About the Ruffin Gallery:
Since 2008, the Ruffin Gallery is an active part of the Studio Art program. Each year the gallery hosts four to six exhibits that serve as the University's most important showcase for contemporary art and are an integral part of the Studio Art experience. Students are involved with the production and installation of these exhibitions and gain valuable experience in the handling and hanging of important works of all types. The gallery hosts a show by each year's Ruffin Distinguished Artist-in-Residence. Every spring the gallery is the site of the Fourth-Year Thesis and Aunspaugh Fellows Exhibitions. The openings are important occasions when the whole studio program gathers to celebrate the successful completion of the major. In addition to the Ruffin Gallery, student and visiting artist work is frequently shown in the RuffStuff and Media Galleries on the first floor of Ruffin Hall.
Ruffin Gallery is currently open by reservation every Monday from 2:00 - 5:00PM, Thursday from 10:00AM - 1:00PM and Friday by appointment (10:00AM - 4:00PM) during the Spring term 2021. Please find the reservation form here. Contact email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
March 1 - 26, 2021
Neal Rock, Flesh Poems
Flesh Poems takes its name from an essay by art historian Suzannah Biernoff on the life and work of artist and educator, Henry Tonks (1862 – 1937). Today Tonks is perhaps best known for his surgical drawings of WW1 soldiers whose faces underwent reconstructive surgery by one of the progenitors of modern-day plastic surgery, Harold Gillies. Tonks was himself a surgeon and longstanding teacher of drawing and anatomy at London’s Slade School of Art, where he taught amongst others painters such as Paul Nash and Gwen John.
Tonks’ surgical pastels, often depicting before and after renderings of Gillies’ operations, possess qualities of intimacy and horror, abjection and the irreducible materiality of flesh, skin and bone. These works stand not in art museums or galleries but in medical and surgical archives. As such their status as cultural artifacts remain open, porous, open to hermeneutic doubt and ambivalence. Their current resting place is then a frame of sorts, one that is internal and external to Tonks’ portraits.
In her essay Biernoff notes that Tonks referred to his pastels as fragments of the human. It should be clear that these are indeed literal fragments of war-torn faces. We could acknowledge torn psyches and bodies, irrevocably impacted by a carnage beyond words - here in these mute spaces Tonks’ poems find resonance. They are, in such wordlessness, provoking the invention of language or at least some kind of semiotic that might grasp hold of something approaching meaning. These fragments, held within blasted faces and folded reconstructions, are potentially an opening chapter for an abstraction that enters consciousness through disfiguration.
In a recent catalogue essay for MoCA’s Pattern & Decoration survey exhibition, LAXART curator Hamza Walker playfully inverts Clement Greenberg’s notion of homeless figuration, a term used by Greenberg for an emergent abstraction containing floating fragments of representation. Walker observes a homelessness rooted in the kind of work championed by Greenberg, and poses a question as to the cost of such insularity both then and now.
These faces bearing human brutality and tenderness are, in their very dislocation and disfiguration, a home of sorts - a focus on limits and boundaries as a means to regenerate meaning and value. Tonks was known for his privileging of the haptic as an art educator, his touch is just one of the many latent places where an ethics of abstraction could take root, face to face.
David Edward. February 26th, 2021
February 1 - 19, 2021
2021 Studio Art Department Faculty Exhibition
With 14 contributing artists, this exhibition showcases the versatility of UVA’s Studio Art Department faculty members as both teachers and masters of their own artistic craft
The 2021 Studio Art Department Faculty Exhibition offers UVA and the Charlottesville community the opportunity to discover the recent artistic endeavors and professional accomplishments of faculty in the Studio Art Department. On view at the Ruffin Gallery for the month of February, this exhibit highlights the collective creativity of UVA faculty artists whose art-making practice is at the core of their teaching and scholarship. It presents current trends in contemporary art and the creative possibilities of a wide range of media, including photography, video, sculpture, printmaking, and painting.
“We’re excited to show recent work by the studio art department faculty and staff,” said William Wylie, current Director of Studio Art and photography professor. “There hasn’t been a department exhibition like this for over three years and it’s a great opportunity for students to see the work of their professors and for the greater community to see what we do in Ruffin Hall.”
The exhibition was curated by Lucia Colombari and Kelvin L. Parnell Jr., PhD Candidates in the Art and Architectural History Program at UVA. Participating artists include William Bennett, Amy Chan, Federico Cuatlacuatl, Kevin Everson, Carissa Kalia Heinrichs, Dan Hoogenboom, Megan Marlatt, Ed Miller, Lydia Moyer, Neal Rock, Akemi Ohira Rollando, James Scheuren, Elizabeth Schoyer, Matt Shelton, and William Wylie.
October 12 - December 18, 2020
Barbara Campbell Thomas: Pneuma
Equal parts collage, fabric, and sketchwork, Barbara Campbell Thomas couples paint with quiltwork in her contemplative study of where the spiritual meets the physical
For artist Barbara Campbell Thomas, “pneuma”, stemming from the ancient Greek word for “breath”, is a creative force and spirit which guides everything that she does. As an abstract painter, Barbara’s work is a meditation on giving form to that “breath”, a commitment to capturing what is unsayable.
Combining bright hues of color, layers of paint, and the technique of sewing, Barbara’s paintings are as much about the physical process itself as they are about the final product: “I am a physical being, and my engagement with paint, with painting, is an intensely physical act. But it is the physical engagement with material that has the potential to move into immaterial realms of inquiry. This has always been my experience as a painter.”
One process that is central to Barbara’s work in particular is sewing and creating patterns through quilting. Her connection to sewing came from her mother, who is a quilter herself. Learning from her mother how to quilt in 2014, Barbara immediately became attracted to the activity of what is called piecing, which is sewing together shapes side by side to create a seam. “I quickly started to see that this sewing could be the ground of the painting itself ... The sewn layer felt so rich; it almost felt like a missing part of the work was suddenly present.”
Another dimension of Barbara’s work is her sketchbooks, the covers of which are quilted by her mother. An intense record of her thought process for the past 20 years, the sketchbooks are an integral part of her studio practice. “My sketchbooks always predict what’s going to come.”
The linear aspect of her thoughts comes to life through her paintings. In particular, Pneuma, which the exhibition is named after, went through a drastic overhaul over the course of the pandemic. It was the first time she took a painting off and recut and resewed it back together. The development of her ideas is a testament to how being open to adapting is not only a part of being an artist, but also integral to shaping identity. “I think making a lot of work is a great way to figure out who you are. You just have to make a lot of work and sometimes a lot of it is going to be bad, and that’s okay. I think we live in a culture that doesn’t know what to do with failure. You have to engage with failure as an artist at any age because that is the way in which you figure out what’s working and what’s not.”
Barbara Campbell Thomas lives and works in Climax, North Carolina. Her work combines painting with quilting, overlaying their material vocabularies to create complex formal dialogues within each painting that resonate with the details of her own life and the history of each medium. She came relatively late to quilting, which she learned from her mother, but quickly realized its power as an art form traditionally practiced by women to inform and expand the range of painting.
Barbara Campbell Thomas’s paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States, at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, The Painting Center, the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art, The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and the North Carolina Museum of Art. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture and, in 2021, she will attend the Elizabeth Murray Artist Residency. She is a recent recipient of a North Carolina Artists Fellowship.
Barbara Campbell Thomas is an Associate Professor of Art at UNC Greensboro.
In conjunction with her exhibition, Ruffin Gallery Assistant, Olivia Pettee, sat down with Barbara to talk about her process, inspiration, and thoughts behind her show.