Ruth Becker // Artist Statement
As a multidisciplinary artist, my medium is my message: The media I choose describe the content of my art and also determine the mode of awareness with which the work is created and perceived. I create both papercuts and paintings in order to encounter and express distinct ways of knowing and seeing. My papercuts are complex works of intricately-cut and layered paper, and I approach the process of making them with deliberate forethought, adopting an analytical, highly logical mode of inquiry. Designed with mathematical precision, my papercut works are generated through a meticulous planning process that combines elements of repetition and gradual change, with each stage of transformation cut from a separate sheet of paper. The layers are cut, stacked, and compiled together to be viewed as a whole. In contrast, the awareness I bring to painting is immanent and rooted in feeling. My abstract and landscape paintings are correspondingly looser, more spontaneous, colorful, and emotionally-expressive, often featuring gestural marks made with brushwork, paint pens, or art crayons. These distinct approaches function as multiple lenses through which I explore and experience creative unfolding as it reverberates through emotion, perception, and understanding.
My creative process is driven by impulse and inquiry. Building on previously unexplored or unresolved aspects of prior work, I begin with open-ended play within loosely-defined parameters (e.g. medium, size, palette.) As I experiment, I notice aesthetically-satisfying forms or structures and then elaborate upon them, repeating them and joining them together. As I work, I take note of marks and moments that elegantly turn a phrase while training my eye on the point at which order emerges spontaneously from the chaos. At the same time, I work to distill complication into clarity, removing what is nonessential, editing and refining until the resulting image is coherent and compelling.
I was first introduced to papercutting as a traditional Jewish folk-craft, and I have created hundreds papercut of ketubahs -- Jewish wedding certificates -- that pair contemporary artwork and traditional text. I design papercuts digitally, combining lines with curves, organic and geometric shapes. I use the play of contrasts to generate concise, engaging visual elements which I repeat and recombine within clear, focused compositional frameworks, often using translative or rotational symmetry. Once the image is set, I organize its components into a layered sequence, keeping paper’s technical limitations, as well as creative possibilities, in mind: Since paper is delicate, I must take care that it holds its structure once cut. At the same time, because paper is a humble, uncomplicated material, it is an especially effective vehicle for revealing complexity in reflected light and cast shadow. White paper, especially, reveals so much, even as it conceals little. When cut and stacked, paper transforms from a flat surface into a dimensional object, challenging our minds to make sense of what our eyes see.
When I paint, my process is reversed: I first use color and contrast to describe the painted space, and then build up to a rhythm of repeated gestural marks, noticing moments of grace and beauty as I go, responding to change and challenge spontaneously as they emerge on the canvas. My process is sensory and tactile, resonant with feeling, appreciative of color in its solid-liquid suspended pigment form. This material, physical awareness grounds me in the present moment and guides my movements and decisions with intention and integrity. Jewish culture and the Hebrew calendar further define the rhythm of my work--unseen but deeply felt--influencing my choices of color and content, informing the deeply-held values and aesthetic, spiritual consciousness that pervades my work.
My art gently pushes into the narrow spaces of our awareness. Creative impulses, repeated and permutated over time, allow for new combinations, ever-more extensive connections, and increased complexity. My work enacts these expansions and articulates a creative process that at once mediates and is modulated by the ways we know and see.