Ursula Von Rydingsvard, 2011 (Germany)
Cedar and graphite, 160 x 46 x 21 in.
“I will never forget when I first saw Ursula in her studio. There she was atop a pile of four-by-fours with knee pads, breathing apparatus, goggles and a chainsaw. I thought, ‘Oh boy, we got action here.’ She is very direct and doesn’t suffer fools. I like that. She is also incredibly generous with her time. As she talked about her work, I breathed in the unbelievably earthy smell of the wood. For me, wood is a very primitive and familiar material, and Ursula takes the wood and creates something that makes you feel and think. I saw a retrospective of her work at the Fabric Workshop Museum in Philadelphia. I was awed to see her body of work in one place. I really like retrospectives because you can view how an artist’s work changes over time and yet becomes more of itself. When I returned to her studio with Alan, Ursula showed us around and shared the story of each piece. Alan asked me, ‘What do you like?’ ‘What do you like?’ I asked in return. ‘I’m looking at it.’ There in front of him was Echo—the shovel. I was not surprised as I loved it as well. Alan and I garden together. It is a very personal way to connect to the land and, for us, Echo represents the earth, work and tending.”
Ursula von Rydingsvard’s massive sculpture Echo resembles the wooden tools that the artist’s family used in pre-industrial Poland before World War II. This towering cedar structure is abstract at its core, but takes visual cues from the landscape, the human body, and utilitarian objects. Von Rydinsgvard’s artistic practice demonstrates the intersection where the womanmade meets nature. This work was most recently exhibited at the Fabric Workshop Museum, Philadelphia, Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling (April-August 2018).