PP1.5. Ruth Loveland

Dylan Cale Jones: My name is Dylan Cale Jones,

Isa Rodriguez: and I'm Isa Rodriguez, and this is Practice, Practice. And today we are talking to Ruth Loveland.

Dylan Cale Jones: Ruth, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are?

Ruth Loveland: My name is Ruth. I'm an artist. I live in Norman, Oklahoma. It's like a little kind of college town right outside of Oklahoma city.

Uh, Maintained a studio here for the last 24 years or so, almost 25. And currently have a studio called Magic Sad, which is also an art gallery. It's a physical space to exhibit and my own studio.

I have a son in school. I work a lot with arts community in Kansas City and Oklahoma.

Dylan Cale Jones: That's interesting. What's your connection with Kansas city?

Ruth Loveland: I have a good friend that lives there, so I sort of have a continuous reason to visit. I've worked with the gallery for the last, maybe six years in Kansas city, working on commission things that have been brought my way through the gallery . Also, there is a rural area outside of Kansas city called the Flint Hills and spend a lot of time there.

Dylan Cale Jones: Okay. Interesting.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah. Very cool. Okay. Can you tell us a little bit about, some of your like early experiences of creativity, what creativity was like for you as a child?

Ruth Loveland: Yeah, I was a quiet kid and I did a lot of drawing, sort of like I do now, sort of the same thing, like over and over. I would fill like a whole sketchbook full of this shape that was sort of like a dress and sort of like a head and sort of like a lady. But it would be like a circle and a circle and the same kind of procedural drawing. I did a lot of drawing. My mom was always very supportive of children's art programming.

Anything that my brother and I wanted to do. I remember taking classes at the city arts center when I was pretty young and even into high school. She would enroll me in figure drawing, just whatever I wanted to do. I had a supportive home environment as far as utilizing, you know, classes and stuff like that.

So I've kind of always been doing something. Yeah.

Dylan Cale Jones: Okay. And did you, out of curiosity, did you have arts programming where you went to elementary school or middle school or high school?

Ruth Loveland: Uh, definitely middle school and high school. By the time I got to high school, I was kind of the kid that sat outside the library and drew in my sketchbook. So yeah, I did have art classes and especially high school.

Dylan Cale Jones: Were you still drawing procedural lady heads in high school?

Ruth Loveland: No, but I definitely have always had this thing since I was a kid that I'll have one thing that I'm on and I'm just like doing it over and over and over. I was drawing spirals and eyeballs and, Nirvana inspired drawings. Yeah.

Dylan Cale Jones: For a lot of people in high school, there's such like a deep connection between music and visual culture.

Ruth Loveland: Absolutely.

Dylan Cale Jones: People writing band names all over their binders and trying to copy them and all of that.

Oh yeah.

Isa Rodriguez: I used to like listen to music in my room and draw for like hours and hours.

Ruth Loveland: Oh yeah, absolutely. That was my formative years, in my room, painting. Even in high school, I was kind of a little bit antisocial and my mom kind of let me do whatever I want, as far as using that space. She let me paint the walls all crazy and paint polka dots on one wall. And so I kind of had this sense of studio, even in my room when I was not out of the house yet and big canvases everywhere.

Isa Rodriguez: Okay. So will you talk to us a little bit about the details of your practice? I'm interested in hearing about the soil paintings specifically.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah, I've been working on soil based paint, using different colored soils that I usually find around Oklahoma.

Isa Rodriguez: For those listeners who aren't in Oklahoma, in Oklahoma, we have this wide array of amazing iron rich soil. So the dirt is really red and really yellow here. Even in the city. It's all over the place.

Ruth Loveland: Living here you don't even notice it, but if you really look, it's interesting. It's really, really red. Working with it, I've have discovered the reds are nuanced. There's a lot of different tones of the red and it will go to like a purple or more orange or yellow.

I've been using egg with it. So it's an egg tempera. So it does feel like a ritual of cracking the egg and then separating the egg yolk and grinding the dirt. And you can only mix up what you're going to use in that setting, because it doesn't keep.

I usually work with one or two soils at a time, which are also collected at a place that probably has significance somehow. So you're kind of spending time with this very limited material that has a memory attached just mixing egg with dirt and that's your your medium.

