My work documents the human spirit and the powerful insights that allow people to find a sense of belonging within their community. The public plays a vital role in the outcome of my work, taking a journey with me that can last up to two years. I produce multi-media installations that include paintings, audio, social media, slideshows, video, and social engagement. Self-aware subjects with strong belief systems fascinate me and draw me in.
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.
Portion of the interview of Philip Oyung with Ruth Chase 2017
On a warm Saturday in November, I met and interviewed Philip at the Oyung Cabin in Empire Mine State Park. With me were cinematographer Radu Sava and photographer Lori Lachman. Philip and his six siblings were born and raised in this cabin until the 1970’s when the family moved out. Philip told me that many Chinese immigrants came through their family home as a first stop before moving on to San Francisco. Listen to hear Philip tell you in his own words.
Philip Oyung is part of BELONGING, a community arts initiative led by Nevada County Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Ruth Chase, generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists Activating Communities Program.
Inspired by Ruth Chase’s ambitious multi-media installation about the land we live on and the notion of belonging, Racial Literacy, Nevada County offers a free, facilitated community conversation in the World Café style at Summer Thyme’s where the BELONGING Community Exhibition, curated by Ruth is on display.
We are collaborating with Chase to expand her artistic intention by creating the opportunity for local residents to experience, as she states, “powerful insights that allow people to find a sense of belonging within their community.”We also welcome Nevada City Rancheria Secretary Shelly Covert.
Join us to talk with each other in a real and candid way about our own sense of belonging along with our relationships with the Nisenan people and this beautiful region that the Nisenan have called “home” for thousands of years.
This community conversation is free and open to the public. Space is limited. The kitchen closes at 4:00pm. Arrive early to place food and drink orders and reserve your seat.
Racial Literacy explores race, privilege, and oppression by hosting community conversations and storytelling gatherings. We believe in the power of education, open dialogue, and deep listening as tools to heal and release the shame and discomfort experienced around discussions of race. From this place of honesty, we can be better activated as a community to show up for racial justice in our daily lives, as well as on larger systemic levels. For more information, find Racial Literacy on Facebook.
SHE Persisted an event by YubaLit | Featuring Author Bridget Quinn
This is an essay I read at SHE Persisted about how I overcame a time in my life when I was the most discouraged and wanted to give up being an artist. It starts and ends with a self portrait I painted that changed my life and was the first step I took to create my own “rags to riches” journey. Well, not so much not riches in the form of money.
Spring 2015: I’m on the back end of my 40s, and this time I’m going to really give up. Pursuing an art career feels hopeless, and the uphill battle I’m fighting right now is more than I can handle. It’s 4:00 am Monday morning—hot coffee, cell phone, Facebook app, and the dog. Every week my husband will be gone from Monday to Thursday or Friday. I’ve committed to homeschooling our only child; I feel lost, I feel alone. Every bit of my spiritual energy is being given to our beautiful daughter who will turn 10 in May. I had no idea that motherhood would take this long or be this hard, that I would feel so disconnected from my dreams and my art. I’ll be 50 before ya know it; I don’t have the time or energy to pick up a paintbrush. “Who am I kidding? Get a real job! I’ll never be a working artist.” I’ve been through this before, but this time it’s different.
When I was six, my home was on the Venice boardwalk, and within me was a well of strength I would not realize I had until I was older, much older. To be totally honest, I was at my very strongest then. I wanted to be the first woman president when I grew up. At that age, dreaming big was easy. The fact that my tutu matched my bodysuit was enough affirmation for me to believe that I could do or be anything. I remember that dance outfit like it was yesterday; I remember the empowering feelings that went with it, too. It seems like it was the only time in my life where my dreams belonged to me, and I was in them wholeheartedly, against all the odds.
Summer: There are signs that the demands of motherhood are changing. I’ll try to paint a self-portrait of that little girl. The one who dreamed big dreams.
In the late ’80s, I was a student at the San Francisco Art Institute. I wanted to be an artist with a gallery and be in a museum; I wanted to fill my life with conceptual artist friends and travel the world, eating exotic foods and drinking too much wine. Every idea I had about being an artist came from school, a book or someone else’s life had already lived. As the years go by, I no longer fit into that dream; in fact, I don’t have time to dream.
Fall, I am almost done with the self-portrait. It makes me cry for months, will it ever stop crying? I go with it. I paint, and paint for hours over weeks and into months, one painting turns into 13, turns into a whole installation with audio and video.
