ruth owens was born in 1959 to a young German woman and a Black serviceman from Georgia. The nomadic military lifestyle of her childhood was complicated by restrictions to mixed families in many communities and laid the basis for the formation of her cultural identity and therefore, her artistic practice.
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 Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, and belongs to the artist collectives: A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn and “The Front” in New Orleans.
Artist residencies include the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA in 2019, the Vermont Studio Center in 2018, the Studios at MASS MoCA in 2021, and The Joan Mitchell Center 9/20 until 2/21. Her work is in the permanent collections of the following: the Addison Gallery of American Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art; the Ackland Art Museum at UNC Chapel Hill. Notable solo shows include “Good Family,” 2019, The Front Gallery; “Identity Theft,” 2018, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery; “Baby Love,” 2018, University of New Orleans Gallery; “Conspiracies,” 2017, Barrister’s Gallery, New Orleans; and “Steppin’ Out,” 2016, Xavier University Chapel Gallery, New Orleans. Ruth has participated in group exhibitions at the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Addison Gallery of American Art, and the New Orleans Film Festival, 2019.
artist statement - 2020
I’m a figurative painter and video artist whose work expands the narrative around feminine and racial identity. Putting forth the concept that identity is fluid and open, my subjects cross boundaries that hold in fixed and static constructs. Revealing the complexity, nuances, and psychology of individual people of color, I resist essential or stereotypical limits. I use myself and the intimacy of my family as models to assert the individualities, challenges, and unique perspectives of lives that are atypical by virtue of the standards and narrow vision prevalent in the world.
Much of the imagery in my paintings and videos is culled from footage found in my family’s super-8 film archive from the 1960’s and 1970’s, therefore imparting an intimate, gestural, and cinematic impression. The influence of this archive also makes my work a psychological exploration of personal memory with regards to family dynamics and relationships.