Ruth Santee: Divergent Thinking

Excerpts from an Interview with Ruth Santee
By TaVee Lee, GearBox Gallery

The title of your exhibit is “ Divergent Thinking.” How would you define the meaning of this term?

By Divergent Thinking I mean the thought process in which a person generates several unique, creative responses to a single question or problem. The opposite of this would be convergent thinking, which attempts to find a single, correct answer to a problem.

My approach to art making is by divergent thought. In other words I try not to get brain logged by past conclusions. 

Do you ever experience creative blocks? 

No, not anymore, I used to. Years ago I did. Once I stopped fighting and embraced my creative process, the blocks disappeared. I would work at banal jobs always anticipating when I’d get back into my studio next. That time would come, and I would sit in my studio feeling like a blank slate. As I got older I started to allow myself to relax and not worry about a seemingly unproductive studio day. I adopted play, experimentation and other random activities as part of my creative process. 

You describe the new work in this exhibit as “drawing with collage.” Explain what you mean by that?

This new body of work incorporates several formal elements like: drawing and color usage but combines them with “found” labels and stickers. I collage them together as a substrate for drawing and an aid in drawing. This is an example of divergent thinking; uniting formal drawing with the found ready made.

You have worked in both 2D and 3D is there one you prefer over the other? 

My MFA was in sculpture. My teaching position is in 2D printmaking and design, but I creatively think in both. If I had to compare them, I find 2D more rigorous. Creating a 3D object can be difficult but creating the illusion of a 3D object is more challenging for me. I was born with a lack of depth perception in my eyesight. This could explain that paradox. 

The imagery in this exhibit seems to focus on insects. Why insects? 

Insects remind me of the natural order of the physical world. Human beings are serial disregarders of natural order. We are on an endless roller coaster ride of “destroy and repair” with the natural world.  

You had a show at Mission College titled “Insect Vanitas”. Is this exhibition a continuation of that theme and work? 

No, Divergent Thinking is more about process and the divergence of unconventional connections. Both exhibits had insect imagery, but Insect Vanitas was just that, paintings that referred to life, death and morality. 

Ruth Santee is a California based artist whose work has been exhibited in museum, non-profit and gallery venues. She received a BFA from the College of Santa Fe, NM and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Santee is a recipient of the Cadogan Fellowship Award from the San Francisco Foundation and a recipient of a commission from the San Francisco Arts Commission. Santee’s work is in the permanent collection of the University of Oregon and the David Brower Center, Berkeley CA. Her work has been reviewed in publications including the Los Angeles Times, Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee.

According to Ms.Santee, the depictions of insects “began (as) a summer long investigation of insects, their intrinsic beauty, their death and the fragility of life in general.”

The GearBox is open Thursdays and Fridays from 12 to 6 pm and Saturdays from 11 am to 5 pm. GearBox Gallery is also open 6-9 pm the First Friday of every month as part of the Oakland Art Murmur Art Walk