We had the good fortune of connecting with Donna Ruff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Donna, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I’ve always resisted complacency and have acted on opportunities that would require me to make a big change. After I started out as a young illustrator in Miami I chose to move to New York, so that I could get more interesting and well-paying assignments. At that time you had to be where the art directors were, because everything was done in person. I had no job, no clients. I took my portfolio around to ad agencies, publishers, any connection I could make, and slowly started getting work. Illustration was a great career and I was able to support my son and myself, but when he was grown I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to make my own art, so I took another big risk. I applied to graduate school, got my MFA degree, and learned to develop my own voice in art. The most successful people I know have been resilient and willing to take risks. You have to do your research, prepare as much as possible- then go for it. You might feel like the Road Runner realizing you’ve run off the cliff, but it’s helpful to think about the worst case scenario, and what you could do to deal with it. Then you know you’re covered and you just keep on keeping on.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m interested in creating beautiful works, and am inspired by historical patterns and texts. I get ideas from history, from the news, and from travel. I feel that art has the ability and responsibility to inspire, to please, and to offer new ways of looking at things. Since around 2010 I’ve made work from cutting intricate patterns in the front pages of newspapers. For some time I’ve worked with removing content and highlighting the negative space to create a relationship of positive to negative shapes. The pages I choose have highlighted stories about migrants and these works have been exhibited nationally. A solo show at my New York gallery, Rick Wester Fine Art, resulted in a number of pieces being acquired by important museums, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which was thrilling. In recent years I’ve reprinted photos from news sources in Central America of children who have been caught up in the harsh immigration regulations in this country. The photos are printed on children’s blankets then laser cut. The news cycle moves on at warp speed- my work captures moments in time and keeps our attention on important issues. I’ve recently been awarded an important grant to continue my work.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Miami has so much to offer visitors other than the beach, which is wonderful of course. I’d take them to the Perez Museum first, to look at the art and have lunch on the patio overlooking the water. I love the architecture, the huge hanging plant columns, and the view. I was so excited when I moved back to Miami six years ago and went to PAMM. After living so long in New York, it was a revelation to have an important art museum in my home town. We could do a whole week of art! On another day we could go to Locust Projects, have lunch at Harry’s Pizza, then walk around the Design District, and visit ICA and the De La Cruz Collection. A new art itinerary would be Allapattah, to go to the Rubell Museum, which I recently visited and loved, and eating at Home Town Barbecue. Two new places opening there will be the Mindy Solomon Gallery, and the SuperBlue extravaganza, can’t wait for that. And I’d bring them to my studio neighborhood, Little Haiti, where we could eat and pop around to the galleries there. Finally, on yet another day we’d drive down to Fairchild Gardens and enjoy the beauty and the butterfly room. And we would definitely go to Joe’s Stone Crab if it was during the season. I like to go to Joe’s Takeaway and then walk around South Pointe Park. There is so much tropical beauty down here, and sometimes you have to know where to find it.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
When I changed careers as an older woman, I was naive about ageism in the art world. If I had not had wonderful professors in grad school, successful women who were my generation and older, who were encouraging, enlightening, and inspiring, I don’t know that I could have continued. When I was still living in New York, there was a group of us who took turns visiting each others’ studios and discussing what we were working on. All along it’s been important to me to have women mentors and peers. There have been many and I am grateful. In Miami, Kathryn Mikesell of Fountainhead Studios is a tireless advocate for artists and continues to implement creative ways for artists to be recognized and flourish in their careers. And I do want to give a shout out to Maria Martinez-Cañas, an outstanding artist who is internationally recognized, highly respected in the Miami art community, and who has been a great friend and champion of my work.
Facebook: Donna Ruff
Christin Paige Minnotte Alain Freitas