Ruth Lantz, an Illinois based artist, received her Masters in Visual Studies from the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) in Portland, OR in 2010. Her work has been featured nationally at numerous galleries and institutions, including Russo Lee Gallery (Portland, OR) Disjecta (Portland, OR), Washington State University Vancouver (Vancouver, WA), Governors State University (University Park, IL), and St. Louis Art Center (St. Louis, MO) Her work was showcased at the Portland International Airport and at the Fringe Festival at Southern Oregon University. She was a participant in the “Making a Better Painting” Symposium at the Hoffman Gallery at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR and she is the founder of Crit Connection, a project providing networking opportunities to artists through monthly one-on-one connections to foster conversation and critique.
"I use paint processes to investigate how screens have shifted our understanding of space. Using landscape images as a signal for the history of illusionistic space, I merge landscape references with abstract techniques to create works that capture the tension between two virtual spaces—a painted substrate and a screen. Using applications that are both controlled and improvisational, I play with flatness vs. depth and opacity vs. transparency. Condensing the digital impression and the painterly gesture into one surface, I create an image that is at once familiar but also removed, thus challenging the viewer to question technology’s role in our perception of both landscape conventions and spatial environs.
I utilize the landscape images that are presented to us as digital backdrops for our everyday experiences. MAC IOS desktop images, video games such as The Oregon Trail, and built wireframe environments serve as starting points for my paintings and works on paper. Using various combinations of acrylic paint, watercolor, spray applications, colored pencil and silkscreen I rely on methodical processes to construct my surfaces. These applications create luminous depth and imply texture but appear virtually flat mimicking images that have been spatially condensed and visually altered through technological programs."
Tell us a little about yourself and your background in the arts.
I grew up in a super small town in central, IL (Gibson City, pop. 3500). Growing up, I was always a creative kid but I didn’t really have any models for all the ways an artist could motivate in the world. I never even stepped foot inside an art museum until I was 18. I didn’t take art in high school but I still decided to move to Chicago to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago and study Graphic Design once I graduated high school. Graphic Design was not for me but the visual arts and a life of creative practice definitely was. So I went to UIC, graduated in Studio Arts, ended up working in events and making Bar and Bat Mitzvah Decor for a couple of years and then moved to Portland, OR. I went to PNCA in Portland for grad school and lived in Portland for about 12 years. During my time in Portland, I began to establish a creative practice, started teaching Painting/Drawing at a couple different colleges, met my husband, taught myself to garden (sort-or), spent way to much money on camping gear, and got my dog Pearl! Then, during the pandemic, my husband and I reevaluated our needs and decided that it was a good time to leave Portland and move closer to family. So, we headed back to the Midwest. Now, I’m back in central IL (Champaign-Urbana) but luckily I’ve picked up a few things and met a few inspiring people along the way and have several models of how artists can motivate in the world.
What kind of work are you currently making?
I am currently making paintings that investigate how screens have shifted our understanding of space. I use American Landscape imagery as a signal for vast environments and combine these sources with allusions to technological language. The paintings float between mimicking images that have been spatially condensed and visually altered through technological programs and the spatial environments of landscape painting.
What is a day like in the studio for you?
I like to work in the studio in the morning. I find that if I try to wait to other parts of the day then the “business” of life gets in the way or my teaching responsibilities take over. I have found that by prioritizing myself and my art at the beginning of the day I am able to get more studio time each week. I converted my detached garage into my studio so in the mornings I make a big cup of tea and “commute” the 50 ft. to the studio. I usually kick off my studio time with a little journal writing. It’s really more word salad ramblings than journaling but it helps to clear my mind and every once in a while a revelation shines through. I work on multiple pieces at once and I use a lot of different materials so every studio day is a little different but I try to plan it so I can devote certain days to certain materials. For example, if I want to silkscreen, I try to spend a whole studio day silkscreening. If I need to airbrush I try to spend a whole day doing that. It rarely works out that way but that is the ultimate goal. We can all dream, right!
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
American Technological Sublime by David E Nye American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880 by Andrew Wilton and Tim Barringer How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell Plus, I have books by Lauren Owens and David Reed that are never to far away and the Landscape Painting Now Book by Barry Schwabsky is a current go-to
Where can we find more of your work?