Ruth Hamill Ruth Hamill is a visual artist working across painting, printmaking and collage to explore transience in contemporary life through pervasive symbols such as ocean waves and cut flowers.

I make enduring images of the momentary. They are fictions, slivers of daily life based on everyday objects and experiences that are “attached to life at all four corners,” as Virginia Woolf defined fiction. Working across painting, printmaking and collage, I explore transience in contemporary life through the pervasive symbols such as ocean waves and cut flowers. I choose these symbols for their inherent temporality. A wave is so ephemeral that as soon as it forms, the wave changes and moves on. And vased flowers, though appearing full of life, are cut from their source and decaying constantly.

The way I create is a rebellion against today’s all consuming virtual and busy-busy culture. Regardless of medium on canvas or paper, I embrace tactile materiality by building layer by layer. I find my way intuitively, allowing for mistakes and following where they go. I work with traditional materials in new ways and believe it is best for the subject to dictate the medium and the handling of materials. 

In my studio practice, I alternate between the hot, messy process of encaustic painting and cool, controlled work on paper that often employs collage and printmaking techniques. Encaustic, an ancient medium that involves heat and pigment-embedded wax, demands going with the flow. I have to surrender to the unruly medium. Like sailor to sea, I make peace with it by melding hundreds of thin layers. Even with normally unlayered printmaking methods such as linocut and drypoint, I employ multiple passes through the press for a temporal effect. I push vibrancy of color in order to make work that is worthy of the translucency of water and the beauty of flowers. 

In a series of still life collages, I built each with at least 500 to more than 2000 pieces of gouache-painted paper. And working outside using only the sun’s UV rays, fast-wilting flowers, glass vases and large format paper that I chemically treated, I created a series of cyanotype photograms that give the illusion of still life. Each piece encapsulates a moment in time and seals it.

Taking the theme of a moment in time at its most literal, I base a new body of work on family snapshots from the 1960s and 1970s. Through drawings, mixed media work on paper, and oil paintings, I explore the personal and cultural forces at work under the surface during a time of great upheaval in America.