Dylan Cale Jones: Yeah, we're we're sitting in ruth's studio right now.

And as you're talking about this i'm looking around and seeing some paintings that have multiple types of soil used and I can see all that nuance especially when they're put next to each other and it's pretty special.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah. And I, you know, I did an artist residency in the Mississippi Delta region a couple of Septembers ago, and my project was going to be soil based paint, connecting with that place. So when I got there, I quickly realized all the soil was pretty much the same color and I thought, "Oh no, what am I going to do?" I found like bits of rusted metal and different objects that I ended up using for the pigment. Coming home from that experience, I don't know, it almost brought more value to like the color palette that we have, just around our creeks and lakes and stuff in Oklahoma.

It is kind of special.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah, it's pretty amazing, especially the way that your work speaks to a specific site. Can you tell us about your favorite places to go to look for soil?

Ruth Loveland: Oh yeah. So I never really get in the car and be like, "I'm going to go get some dirt today."

It's sort of part of, I don't know, maybe a mental health practice, just being out and walking. It's usually within an hour of home. It's interesting what you just like run upon whenever you start looking. If you're looking for a particular thing, that's what you'll see.

And so in this process of developing a color palette from soil, I pick up on like, a little tiny thing that I know is a clay based thing when I'm walking. A lot of the creeks and things that don't seem that special, you can just sort of drop down in a creek and find just like little bits of clay that are maybe a little different than what's around or, and then there might be like a cow tooth and like a whiskey bottle, really cool rock.

And then you end up with your pockets full of sticks and rocks, but it is definitely unscripted. I really enjoy just seeing how any kind of river, lake or creek will sort of erode and you can see the layers. Just a little pocket of something that's a little bit different colored than what's around.

Some of the places that I collect soil I visit throughout the seasons. I see what grows there . You know, looking for mushrooms. As far as the, the lake and my town, I grew up swimming in that lake. So my grandfather had a cabin or like a little trailer, on some like FAA land. So we would go out there all the time in the summer and all of my stuff was, like your swimsuit would turn this like certain color from swimming in the lake.

You know, I feel like I've been being stained by that since I was little. I'm interested in connecting with it before it was owned by any one thing that can regulate it. There's such a... a prehistoric feeling that I get from the earth and it's like beyond jurisdiction.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah, that's a great way to put it. Yeah.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah. I mean, it is, it's so old. And what I do work with is such a small amount. You know, I'm not taking a huge bucket. I'm taking like what an animal could carry home. And, you know, this kind of code of Don't take more than you need. If you made a mistake, put it back. Don't take the first that you saw. Don't take the last that you saw. Coming at it from this place of respect, that's self goverend.

Isa Rodriguez: You're not looking to the official rules to like, tell you how to behave in that space. Right. Cause then there's a lot of things that I might not think is an appropriate way to behave that people do all the time. Right. But then there's this other side where, removing anything from that space is disallowed.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah, it's disallowed, but, you know, you remove it when you walk in the mud, it's on your shoes, you know, it's like all around.

Dylan Cale Jones: Yeah, it's like this illusion that there's any way to interact with that space that's neutral, which is impossible.

Isa Rodriguez: Right. Yeah. Yeah. And like, it sounds like you have really thought about it, right. You've been thinking about it for years.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah. And sometimes it's like. Curiosity wins You know? Like respect and reverence win also.

Isa Rodriguez: I think that makes sense.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah, yeah And then there's also this notion of trespassing. It's kind of like dealing with this idea of like is this trespassing if it's an inch over this fence post? But what if it blows to the left and I get it? Have I trespassed and not realized it cause the land blew into the roadside ditch? Or is looking at the land, you know, over the fence, is that trespassing? And who had it before somebody had it? And who had it before anybody was there?

Isa Rodriguez: We act like, we, as in everyone, agrees to act as though ownership is really concrete and measurable, but it's quite abstract. Um, yeah. There's a lot of fuzziness around it, especially at the edge of the fence post, at the edge of the invisible property line, right?

Ruth Loveland: Right and the edges are sometimes where that stuff gets exposed.