It’s August again, I’m 52, I have my first solo exhibition today, the LA Weekly will be there. I try to stay present as 400 people attend. That’s a lot of hands to shake, my feet are hurting me in the killer shoes that tell the world “I still got it.” The following morning I will wake up to some 500 texts with my name tagged all over Facebook and Instagram, they will keep coming for the rest of the day and throughout the following weeks. The City of LA will mail me a Certificate of Appreciation for that one self-portrait that turned into the West of Lincoln Project. I never saw any of this coming.
Today I embark on a project called I AM HERE, about how women maintain their sense of belonging. It’s no coincidence that I am working with the theme of BELONGING because that has been the theme of my life. Perhaps the theme of life?
Three years ago, I had no body of work and 30 years of a whole lotta nothing on my resume. Two years ago, I embarked on a dream more significant than I could have imagined—a dream where I belonged to my art.
Here’s my self-portrait, “Stronger Than You Realize.” I realize now that I AM stronger than I ever thought. I did not find it in a book or a movie; I found it by letting go of an old story, one that was never meant for me, and moving forward, one tiny brave step at a time, toward my dreams. The dreams that were meant for me.
Work by Deborah Bridges
Lee Ann Brooks work
Jerry Van Dykes Work
Bridget Quinn is an Art Historian that delves into the lives and careers of 15 brilliant female artists in her book Broad Strokes. Learn more. These images were taken at SHE Persisted on May 31st at the Stone House for YubaLit.
BELONGING is part of the “J O U R N E Y S ” program of documentary shorts.
BELONGING is about our vulnerable mountain home and the people who tend it, love it and depend on it. Documented by its filmmaker Ruth Chase, with cinematographer Radu Sava, the film features Rick Berry, Jeff Brown, Jonathan Collier, Shelly Covert, Philip Oyung, Nancy Tiken Lopez, Elisa Parker, Aimee Retzler, Mike Stewart and Rob Thompson. BELONGING is an initiative of Nevada County Art Council, led by Artist Ruth Chase and generously funded in part by California Arts Council through its Artists in Communities Program.
Friday, September 7 @ 4:25pm Sunday, September 9 @ 1:25pm Thursday, September 13 @ 7:25pm
All showings @ Onyx Theatre, 21+
plus Filmmaker Q&A
The BELONGING project is a journey I’m taking with the community of Nevada County. Every week I ask a question on Facebook that explores how we find a sense of belonging. Here is the question I asked most recently.
How do the friendships you had growing up shape your sense of belonging now?
Growing up I felt an incredible pain from feeling like I didn’t belong in my own home while I dreamed of belonging where I wasn’t wanted, with my dad. My dad and I shared the same looks and big personality, I felt comfortable with him because we were alike. As a child my friendships often reflected these same family dynamics, feeling like an outcast in friendships that I perceived I didn’t belong in because I wasn’t enough. Further making me feel incredibly insecure about if I would ever belonging with anyone, anywhere. I think that is why I cried so much on my wedding day, someone wanted me to “belong” with them. To this day I rarely feel like I fit in with most people so I cherish the relationships where I do feel a sense of belonging. After many years of rejection from the art world, I have come to realize that none of it is personal and that I belong to myself first and foremost.
So, how do the friendships you had growing up shape your sense of belonging now?
A pop-up installation where Ruth gave hugs, postcards, and took photos.
This backdrop was painted by Ruth and photos were taken to share the value individuals have in our communities. The public was encouraged to hang their photo at home where it can be seen as a reminder of their importance.
Please email Ruth your I BELONG HERE images from wherever you are RuthChaseFineArt@ymail.com
I brought my daughter along so she could see it too, I used to be a Set Decorator in LA for several years. So it was fun to show my daughter what I was talking about.
OK, so I met Amy, she’s a freaking trip, I mean whoa, she was incredibly interesting. And the real deal too. Sitting with her was like being with someone hallucinating, I think she couldn’t turn off reading spirits and energy, it felt like she was reading me, her eyes all around but never looking at me.
As far as my drawings go, I was satisfied with what I did for the time I had to create.
NO VACANCY OUTLINE: Retired NYPD homicide detective Steve DiSchiavi and physical medium Amy Allan investigate paranormal activity at a small-town hotel in Grass Valley, California. Their separate investigations take harrowing turns as Steve uncovers the hotel’s history of destructive fires and scandalous violence, while Amy comes face-to-face with the deranged dead during her overwhelming walk.
I invite you to visit my studio anytime. No worries, you don’t have to be an art collector to have a reason to visit.
Depending on my work schedule I will have something I’m working on that is progress, as well as older work to view. If you have questions about art, mine or in general, bring them with you, I love to talk shop.
I am located just three miles from downtown Nevada City, CA. Feel free to call me or use message form below. Ruth Chase 530-409-2330