15 February 2023 (New Orleans, LA) JONATHAN FERRARA GALLERY is pleased to announce Entanglement : all life is life., the third solo exhibition of German, African American artist Ruth Owens. The artist presents eight new paintings, fifteen works on paper, and a video piece which depict black and brown bodies in the outdoors. A historically uninviting, even dangerous, space for people of color, Owens has shifted the focus of her work on this subject matter for the last three years to elucidate this cultural inequity. These works illustrate scenes of growth, power, and spirituality through these figures’ relationship to nature. Taking these two formerly estranged entities, Owens’ portraits reveal a complex yet kindred spirit between human and environment.
I. at creation
and i and my body rise
with the dusky beasts
with eve and her brother
to gasp in
the insubstantial air
and evenly begin the long
slide out of paradise.
all life is life.
all clay is kin and kin.
- Lucille Clifton
The artist expounds the exhibition’s purpose . . .
So here we are.
It seems that the same impulses that lead to the colonization of people, lead to the irreverent control and exploitation of nature. Those are impulses that foster a dualistic polemic, between people of different cultures, and between humans and the natural world. As a pushback to this dualistic mode, I emphasize the connectedness and the entanglement that occurs between disparate cultures, and between humans and the environment. Specifically, I’m looking at the inextricable influences Northern European and African cultures have on each other, as well as the entanglement we have with nature as human beings. As a descendant of African and Teutonic cultures who is located in the vulnerability of the Gulf South, these are deeply personal issues for me, that necessitate attention and gestures toward reconciliation.
I use William Morris wallpaper designs, created for the nobility of Victorian Europe, as the background for portraits of people from the African diaspora. These designs provide a setting that speaks to the dominance of a culture that presents a beautiful, albeit stylized, sanitized, and controlled view of nature. The paintings show the black figure situated in a visually engaging design of nature that belies a destructive dominance which is ever present and exerting its influence as a standard of beauty, arbiter of social hierarchy, and possessor of power over people and land. I am interested in challenging this polemical attitude and point to the connectedness of cultures, and of humans and the environment.
I posit we should listen to Lucille Clifton and understand that “all life is life” and enter into a reciprocal relationship across cultures and with our natural world.
Ruth Owens graduated in 2018 with an MFA from the University of New Orleans after leaving her medical practice of 25 years. She is represented by the JONATHAN FERRARA GALLERY, and belongs to the artist collective, “The Front,” both in New Orleans. Owens’ work is concerned with contributing to and preserving the black archive, and she uses personal super-8 film references in her painting and video art. Artist residencies include the Joan Mitchell Center, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Studios at MASS MoCA. She is slotted to attend the International Studio and Curatorial Program in NY in Spring of 2023. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Ackland Art Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Dale Center for the Study of War and Society, and 21c Museums.
The exhibition will be on view from 25 February through 8 April 2023 with an opening reception on Saturday 4 March and closing reception on Saturday 1 April - both coinciding with the Arts District of New Orleans’ (ADNO) First Saturday Gallery Openings from 5 – 9 PM.
For more information, press or sales inquiries please contact Gallery Director Matthew Weldon Showman at 504.343.6827 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join the conversation with JFG on Facebook (@JonathanFerraraGallery), Twitter (@JFerraraGallery), and Instagram (@JonathanFerraraGallery) via the hashtags: #RuthOwens, #JonathanFerraraGallery, and #ArtsDistrictNewOrleans.