By Jerry Slayton
This month, Art Spark Texas recognizes Artist Ruth Ahn as our December Artist of the Month. Ruth has led an incredibly interesting life as a public school educator, U.S. immigrant, mother, senior citizen, and now, focusing on her life as an artist. But before we cover Ruth's story, let me first set the stage for how Ruth and I were introduced.
At Art Spark Texas we believe that learning is a continuous lifelong process that plays a role in keeping mentally active and promoting personal development. Our Mobile Art program offers visual art classes to senior citizens in the Austin area and across the country. During the Covid crisis we had to shift from in-person classes to a truly mobile platform - virtual learning. And it was in one of our virtual, telephone-based classes, that Ruth and I were able to meet. In fact, to this day I have never met Ruth in-person, but through our virtual workshop meetings I have developed a deep appreciation for her and her artwork. And, now, she has graciously shared her story and work for today's blog.
Ruth's story began in North Korea in the mid-1940s. During that time, Korean citizens were allowed to move freely between North and South, so Ruth's parents relocated to South Korea shortly after her birth. She was a young girl during the Korean War but remembers the hardships her family endured, “Life was very difficult in Korea; it was very different than now.”
At university, Ruth studied Social Studies and taught in the Korean school system until the late 1970s when she immigrated to the United States. She received a visa to teach in the New York City public school system and taught third grade for over twenty years. Once she retired from that position, she relocated to Cedar Park, Texas and continued her work as an educator. Now, Ruth calls Austin her home, and finally has time to invest in her passion for art. “I never had time for art. My time was devoted to my family, and to my teaching.”
When I look at Ruth's artwork I can see her passion, her craft, and her meticulous nature. She's a teacher after all! Her pictures are well-organized and thoughtful, with attention to detail. Time is invested in all areas of the painting. But what interests me the most about Ruth's work is the crispness in all her pictures. In the year and a half that we have shared class together, I can always differentiate her work by its graphic quality, and yet delicate paint handling. There is an economy in her work, shapes are simplified and sophisticated at the same time, wonderful to look at close up. Each new class project brings a new challenge and Ruth rises to the occasion.
In my experience, Ruth's artist story is common amongst our Mobile Art participants. Oftentimes our workshops have a strong female presence, and many of the participants have admitted to me that learning to paint and draw was an aspiration, but something for which they never found the time.
I think we can learn something from this shared story, and certainly from Ruth's personal story. In the new year, let's activate our creative minds and challenge ourselves to invest, or perhaps just reinvest, in our creative selves. Let Art Spark Texas help you get started. We would love to support you in your growth and hopefully get to know your story.