Artist Spotlight: Ruth Waters

Ruth Water's work is on display in the INFERNO2020: Wood Sculpture Works exhibition at Siy Gallery. To learn more about this incredible artist, and see more of her rich, sleekly fashioned sculptures, you can visit her website.


What themes do you address in your work? Are there any motifs/symbols that you like to use throughout your work?

As I look around my display of finished sculptures, it is obvious that most of my work involves relationships: often pairs, but also families. Relationships provide the glue that holds communities together.


Burning Bush

Can you describe the relationship between your work and mental health, whether it be your own mental health, that of viewers and consumers of your work, general concepts, etc.?

As for a connection between my work and mental health, I don’t think creating sculpture affects my mental process. However, a Bay Area psychiatrist acquired several of my sculptures and found that they provided a visual stimulus, helping his patients to begin a healing conversation.

Eye of the Storm

Can you describe your artistic process?

I carve hardwood logs using hand tools. Students and friends spot trees that have been cut down and pass the word. What I want is the first section off the ground, the biggest, heaviest, and hardest to dispose of (within reason). Once I have the new log in my studio, I seal the cut surfaces with melted wax in order to help the log dry evenly (“seasoning”). When a fresh log is needed (by a student or me) we look through the stash of logs and check for dryness by tapping an end with a mallet (dry logs “ring”, wet logs “thunk”). Then the question is, “which log is the right log?” Easy answer: the right log is the one that the sculptor reaches out for.


Intimacy 1 in bronze

What is your most notable piece? As in, your favorite, or one with an interesting story behind it, or a piece that especially frustrated you, etc.

Ah, yes, the story: In 1994 I had just finished “Intimacy,” carved in a Magnolia Grandiflora log. It was selected for an exhibition in the Rockefeller Center Gallery in New York. The week before I was expected to ship it to New York, I received a phone call from the curator. She said, “You’re not going to believe this, but the gallery manager says your piece is too erotic to show.” In New York! In 1994! So I sent a marble piece which would have been much more controversial if they had understood it (on second thought, I do not have proof that they did exhibit it). Anyway, the marble piece is a single figure with gender features rearranged. The upper torso is female on one side and male on the other, and the order is reversed for the lower torso. It was acquired by the Bay Area psychiatrist who finds that it helps his clients open up and talk about themselves.

Aftermath: as I thought about the New York gallery manager’s reaction, it occurred to me that maybe “Intimacy” was pretty good. So I took it up to the Bronze Plus Sculpture Foundry in Petaluma, had a mold made, and they cast it in bronze. I have sold seven bronzes to date, each with a unique patina, and the eighth is in my studio.