ARTIST • MOTHER • COMMUNITY ACTIVIST
Raised in VENICE, CA. I’m on a path that I never expected. Starting out as an oil painter that led to filmmaking, creating multi-media installations that include audio, social media, video, public art, and social engagement. My focus is on positive social change, working with concepts that reflect identity and the value of people.
I had the honor of painting these beautiful girls for a friend of mine, Laura.
My second commission ever. Not an easy thing for most artists to do. The level of caring about the likeness goes up so high that it’s easy to lose the quality of the image. Ther’es a sweet spot between letting go and having control.
Women are an essential part of any community, yet their sense of belonging is often tied into gender roles, not always satisfying their sense of belonging. Mother, sister, partner, we all have women in our lives. I AM HERe is intended to mirror the voices of how men and women view women’s unique sense of belonging against the backdrop of our rural community. Lead artist Ruth Chase has sought to examine her own sense of belonging over the course of a year by asking questions through social media and taking her personal journey alongside the community. Now, the public is invited to share their own stories about themselves or the women in their lives by participating in the public art installation.
In her film, “Belonging” local artist and director, Ruth Chase documents the stories of people living in Nevada County, including Shelly Covert, spokesperson for the Nevada City Rancheria, Nisenan Tribe.
The film is an initiative of Nevada County Art Council and funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists in Communities Program. Chase and Covert are scheduled to show the film during this week’s 17th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival comes to Nevada City and Grass Valley.
The pair are scheduled to participate in activities such as opening reception, art shows, fireside chats, coffee talks, workshops and film panels throughout the five-day environmental and adventure film festival that attracts filmmakers, change-makers, and activists from around the globe.
The two sat down and answered a few questions. Chase had this to say:
What inspired you to make the film, “Belonging?”
“Belonging” is about how people find a sense of belonging through the land, the earth, and the environment. I was initially interested in examining the unique connection people have with the land they were born on and if that connection changes when residing in a place other than their birthplace.
Painted in collaboration with Elaine Love Leslie by Ruth Chase. The painting reflects her life story and the wisdom she has as a result of growing up in Venice, CA. This was the final painting in the West of Lincoln Project, completed in early 2017. Painted by Ruth Chase.
I spent the past twenty years making art under the radar. Until 2015 when I started creating installations that included paintings about positive social change.
Being invisible was a tactic I adapted from an early age to avoid drama. As I got older, I would do anything to avoid conflict. As an artist, I played it safe so I wouldn’t say the wrong thing. With time it seemed to say the wrong thing was worse than saying anything at all. It was an inner struggle, but it felt safe and secure.
BAD ART STUDENT
I needed to get out of Los Angeles. I needed to escape the broken girl that came from the streets of Venice. It was the 80’s, and I was attending the San Francisco Art Institute, totally in love with conceptual art, it was an exclusive club for smart artist people. I hoped that no one would notice how un-smart I felt compared to those savvy thinkers and prolific art makers on Chestnut Street. I wanted nothing more than to be as smart and interesting as they were. In school I would study for countless hours, only to get barely passing grades, it was so demoralizing and painful. I would drown my sorrows by marathon painting, keeping to myself. My teachers, Fred Martin, Angela Davis, Carlos Villa, and Julius Hatofsky were my heroes, my mentors, I wanted them to rescue me, to tell me how to create work that mattered. My work was a whisper against the backdrop of big ideas and loud voices.
When I started painting, I would follow a voice that would come forth from a spirit on the other side asking me to see them. I had no idea what I was doing, I would just paint, in time I understood that I could use channeling from nonphysical energy to guide my work. I remember distinctly that this spirit was eager to be seen and released. While I still use this method in some of my work, I am so much more aware of what is happening and far more particular of who and what I channel.
oil on canvas
6 x 4′
by Ruth Chase
What does it mean to be a woman, a question I have never explored until this very moment.
From an early age, I noticed that being a “girl” put me in a place of vulnerability and I was very aware that physical danger was awaiting me if I wasn’t careful. So as a young adult “woman” I would make sure that my clothes and persona were tough enough to scare away predators.
Now I look back and see that it wasn’t until bearing a child, at the age of 40, that I began to connect with my womanhood. I was getting in touch with my body and its functions specific to having a child and becoming awakened to the physical characteristics that make me a WOMAN. I loved being pregnant, I loved my body and being able to hold another universe within.
I have spent a lot of time rejecting the expectations put on me by the outside world of what a woman is or should be, or should not be. I have never been sure of how I fit into the expectations of the world around me. I also, at times, did not want to own the power and blessings that come with femininity. On the inside, I felt like I hadn’t decided if I wanted to be feminine and on the outside, I knew to be a tomboy or punk sent a message to leave me alone, I’m not open for this “girl” business. Sometimes I wonder if I would have chosen to be a woman in this lifetime if I were given a choice before I was born. I suppose I have also been pissed off about being a woman, now that I think about it. So far, the most amazing thing about being a woman has been birthing my daughter, who by the way is VERY girly and VERY feminine. I’m having an ‘aha!’ moment writing this. I may even need a good cry.
I will have the most challenging painting I have ever made exhibiting in the Museum of Northern California Art. I am so proud to be representing VENICE in this exhibition about the value of street art to our communities.
MUSEUM OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ART
Beyond the Frame Panel Discussion | August 26
Beyond the Frame Exhibition
July 19 – September 2, 2018
“Never Forget Where You Come From, Always Remember Where You’re Going” by Ruth Chase will be exhibiting this month at part of Beyond the Frame. Street art often has a reputation as part of a subculture that rebels against authority, although it can also express a political practice, and serves as just one tool in an array of resistance techniques.
Philip Oyung is a descendant of one of the first Chinese family to immigrate to Nevada County. He attended Union Hill, as did his father back in 1910. His grandfather emigrated from Guangdong province, China in 1905 to be a cook at the Star Mine in Grass Valley.