By Niccolò Tabanelli
Lights and neon colors are reflected on a mirror surface.Triangular plexiglass set in circular concrete sculptures. It’s the original work and research of contemporary artist Esther Ruiz.
But let’s forget the present and the past for a moment to immerse ourselves in the work of this artist in order to know the reasons why she started her research.
Esther, you were born in Houston, Texas. How much of the Texan landscapes influenced your work? What does the desert mean to you?
I haven’t lived in Texas for quite some time but the wide open spaces in Texas will always reside in my memory. With its turbulent rainfall and endless skylines, I can see how desert landscapes draw artists like James Turrell by the boundlessness of the unknown open.
Your studio is in Los Angeles, where you moved and currently live! How do you organize your work? Where do your works come from?
Yes, I moved to Los Angeles from New York two years ago. I have a larger studio now and am able to split the space in two with a work area where I’ve organized my materials and tools and another area where finished works live.
My current work was developed after studying geology in college paired with an infinite love for landscapes and sci-fi films.
Looking at "Stone Setting" or “New Stone Age", it looks like they echo the English Stonehenge, but at the same time the objects are placed in a futuristic context. This is what happens in your mirror light works, too! A both technological and primitive future, where human archetypes live, embellished by the cold neon light! Is that how you imagine the future?
Exactly! In my ideal future, things would be designed simply and efficiently with bright neons paired with neutral tones.
The mirror is an ancient object that stimulated the human imagination by entering into mythology, linked to the double and the notion of different worlds! Can you tell why you work with mirrors ?
This is a great reading into the work, a lot of my titles come from ancient Norse Mythology! I specifically use colored mirror because of the way it changes the reflection. Whether it’s the color of the neon or the reflected space that changes, I think it more overtly mimics a portal or wormhole to another dimension or reality.
Cement, concrete, plexiglass, glass, neon — these are mainly the materials you use in your works. Homo sapiens ruled all the elements of the earth. He was able to bend the world to his own dominion and then an earthquake or an invisible virus seem to overturn and question all these humans’ certainties! What do you think about it?
Yes, this seems to happen again and again! Much like today, humans must recreate their worlds following a disaster or pandemic. I have recently felt this in my in my studio. As I am unable to source materials I feel like I am reinventing the wheel and developing new ideas and methods.
“Bones” is a thoracic cage, a monster, a machine with open and minimal features, a futuristic triumphal arch. Can you tell me about this work?
I began using these shapes in college, while looking at Native American stretched animal hides. I redeveloped them a few years ago to incorporate neon. I see this piece as a relic from a future landscape.
( Bones 2015) ( Untitled tv 2013 )
Someone said: 'The earth, with its concrete dress, can no longer accept the rain'.
An Effort To Explain "shows the delicacy of electric blue light and the heaviness of concrete. So, Untitled (tv)! Is there a hint of sacredness in these materials?
Definitely! Early in my exploration, meditative practices became integral to the creating process. I definitely think the process of bending glass and filling it with Nobel gasses and chemical elements is a beautifully delicate and sacred science. I respect the materials and consider them sacred and beautiful.
What are your projects for this year? What are you working on at the moment?
What do you do during the day? Can you describe your typical day?
I currently have some work on view in New York at Time Equities, Art in Buildings. And I am planning to be in a group show in Brooklyn at TSA NY curated by Kate Mothes of Young Space. (@yngspc) Hopefully the pandemic will have subsided so the show can open!
Currently, I’m trying to source new materials for a commission. If it were a normal day, with no pandemic, I would be at my day job. I am a project coordination in the office of a sculpture fabrication studio. I manage and track project budgets, order materials and coordinate deliveries.
What does Los Angeles give to you, as an artist?
We moved to Los Angeles simply for the landscape, climate and space. As an artist I was excited to learn and be part of the growing art scene here.
What do you think of the contemporary american art scene?
That’s a tough question because I don’t have much experience of the global art scene other than from afar. But having lived in New York for several years I really came to love being part of an art community. I love how there are so many people with the same interests and goals in life. Going to openings and seeing friends was my favorite thing to do. I wish more artists were well known. It seems the same few artists are shown when there are so many undiscovered artists out there.
Thank you so much for your time, it was a real pleasure to talk to you! If this interview had been a videoclip, which music would you have used to accompany the end credits? Is music important, in your opinion?
If this were a video clip I would ask Lauer to play his “Ctron E” in the background. Or anything from Aphex Twin or Autechre. I do think music is important. I listen to a lot of podcasts and techno in the studio. Really helps me zone out and focus on the work.
By Niccolò Tabanelli