Ursula von Rydingsvard on sculpture and ancestry


Czara z Babelkami. The construction of this work is something akin to Medieval labor I start with a four-by-four cedar beam I think the scale of my work is extraordinarily important When I make a large piece, I have so many opportunities to make it complex– you know, sometimes like 3,900 opportunities to then, you know, keep making decisions and keep making details I think equally important is that it envelops the human, because its tall and its wide That somehow when you can embrace the body, you can also embrace the psyche more effectively The surfaces of what happens with my sculpture, the textures that I put on my sculpture, that is a huge part of what makes it work for me something that I have to have in mind when I start a piece because you have to start somewhere, you have to begin somewhere, is an image that I have in my head It has nothing to do with words I never– words never help me in making my work And I think one of the things that I had in my mind, which obviously came through, in Czara z Babelkami, is a sweater that I used to wear as a little girl, that had these circular knobbies that were hanging off the surface of that sweater, and somehow, it influenced that image, because of the comfort I mightve felt in that sweater I think its extremely important for me to be working with my body, for me to be working with my hands I never made models, I never make drawings for what it is that I do I would hate to be a slave to those things, because theyre so stupid, in terms of giving you any information on a flat sheet You just cant understand it the way you need to understand it, when its in your head you have to feel alive while youre building, because youre making all these decisions constantly That is thats the reason why its not dead Otherwise, the piece would be dead I do come from a long line of Polish peasant farmers They used my father used a lot of farming implements the war ended in 1945 Before that and I was born three years before that my father worked on a farm, as he was conscripted by by the Germans, in order to do that labor He was such an extraordinary worker that the burgermeister asked my father to continue on in that farm But my father said to him, How can I? Because this would mean that I would doom all of my children, also, to do the same work that Im doing So we chose to go the route of the post-World War II refugee camps for displaced Polish people And we came to the United States at the very end of 1950 People think that while Im making work, I think about the refugee camps I dont I never have But Im sure that its had a real effect on this thing that I call will The will that I have to do my work I get obsessed, as though, you know, I still have this yearning, this opening, this hole, in my mind that needs to be filled by what my ancestors did, basically for – for thousands of years, and somehow, I can feel that theyre still running in my blood Whether I want it or not, its there The inside of my work is as important as the outside And it doesnt really matter that nobody sees it, just like the inside of our bodies are extremely important, you know? Whats inside the earth thats extraordinary important, as well Czara z Babelkami has a gorgeous inside

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