- Santa Monica Blues, Ruth Wetzel, monotype and woodcut, 22″ × 31″, 2007.
The colors of Ruth Wetzel’s work reflect the phases of her life. So, when her parents packed up and relocated her from New York to Santa Monica at the age of 14, she found herself unhappy, and isolated—it was definitely a blue phase. “My time in Santa Monica was a difficult time in my life, and Santa Monica Blues reflects that in the irony of something that’s bright, but not necessarily happy,” Wetzel says.
Years later, after getting laid off from a job as a textile colorist, Wetzel decided to travel through India, where she experienced the bright hues of that country. Pinks and oranges were everywhere. “Travel exposed my palette to different colors,” Wetzel explains. These more vibrant, joyous explorations of nature can be seen in the warm palette Wetzel employs in her forest oil paintings.
From these brighter works, to her more monocolored swamp and sea prints, all of Wetzel’s work is inspired by the outdoors. “Because the work is a celebration of nature, for me, within the work an aim of mine is to give the audience a new take on nature they might not see unless presented in a certain way,” she explains.
Having attended graduate school in Baltimore, as well as living in New York City for some time, Wetzel decided to move to Kingston to be surrounded by her inspiration. “I wanted to be living in a place where I can see nature every day, even if it’s just while driving.” Wetzel says. The Hudson Valley has proven to be a fruitful muse for Wetzel, as many of her series have been inspired by local spots along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and the Rondout Creek.
Wetzel’s work is representative of her interest in environmental awareness—particularly in water. “I’m concerned with the source of life. We are going to get into huge political and ecological problems in the future over who owns the water,” she says.
A continually evolving palette has allowed Wetzel to explore varying forms of expression through different mediums, colors, and textures. “My work has changed a lot over the years. A lot of people don’t change—in that, I may not have huge quantities of work, but I have work that’s authentic and is a true exploration of nature,” Wetzel says.
Vincent van Gogh once said; “There is no blue without yellow and without orange.” If Wetzel identifies colors with feelings and places, then she has certainly learned this lesson. Her range of work demonstrates that in art, and in life, you sometimes need the blue phases, to get to the orange ones.
Ruth Wetzel will be exhibiting a piece from her “Frozen Sea” series, as well as another work, “Half Circle”, as part of "Soot," the inaugural show at the Oo Gallery, 324 Wall Street, Kingston, through March 31. www.ooart.co. Portfolio: www.ruthwetzel.com.