Artist Ruth Stanford fuses ecology with sculpture

Alana George, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Living Editor

modern art
Stanford’s piece, entitled Listed, is installed now through October 11 in Moon Gallery. Each pair of eyes represents a vertebrate species on the Endangered Species List. Photo by Alana George | Campus Carrier

Sculptor and professor Ruth Stanford came to Berry Monday to discuss her sculpture Listed, which is part of the PROCESS exhibition in the Moon Gallery now through October 11.

Stanford described Listed as a representation of all of the vertebrate species on the Endangered Species List; each species has a pair of eyes on a piece of charred wood on the display. Resting on a pedestal adjacent to the display is a little booklet holding the Endangered Species Act; Stanford thought it was interesting how the existence of all of those species is guaranteed in that tiny booklet.

Stanford is an associate professor of sculpture at Georgia State University, with a Master of Science in zoology and a Master of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University. As an ecologist, she aimed to preserve the endangered species in front of her. Now, as a sculptor, she wishes for those who view her work to dig deeper into themselves and find things that might have gone overlooked otherwise.

“My interest is taking common elements of human experience and positioning them to reveal something more,” Stanford said in her artist statement. “I combine elements to create the fault lines, the places where unexpected things can happen, using a condensation of meaning that remains open and ambiguous at its core.”

During her talk on Monday, Stanford showed images of her past projects and explained her inspiration for each of them. In each one, her method of creation was simple: she created from what she saw.

Some of her installations were more controversial than others, like her piece entitled “A Walk in the Valley,” which was inspired by the land of early 20th century Georgia author Corra Harris. According to Stanford, some of Harris’ works were beautiful, but the ones she is remembered for are extremely racist. Stanford did not want to draw attention to the racist author, but to the complexity of the land where she found peace of mind. The museum at Kennesaw State University did not want her to display this installation at first, because of its racist undertones, but due to public outcry against the censorship, it was installed shortly after.

“I wanted to be very careful not to validate the parts of history related to her that were difficult, but at the same time it was an aspect of the history of the property that I felt that I couldn’t ignore,” Stanford said. “The act of removing her from the photos was all intended as a way of saying she is just one layer; she just happens to be the one we pay a lot of attention to at this point in time, but throughout time she’s just one layer of the history there.”

The student responses to the talk were overwhelmingly positive and praised Stanford’s creativity.

“There were a lot of aspects she talked about that you wouldn’t think of as art necessarily, but the way she creates it makes it really interesting and really different,” sophomore Payton Couey said.

“She had some different ideas about things,” junior Hayden Murphy said. “The way she would look at structures and see the odd parts of them and change those really stood out to me.”

All of Stanford’s works, along with descriptions of her inspiration for each piece, can be found on her website,

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