The Sound of Trees
19 September 2015 – 7 February 2016
Dallas artist Linda Ridgway (b. 1947 in Jeffersonville, Indiana) manipulates molten bronze and applies carefully considered patinas to create seemingly fragile and ethereal objects. Themes and subjects related to nature, femininity, memory, tradition, and literature are incorporated into her sculptures as well as her two-dimensional works.
As one of Texas’ most recognized and admired artists, Ridgway utilizes her talents and creations combined with her interest in poetry to create a poignant installation of new work in the OJAC’s Cell Series.
The Cell Series presents the work of living artists within the “challenging” upper galleries of the historic 1877 jail structure. Sustaining the passion of the OJAC founders in supporting and exhibiting contemporary artists, visitors encounter works by artists that attempt to interpret and translate the world we universally experience with often surprising and enlightening results.
Linda Ridgway Interview with Patrick Kelly (August 2015)
PK: You have mentioned, in other correspondence, literature and its influence on your work. Can you speak generally about this with maybe a few specific examples?
LR: While trying to answer your first question, I came across a review by Susie Tommaney for Joe Havel. Her opening line was, "Artists and poets often look to each other for inspiration; there is an energy to the abstract concepts found in each discipline that allows creativity to flourish." This energy is my muse.
Other sources that describe my link to literature are: The press release written by Morgann Trumbull for my last show, The Grand Anonymous, at John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco. [http://www.berggruen.com/exhibitions/linda-ridgway_2]
As well as, my artist statement on my website which describes my link to poetry as a place to find that creative spark. [http://www.lindaridgway.com]
My mother introduced me to the great poets such as Dickinson, Longfellow and especially Robert Frost. This show for the Cell Series will demonstrate my lineage from childhood memories to the planting of lines with words. It is also a demonstration to the anonymous women who used thread to bind their families together.
The title of this exhibition is The Sound of Trees. This title comes from a poem by Robert Frost that I first read in 2010. The graphite drawing Frost’s First Line is the first line from the poem Sound of Trees. I have used three first lines from the poetry of Frost, two of which will be included in this show. The poem, The Sound of Trees will hang somewhere in the exhibition space along with a small reading table to share some books of my favorite poets.
Another piece that will be represented in the show is Little Bear. The idea for this piece came several years ago while I was reading the children's book Little Bear to my grandson, Quentin. It is a beautiful book about a mother's love. I read this same book to my sons thirty years ago and found it again for my grandson. Let's face it—I am a romantic.
PK: How do the images manifest themselves that will become artwork? Regarding the ones related to Frost, do you see images as illustrative or more of a translation or interpretation?
LR: When I was a little girl, I stayed every summer with my father's mother on the farm. We had great times together from feeding the chickens to planting her special gardens. There were fields of corn, hills of hollyhocks and the mysterious sinking hole. Grandmother always said to stay away from the sinking hole, but as a child that meant how close could I get to it. I once watched a large cook stove sink into the earth one summer.
These memories of my childhood have always been a part of my art process. For me, making art is like a chain reaction with each work leading to the next and to the next. It is a series of thoughts that ask more questions to be answered. An artist is a curious soul looking into that special sinking hole.
To answer your question regarding how my drawings and sculptures manifest themselves there is always a trigger. This trigger or muse can be a memory, an article of clothing, a poem or a walk in the woods. An example of a memory trigger in this exhibition is the drawing Brother (11-A). This drawing began as a gift from a friend. It was a christening dress belonging to his younger brother who had passed away when he was only a year old. It took me two years to use this simple garment. I am stating the time of germination because art takes time. The Brother drawing is about loss, continuation and the beauty of life's cycles. This work is not an illustration but a translation in time and place.
PK: I see your work as containing, or building on, a sense of sentiment but not being overtly nostalgic. Do you consciously have to be careful not to take the work too far toward one or the other?
LR: The answer to your question is yes. I often feel that I am on a tightrope trying to find a balance between memories and materials. I am always searching to find a way to convey the aesthetics that I feel are necessary to complete my intentions.
As artists, we are always searching for the magic, looking for the subtleties or surprises in our work. A drawing in the exhibition I Dwell is an idea turned on its edge. Instead of the cliché "Home Sweet Home," this crocheted drawing/print is an example of sentimentality in question. "I dwell in a lonely house I know" is from the Robert Frost poem titled Ghost House. This first line, from the poem, is a tracing of lives found in the brick and mortar of our existence, much more than the home sweet home we might want to believe.
To answer once again, yes I am aware of the tendency to fall into a place called sentimentality. But like the tightrope artist, I am continually correcting each step to create a path toward a surprise finish.
PK: What is it about turning a delicate item like a leaf or intricate lace into a bronze that appeals to you?
LR: Why bronze? The following is a tale or trail of discovery.
In the early 1980s, I saw a major exhibition of sculpture by Alberto Giacometti at the Hirshhorn Museum. This exhibition changed my art life. Through Giacometti's unique style, I saw the medium of bronze as an alternative option for my ideas. In the 1970s, I was designing and making small wooden models of buildings that were non-architectural in nature. I had been searching to change my medium to represent my now more organic view of the world. Giacometti's style of evaporated form was the answer.
An artist friend of mine told me about Green Mountain Studio and the artist Harry Geffert. My first works with Harry were done in 1987. These early bronze pieces were of large rocks. I called these sculptures natural abstractions. Over the years, I have gradually understood the beauty and fluidity of bronze. With the direct burnout process, I have been able to capture the essence or spirit of a daisy, a leaf or even lace.
I believe I have brought another voice to the traditional and sometimes massive representational use of bronze. My works are one of a kind as each flower is unique. I continue to search for the delicate and fragile forms of life.
Works related through words or objects to Robert Frost.
1. I Dwell, 2008-09, Graphite on paper, 16 x 72 inches
2. Frost’s First Line, 2015, Graphite on paper, 16.25 x 67 inches
3. Without Stones in His Shoes, 2000-15, Bronze, 7 x 12 x 2 inches
4. Wonder, 2015, Bronze, 12 x 37 x 8 inches
5. A Boy's Will, 2008, Bronze and paper with text, 3.5 x 9.5 x 8.5 inches
All works courtesy the artist and Talley Dunn Gallery, Dallas.