Isa Rodriguez: Mm hmm. Yeah where it's been like dug up.

Dylan Cale Jones: Well, it makes me think about this scale of time and how we are existing in a moment where land is thought of as something that can be owned and something that can be regulated and That we can have, like you said, jurisdiction over. But this is a moment that is relatively new and is something that will pass.

Ruth Loveland: Right.

Dylan Cale Jones: And it's almost like you're time traveling either to the future or the past where these rules don't exist.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah. And it's not out of not being aware, not just wanting to take something.

Isa Rodriguez: And it sounds like you're putting your relationship with the land before your relationship with the rules.

Ruth Loveland: Right. And I think you can do that anywhere that you are. There's no excuse to be like, "Oh, this place, Oh, I got stuck here." Or like, "There could be a better place. I could be living by the ocean or there could be..."

Isa Rodriguez: it's like an ocean in a way, right? Like the prairie is sort of like an ocean.

Ruth Loveland: It is like an ocean.

Yeah. And like, "Oh, the land is so flat!" But if you look, the grasslands almost have this psychedelic thing in the winter of all of these very subtle tones of grass. The way the sun will hit it, you can find this very subtle rainbow just in native grass, if you could find it.

You know i'm in Central oklahoma. I feel like there are more picturesque places to be, but this is where I am and this is kind of like how I am reconciling some of the things that are not my favorite things about this place.

I'm here and this is like, I'm tied here. This is where I am. And I think you can connect with like the elemental aspects of wherever you are. You just have to tune into it.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah, I love that. That's fantastic. Yeah. Really well said.

Ruth Loveland: Okay, good.

Dylan Cale Jones: So I'm interested in hearing too about some of the other things that you do creatively.

Like for example, we're in your studio right now, and I know that you've also used it as a gallery space to show other artists. Do you consider that as part of your creative practice too, or do you kind of separate those things for yourself?

Ruth Loveland: I definitely separate them. When I started the gallery, the name is Magic Sad, sort of a personal project of curating work that I felt was obsessive or transformative or had some sort of paradox in it, in this loose way.

Isa Rodriguez: Okay.

Ruth Loveland: I had an artist, Mary Alice Carol, and, she had this series of ceramic work that had a black clay body that had colored glaze drips coming out and they were titled "Unlucky Number One, Unlucky Number Two". It's kind of like celebrating something gets so sad, it turns to magic.

Isa Rodriguez: I like that idea.

Ruth Loveland: I was running it, as a project of having other artists in the space, but I recently transitioned, to try to focus on my own work for this next year's. I'm just studioing.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah. Cause it takes a lot of work to put together a new exhibition every month or every two months. It's a lot.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah. And I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like when I'm not taking it all down every month. And I'm just adding and going floor to ceiling maybe with what's in the room.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah. Yeah. That's fantastic.

Dylan Cale Jones: Ruth, what else is there in your life and how do you balance your creative practice with the other aspects of your life?

Ruth Loveland: Yeah. You know, having a son has been the best thing. So fun. He's 13 and I feel like every age that he's ever been, I feel like, oh, this is my favorite age. This is so fun.

And when he was younger, we would go on this drive to get him to fall asleep. And I would often drive like out into the country, you know. I have certain roads I know there aren't stop signs, so he could fall asleep in the car. And then if he didn't fall asleep, then we would get out and kind of explore. So my relationship with my son has kind of gotten me to explore a little more than I would have had I not had a kid to entertain.

My practices kind of fit in around my parental duties. Right now I'm working at the library, which is so fun. It does limit my time some. So, for working, it's like, you know, ideally I would have a day where you wake up and you get all of your distractions out of the way, and you get your coffee. And if I know I'm having a long workday, I'll get like all of my food for the whole day set in the morning, so I don't have to worry about it.

Isa Rodriguez: Oh, I love that.

Dylan Cale Jones: That's a great idea. I love that.

Isa Rodriguez: I like that. Yeah, so that it's just like when it's time to eat, it's already ready. Yeah. It's there. It's decided.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah, because if I'm working and then you have to stop to make lunch, it's like who knows what will happen!

