Ruth Rosner: Totemic Woman



Explorations of the Revered Symbols Of Womanhood


From ancient times, there are stories of women who served as the emblem of a nation, family or clan and often as a reminder of the greatness of its ancestry; A totem is something that serves as a revered symbol. Ruth Rosner is an artist who demands that womanhood be revered as a topic of great importance. In this age where it is argued whether a woman has the right to control her own body, such art gains in importance and prominence.


Barbara Delaney of Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine refers to Ruth's work as “Earthy, Primordial and Powerful.” The viewer is transported emotionally to a space where the distant drum talks and the thunder is the voice of the Gods. A time when the Earth’s Mother was fearsome and Alive in all things. She defined peoples' roles and responsibilities, SHE guided their relationships with each other and creation. Through Ruth’s art all women are the progeny of the heroines of antiquity, the street person is the Goddess Demeter in Disguise a hubcap her shield, The Officer is the Blue Corn Maiden with copper wire limbs. She sculpts her pieces and creates through found and discarded refuse tangible totemic beings. The scraps are infused with life, truth, and power.


When Ruth Speaks of her work it is with joy and reverence. “My work combines the industrial with the totemic. I scour streets and trolley tracks from Boston to Barcelona for rusted metal, wood, stones, arresting rubble, which I transform with clay or plaster and wire to create evocative female figures.”


Her Show OUT OF RUBBLE: Women's Voices and the Transformational Power of the Found Objects at the Hammond Gallery of Fitchburg University brought her acclaim and respect but through it all she remains humble and true to her mission to create and inform:. To shake loose ancient memories, and remind women of their true stature. Ruth’s Journey was not planned, she stated in a 2018 interview with the Boston Voyager publication: “The trajectory of my work in sculpture is best expressed by my favorite lines from Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story: “Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.” I had never imagined I might have a career as an artist, but many paths in my life eventually led to it.”


Ruth’s first installation, Phalanx of the Long-Necked Women, was accepted into the Cambridge Art Association’s National Prize Show by the juror, Joseph C. Campbell, Director of Mass MoCA. Her postcard for the show was brought to the attention of the Director, Michael Price, of MPG Contemporary in SoWa. Since then, Ruth has had work exhibited in galleries, colleges, and universities throughout the East coast, most notably New York at the Harlem School of the Arts (where her work received a prize); and in Vienna, Austria and Cuba through Projection by the Boston Biennial Project. She has co-curated shows (with artists Gail Bos and Gloretta Baynes, Chair of the African American Master Artist in Residency Program [AAMARP]) on such critical topics as WHAT ABOUT WAR, MIGRATIONS, and INSIDER/OUTSIDER NATION at the Resnikoff Gallery at Roxbury Community College, Massachusetts sponsored by the artist collective VIOLENCE TRANSFORMED: Celebrating the Transformative Power of Art.

Ruth is also a part of the collective nonprofit group of Artists called Black Coral Inc. Who use Art as a way to inform and Educate around issues of climate change, ancestral knowledge and social justice.





The Totemic Women By Ruth Rosner

Photo By Kate Flock


The totemic women

I sculpt

are born of remnants.

The source of their vulnerability

is also the source of their strength and power.

From Boston to Barcelona I scour streets and trolley tracks,

sea coasts and woods for rusted metal, wood, stones,

arresting rubble.

I gather roots and branches ripped from trees,

rocks shattered and chiseled,

stones worn down by the sea.

Beginning with the face,

I work intuitively,

never knowing in advance where that work will take me.

I incorporate found materials into the figures

as I construct forms

with wire, plaster, wood pulp, volcanic ash or clay

Empowered by the yoking together of scraps and shards

from industry and the earth,

these figures, alone or in concert, are message bearers:

they sing, speak, shout,

offer up touchstones and amulets

to rouse and galvanize the viewer.

They stand as

guardians,

oracles,

voices for the voiceless

and the unheard.