Alison Ruttan is not an artist who can be pinned down. She has been a painter, a photographer and videographer, and most recently a ceramist. But one interest has driven her shift from medium to medium over the decades: the contradictory nature of being human. Whether looking at the relationship between human behavior and problems through the lens of biological relatives like the chimpanzee or the bonobo, or examining the cyclical nature of war, Ruttan examines the ways in which the quest to improve things and solve problems can lead to social disintegration and chaos.
Most recently, Ruttan's A Bad Idea Seems Good Again creates ceramic model-sized tableaus of two incidents of destruction in the Middle East. The so-called "Highway of Death" in 1991 in Iraq where thousands of vehicles carrying retreating Iraqi soldiers and supporters out of Kuwait were attacked from the air, resulting in miles of burning vehicles. The second is the bombing of a Beirut neighborhood by Israel in 2006. Ruttan is casting 500 ceramic vehicles she will lay out on a 32-foot sand-covered board. The buildings in Beirut are being recreated intact, and then are destroyed by Ruttan to best simulate the destruction she could see in photographs. The works are bound for the Chicago Cultural Center this winter. Ruttan is one of 18 Illinois artists to receive a $15,000 Fellowship in 2014.
View a slideshow of Ruttan's artwork.
-- Photos courtesy of the artist
Read an interview with Daniel Schulman, Program Director of Visual Art for the Department Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
Alison Ruttan is a self-described interdisciplinary artist. What will her exhibition entail, or what medium will she focus on?
Alison’s exhibition, which is still in the process of development, will include two ceramic sculpture installations based on photographic documentation of recent global sites of conflict. These two installations of new work will flank a central gallery that will hold an earlier photographic and video project based on Jane Goodall’s disturbing study of Chimpanzee behavior.
What would a visitor take away after viewing Ruttan’s artwork?
All three bodies of work, which investigate human nature and violence in novel and arresting ways, will undoubtedly stimulate viewers in a variety of ways.
When does the exhibition open and how long will it run for?
The exhibition opens to the public on January 24 and runs through April 26, 2015.
So far, what’s it been like working with Ruttan?
I’ve long admired Alison’s work, and it has been a pleasure to give her an opportunity to present it to our audience.
*Illinois Artists at Work is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.