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Art Exhibition: Human Categorization by Helene Ruiz at Anne's Visual Art Studio in Richmond, Virginia
What's your category?
By The Editors
We first came across the works of Richmond, Virginia painter Helene Ruiz at the beginning of Quail Bell history. Our dearly departed Josephine Stone interviewed the artist in August 2011. (You can read the piece here; just be warned that it appears in an archived format not in accordance with our 2019 re-design.) Now Helene has a solo show, Human Categorization, at Anne's Visual Art Studio, a gallery in Richmond through April 26th. You can see these acrylics on canvas and come to your own conclusions about what society deems acceptable—and why. But first, read what Helene told us about Human Categorization over email:
When did you begin working on Human Categorization? What was going on in your life?
I began really focusing on this topic as and began to put together a series in 2017 (but I always did do works on the line of this topic periodically).
How do you think ideas of othering and categorization have been reinforced under the Trump administration?
OMG LOL, don't even get me started here. I was born in 1958. I have seen lots of things and lived through many changes. Since the Trump administration, I see progress destroyed and more hate and prejudice. I actually did political series a couple of years ago and there is some of this stuff in that series too, you can see that one here.
Could you describe how you visualize and then realize your paintings?
This is difficult to put into words. I guess I never saw things as others did. I always saw and felt and smelled "auras." This made me imagine stories. At first, I didn't realize this was different until others described what they were seeing, which had no story. I mean yes, I saw the surface things, too, but that was secondary to the story, to the aura. Here's an example: When I was a kid and looked at tree bark or something, I saw stories and faces. I felt emotions and literally smelled auras that made me feel emotions. Because of this, my work kind of makes a visual of the unseen. For this particular series, Human Categorization, I think of my artist statement like this:
Now, which box should we check? All? None? Other? Which one is the right one according to what would be an acceptable answer set by those who made up and those that support these stupid categorical rules? Then once answered, is this when more discrimination shall begin? What if we do not check anything? What if it didn’t matter? What if nobody cares to be a part of a category? What if we are all one? What if we are just all the same? What if we are just human…all of us? I’m jus’ sayin’…what if…
What are some things you want viewers to pay close attention to in your paintings? What might they miss?
I tend to use different items as symbols, and I also like to allow things to be absolute chaos, leaving it up to the viewer to relate their own story or feelings.
Do you think the Internet has changed the way people view paintings?
Yes, and it is both good and bad. More have an opportunity to see artworks because of the Internet, but some, and perhaps most, never take the opportunity to see the work in person. Because of this, much is missed as what you can see online is limited and many things can go unnoticed.
For people who are reading this interview and might only ever see your work online, what do you want them to know?
The stories behind my works are many. I would love to hear how my works may relate to your stories. I as an artist try to express life in its rawest form. I write my own stories and yours as best as I can interpret it.
Anything else to add?
I guess I just don't see anything else so expectedly and I have never like to be too much like everything or everyone else. Some have called me eccentric but even "eccentric" is too expected and just too much of the "same." More of my works can be seen at redbubble.com/people/heleneruiz.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.