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah. Shifting gears like that.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah. And I think, and just the way my brain works is like, you have this like runway and then there's like this takeoff, and when you get to cruising altitude, then you're going to work all day. And a lot of my work is obsessive, so I'll really get into it. And that's when I do my best work.

However, that's not always possible to have all this time to like set up just perfectly this whole day. So I end up having this weekly, daily negotiation with like time and altitude. You know, sometimes you have two hours or an hour. So that sort of defines some of the projects I work on, 'cause some stuff is smaller work that I can pick up anytime or work on at home. And then I have more serious stuff that I get into at the studio. That would be at a cruising altitude.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah, that makes sense. Sure.

Dylan Cale Jones: Does your little one ever hang out with you at the studio?

Ruth Loveland: Yeah, he did. And he does. It's probably not his favorite thing. So that's also a negotiation, might be a little burned out on it.

Dylan Cale Jones: Okay.

Ruth Loveland: I really tried to... when it's like kid quality time have good quality time to make sure I'm you know present and having fun.

Isa Rodriguez: What do you two like to do together?

Ruth Loveland: He's 13 now, so he's very social. Lots of friends. We like going to baseball games. We'll go to the Oklahoma City Dodgers games. He's really into cologne right now. And so we will go to places that have cologne, sometimes several in one day one after the other, and just like smell all of the cologne. That's kind of a recent development. But as he becomes more social and gets older then I'm faced with more blocks of time. And I think that will only increase, you know, as everybody kind of goes into like a different phase.

Dylan Cale Jones: Yeah, it's interesting too, because I think that there's like the word "parenting" as if parenting is like one clear thing...

Isa Rodriguez: that stays the same.

Dylan Cale Jones: And from hearing you talk about it, it's something that's constantly changing and something that you constantly have to adjust to and change your expectations of what that means, which is, It's fascinating to hear.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah. And it is kind of a verb "parenting". It's an action that you do or don't do.

Sure. And you're like a parent, you know, sometimes you're a parent, but you're not really parenting. So I really try to use that as an action word whenever it's like parenting time. I really enjoy having a studio outside of the house for that reason.

Isa Rodriguez: Oh yeah.

Ruth Loveland: Working at home, you tend to be all over the house. I'm in the kitchen at the sink with materials and then the table has stuff on it, and then I'm working on the couch and it's like, leaning against the wall.

While that might be fun to grow up in that sort of environment, there's something that seems quite not fair about taking over the entire thing. When your kid gets older. It's like a roommate and you're like, oh, this is a common area. This isn't like... this is a common area for like myself and this human. The whole world's not your work space.

So I really enjoy having a studio outside of the house. I can come here, hyper focus, leave, go home.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah. Do you find that it's like a distinctly different mindset when you're here?

Ruth Loveland: Yeah. I walk in the door and I feel like so lucky. I'm like, yes, this is it.

Dylan Cale Jones: And was that something that was intentional?

Ruth Loveland: I've always liked having a studio outside of my house.

So I think it was in the house for, I don't know, a few years and I just get so distracted. And also this degree of professionalism that you're sort of toe the line with. It feels funny to have people over to your house to see your work and it's like, "Oh my gosh, my lawn's not mowed! Oh, don't look in the laundry room! Oh, you have to go to the bathroom. Oh no!"

I feel this degree of professionalism where. You don't start with an apology. You're just like, "Come in, here's the work!" And you can really focus on that instead of, you know, your housekeeping or all the other things in your life that you're juggling.

I really love having that dedicated space. And I feel like it can be sort of an incubator for friendship and interesting conversations and impromptu meetings that you wouldn't have like in a, in a home space. My space has a storefront basically, you know windows and so when I'm not here I like to leave a light on. This like little window that anyone in the neighborhood can kind of peek in and see what's going on.

Dylan Cale Jones: Sure and then it becomes about the work, right? If you have a studio , it's like your work is front and center, right?

Isa Rodriguez: You know, it gives you a private space because that's the other thing about inviting people in. For Dylan and I often our studio has been our home. When we lived in Chicago, it's pretty expensive to afford a separate studio, and so it's just much easier to like rent a slightly bigger apartment and have the studio at home. But then it means that anytime you invite someone into the studio, they also see your life. And I am a pretty private person and I don't want everyone seeing my life. Like, even if my house is clean, even if everything looks great.

