Hello everyone! This is Jackson and welcome to the 12th interview for my blog, 3 Art Questions With Jackson. This time I interviewed Allison Ruby, who is a wonderful artist, gardener, and she also owns Red Garage Studio! She put one of my paintings in a group show last year and it was very exciting for me. Her answers are great and her story is very surprising and inspiring. Thank you for reading! Let me know what you think!
Jackson: How did you get the idea to put a gallery in your garage? I would like to do
something like that with my Dad.
Allison: For several years I’ve been working out in my garage during the summer and always dreamed of having a more bright and pleasant space to work, so I decided that once I graduated from art school I would finish off the space and turn it into a dedicated studio. But after leaving school I realized how much I missed the creative energy present in a space where there were many people working, creating and collaborating, and how much it fed my creative process. Also I was feeling a little lonely and looking for ways to meet new people and make new friends. Furthermore, I had done an internship at the Nash Gallery where I got very interested in the curation and installation process. All these things inspired me to open my studio space up to occasional pop-up shows and it grew from there.
Garage galleries come out of a long tradition of home or apartment galleries that have
been going on for more than a century. With the art world’s economy evolving I think
alternative exhibition spaces are becoming ever more common. I like these spaces for
their intimacy and funky DIY aspect. Galleries can be intimidating and often seem to
separate people from art, literally putting it on a pedestal (an item verboten at Red
Garage.) I like spaces that bring people together so that they engage with one another
in meaningful ways that create connection. This is something that is not only integral to
my artistic practice but what I strive for in general in life. I want to know my neighbors
and energize my immediate community. My goal is to use the events at Red Garage to
help accomplish that. It is also a way for me to support other artists.
I say if you want to do your own art shows go for it! I will caution you that it is not as
easy as it looks. It requires a lot of time and hard work to do well.
Jackson: How did you become an artist? Was it something that just happened?
Allison: All my life I have engaged in creative activities, not specifically visual arts. As a child I was especially involved in theater, music and dance. I really liked art until third grade when the art teacher at my school yelled at me for putting red flowers in the tall savannah grasses in my section of the African safari mural the class was making. That ruined art for me for a long time. In my late twenties I became very interested in Waldorf education and eventually became a teacher. The arts are integrated into all subjects at Waldorf schools and made me understand art and success in a new and more encompassing way.
Then in 2005 I was hit by a car while riding my bike to work and was very badly injured.
I had a brain injury and basically all the muscles in my neck and back were torn or
severely sprained. I had to retire from teaching and ended up more or less bedridden for several years. I was seeing many doctors and specialists to help me heal, but there was not much progress and I was told I would probably always be like that. One of the people I saw was a speech therapist whose exercises were useless to me and instead of looking deeper or admitting she did not know how to help me, she got irritated with me for not improving! I had mentioned to her how I had been a teacher and that some of my problems I had seen in young children who had learning difficulties, so at what turned out to be our final session, when I said what we were doing did not seem to be helping me, she took it personally and very crossly said, “So what would you do for one of your students instead?” She said it in a sarcastic way, but when I went home I really took that question to heart and thought about it.
Part of the answer I came up with was drawing my body. I was so disconnected to my
physical body after the accident that I could not even tell if I was holding my head
straight or sideways. I started drawing my body in parts, and that process really helped
me. That led me to do more painting, which really helped my spirit. I was so weak I
could only work for about 15 minutes before I would need to go lie down again, so I
used watercolor palette paints that did not require a lot of set up or much strength. Over
the years as I healed I continued to paint, until several years later I was finally strong
enough to go back to school and pursue an art degree.
Jackson: Everyone seems to like this question so I always ask now: If you could meet
any artist, who would it be and why?
Allison: I would love to meet Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon. I love her work and I love how she thinks about her practice and its role in the world. I would have given anything to be part of her Swimming Cities project. I admire the way she brings art out into the world to draw people together and build community. Plus her work is gorgeous. I love the grand scale installations she has done and all the different media she incorporates. I have heard Callie speak and she seems like an incredibly genuine, fun, and dynamic woman, the kind of person I look for as a friend.