her work opens on October 4th, 2014 at the Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama, and explores the connections Ruffner makes between scientific breakthroughs and sculptural expression.

In her "Aesthetic Engineering" series (which is also the museum exhibition title), Ruffner looks at how bioengineering tinkers with the building blocks of human existence, and attempts to accomplish something similar in the aesthetic world -- using imagination to play with reality as we know it. It is fitting that someone with such an iconic sense of spirit would be chosen for an exhibition funded by the museum's Women’s Guild to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

“They were, ideally, looking for a female artist,” Peter Baldaia, the director of curatorial affairs at the Huntsville Museum of Art, told the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet in a telephone interview about this exhibition that has been three-and-a-half years in the making. “[They wanted] somebody's work that would resonate with the spirit of the guild and be forward looking; projecting into the future. They didn't really want a historical figure, rather they wanted someone contemporary. I thought of Ginny almost immediately.”

Ruffner's life experiences have been the subject of an award-winning biographical documentary made in 2010 titled “A Not So Still Life.” The artist's Website mentions the film's subject matter, including its account of the three-car collision in 1991 that had almost claimed her life. After spending five weeks in a coma, five months in a hospital, and five years in a wheelchair, doctors were certain she would never speak or walk again. Even so, Ruffner continued undaunted. She overcame her injuries and took up drawing, painting, and sculpting as additional mediums for her creativity. Ruffner circumvents limitations by working in conjunction with a team of artists dedicated to making her vision into reality. A vision that has since grown more imaginative over time. Ruffner boasts an extensive resume, completing over 40 solo shows and having 42 permanent collections in museums across the globe. 

“Ginny Ruffner: Aesthetic Engineering” will premiere Ruffner’s newest work inspired by recent scientific breakthroughs in bioengineering displayed by fantastically futuristic-looking creations that meld bronze, stainless steel, and blown glass. Baldaia expressed how Ruffner’s newest pieces epitomized the spirit of Huntsville’s engineering background, “The work that she's currently doing -- large scale mix media work looking into this idea of aesthetic engineering, aesthetic beauty -- was the perfect match for the occasion. Ours is a high tech community, with new research institutes doing a lot of work into genetic research.”

Baldaia hopes this exhibit will attract a large audience to town, as the museum has an extensive history showcasing well-known artists. His greatest hope however is for the exhibit to go national, though states that the greatest challenge is convincing museums to put together the time and resources necessary to make it happen.

A catalog for the exhibition is available for pre-order on the museum’s website, offering a detailed look at her artwork as well as essays written on her work by Tina Oldknow (the curator for Modern and Contemporary Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass) and Samuel H. Smith (former president of Washington State University).

“I think that Ginny is an amazing artist,” said Baldaia. “She is so well identified with her lampwork pieces, but this is really where her head and heart is. I feel that this is her most original and mature work yet. It deserves to be celebrated.”

“Ginny Ruffner: Aesthetic Engineering”
Solo Exhibition
October 4, 2014 - January 18, 2015
Docent-led Tour: Sunday November 9, 2PM
Huntsville Museum of Art
300 Church St SW
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
Tel: 256.535.4350
Fax: 256.532.1743

GLASS: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for 35 years.