Ruth Loveland: There's professionalism. So i'm doing this as my profession. I'm investing in my life in this way. It is a profession and I do take it seriously, like the presentation of it.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah. Being a professional artist or a full time artist actually for me means like putting together a lot of little pieces in a way that allows me to also be really serious about my work, but you know, that does sometimes mean working part time at places or working freelance, doing other things. So when you're looking for that other piece, are you also looking for something that sort of fits into your studio practice?

Ruth Loveland: Yeah, I think, the thing that works about the library is it's structured, it's labeled, it's repetitive. It's books. I love to read. I work part time at a bookstore sometimes. And I have kind of found this rhythm that will happen where I am making work full time and I did it! And it's been working and then all of a sudden it kind of stops working and you're like, "Oh my gosh, if I just knew that I had something I could like write a budget around, like a paycheck coming in, I think I could just relax. This would be so much better." And then I'll get a job and then I'll be at the job and be like, "Oh my gosh This is killing me. If I could just work in the studio if I could just do art full time!" And so then I'll kind of find a way to get back to that. And then get back to that and you're like, "This is so scary, this is terrible!"

So finding a balance between working, not too much, something that is fulfilling that you're, you know, continuing to build relationships with, communities and people, but you're also leaving enough time.

It's always a balance and it is cobbling it together. Like, I used to clean this office building and I was like, okay, well that's my car payment. And then I worked at an art gallery. So I'm like, okay, that's like studio, whatever. So I knew any work that I sold, like that was like food and gas and car washes and lottery tickets and whatever.

So yeah, I feel like that really It changes up every like two or three, maybe every three years, probably. For me, that's like, okay, I'm working, okay, I'm not working, but I work really hard no matter what, you know, it's like, you're always working on something.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah, but like that sort of balance of what you're giving to the practice and making sure that the day to day stuff is covered can shift back and forth at different times.

I appreciate you talking about that. I feel like that's something that's kind of a lot of artists keep hidden that they have another job or that they teach or that they, do whatever on the side or all the time. So I appreciate you sharing about that.

Are you all ready to do our closing questions?

Ruth Loveland: Sure.

Dylan Cale Jones: Okay. So we're going to wrap up with a couple of questions. The first question we have is what is a piece of advice that you would give your past self?

Ruth Loveland: Oh, my past self. Let's see. I was thinking my future self.

Dylan Cale Jones: Well, we're going to ask that question too.

You can answer whichever one you want if you want some time to think about the past.

Ruth Loveland: And then I was thinking of what advice I would give. If I wasn't myself at all. Oh, I like that question too. Yeah. Um, let's see past self.

Dylan Cale Jones: Like, what did you need to hear in the past?

Ruth Loveland: You know, I feel like the same advice that I would give my future self and my past self and the self that's not myself would just be like, "Keep working."

You know, practice is more reliable than inspiration. I think Octavia Butler said that in the in the back of this book, Blood Child, on an essay on writing. That's like practice is more reliable than inspiration.

So it's like you just have to keep working, every day, No matter what it is. If it's for a project or it's just something for you. Just make sure you're doing something every day and don't get bogged down by the business of it. So, yeah, I think that, I think the advice for all those selves would be the same.

Dylan Cale Jones: Keep working.

Ruth Loveland: Yeah.

Dylan Cale Jones: Okay.

Isa Rodriguez: That's great. That's great.

Ruth Loveland: Cool. Did we nail it?

Dylan Cale Jones: Yeah.

Isa Rodriguez: Yeah. We nailed it.

Dylan Cale Jones: Thanks, Ruth.

Practice, Practice is created by Isa Rodriguez and Dylan Cale Jones. The music you heard in this episode is by Kate Jarboe.

Isa Rodriguez: This season of Practice Practice is funded by a Thrive Grant from the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition and the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Dylan Cale Jones: Thrive Grants fund community-driven, artist-led projects across the state of Oklahoma. Learn more and apply at ovac-ok.org

Ruth Loveland: I'm Ruth Loveland and you're listening to Practice Practice.