Imagine an apocalyptic landscape. It appears barren, devastated, and hopeless. It is not. At the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), internationally renowned artist Ginny Ruffner creates a seemingly bleak environment that suddenly blooms into a thriving floral oasis by combining traditional sculpture with augmented reality (AR) technology. In collaboration with animator and media artist Grant Kirkpatrick, Ruffner brings to life a colorful world where glass stumps suddenly sprout mythical flora that have adapted to their surrounding conditions in unexpected, beautiful, and optimistic ways. By transforming the galleries into a multidimensional experience, Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination calls into question the very notions of reality and fantasy, of concrete and abstract, and of desolation and hope.
Ruffner is among a vibrant group of artists bringing AR to museum installations. By using this technology as another art medium, she transforms visitor experiences. The installation consists of five landmasses, each featuring intricate handblown glass sculptures of tree stumps, with painted tree rings that function as discrete QR codes. These five islands relate to a sixth landmass that supports a large fiberglass stump sprouting beautifully grotesque bronze and glass appendages. Other than the central stump and the painted shelf mushrooms and tree rings on the surrounding stumps, the scene appears colorless and desolate; however, when viewed through AR’s technological lens, an alternate landscape is revealed.
Watch a Video about the Installation Below (coming soon)
Above (left to right): Ginny Ruffner with Grant Kirkpatrick, Astromaria zentada lillium (Blue/purple flowering vine), 2017, holographic image. Courtesy Ruffner Studio. Ginny Ruffner with Grant Kirkpatrick, Liriodendrum plausus (Flapping tulip), 2017, holographic image. Courtesy Ruffner Studio. Ginny Ruffner with Grant Kirkpatrick, Lacertus vespertilio (Flapping lizard bat flower), 2017, holographic image. Courtesy Ruffner Studio.
Video Credit: This video was commissioned by MadArt Studio in Seattle in conjunction with the inaugural display of Reforestation of the Imagination. Video produced by Amos Morgan.
“This is nature reimagining itself. The imagination cannot be exterminated. It just re-creates itself. To me, ‘Reforestation’ is about hope.”
About the Artists
Ginny Ruffner (American, born 1952) is based in Seattle and trained at the University of Georgia, graduating with a master’s degree in fine arts in drawing and painting. She is an artist best known for her elegant sculptures and mastery of glass techniques. Ruffner has had more than 85 solo exhibitions and several hundred group shows, and her artwork can be found in numerous national and international collections, including three works in the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts’ permanent collection. Ruffner has also lectured and taught extensively and has served as an artist-in-residence at schools and universities around the world.
Grant Kirkpatrick, also based in Seattle, received a master’s degree in fine arts from the Cornish College of the Arts and is an emerging animator and new-media artist. His interests include the intersection of art and technology, particularly VR/AR, game design, and mixed-media work.
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Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination
The exhibition is accompanied by an interactive “field guide” to the AR images featured in the exhibition. The booklet, written and illustrated by Ruffner, features pictures of the glass sculptures with the QR code embedded, making them compatible with the “Reforestation” app. It includes Ruffner’s 18 original drawings and detailed explanations of the artist’s naming conventions for her flowers. The booklet also features an interview with Ruffner in which she discusses her artistic background and her inspiration for Reforestation of the Imagination. The publication is available for purchase in the Museum Shop.
This exhibition is organized by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by Art Bridges, the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Elizabeth and James Eisenstein, Ed and Kathy Fries, Shelby and Frederick Gans, James Renwick Alliance, Colleen and John Kotelly, Betty and Whitney MacMillan, Jacqueline B. Mars, Kim and Jon Shirley Foundation, and Myra and Harold Weiss. The C. F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.