Donna Ruff

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Donna Ruff’s work is inspired by a lifelong interest in pattern, whether found on the pages of illuminated manuscripts or in the topographies of landscapes. In newspapers — most often but not exclusivelyThe New York Times — she sees patterns in the interstitial spaces between texts and images. Although not a traditional printmaker, the artist describes the newspaper as a “great matrix” for her work. Ruff begins each composition at a photograph, and working outward, she hand-cuts latticework designs reminiscent of the Moorish architecture characteristic of southern Spain and North Africa. “While I am destroying it [the newspaper], I am also building something new,” she says. Ruff sees the process of cutting as both subtractive and additive, negative and positive. She chooses not only what is removed and what is left before, but also how to resolve the pattern at the edges of the page. No matter how intricate her patterns become, the subjects are never erased from their photographs. This is evident in 18.2.16 (Daniel), which uses a front page of the now online-only British newspaper The Independent as its matrix. Her pattern coalesces around the frontal portrait of an adolescent Afghani refugee. On one hand, Ruff adorns the page with beauty. On the other, she uses this beauty to force us to look at the crises unfolding before our eyes. 18.2.16 (Daniel) subsequently served as the matrix for Daniel, a collage of digital prints made from scanned photograms on varying-sized pieces of expired, light-sensitive paper.


Artist Biography