I first stumbled across Ruth Lantz’s paintings while waiting to meet someone in the Stumptown on 3rd Avenue, downtown Portland. I’d walked in the door, hopped in line, and then started looking around absent-mindedly. As I inched forward, debating whether or not to indulge in a pastry with my coffee, I’d noticed the series of paintings hanging on the exposed brick walls.
They were big by coffee shops standards, and dealt in abstraction, a risky currency. Long bars of color jutted and strafed boldly across the canvases, applied with varying degrees of opacity, some bright and thick, some almost translucent. A few of the canvases had a spotty, mottled quality that reminded me of a steamed-over shower door. I jotted down Lantz’s name on a whim.
When I got in touch with her a few days later, she responded to my e-mail with an invitation to meet at her studio in the Lincoln Building. I did some research ahead of the interview, during which I found the following statement on Lantz’s website.
I create paintings that explore the ambiguity of perceptual understanding. I invite viewers to re-discover unresolved phenomena through the consideration of tensional forces. I produce images that sit on the edge of recognition but are unnamable in their presence. I am seeking a work in constant flux, searching for both its beginning and its end.
Using conscious mark-making and improvisational techniques, I capture the essence of a layered occurrence through a veiled understanding. I fill each surface with an indeterminate field and ask viewers to question what is coming into being and what slips into the absence. I push for an end that has no name but rather hovers in the ether of an uncertain state — encapsulating one amorphous environment on the brink of transformation.
I wasn’t sure what to do with that.