Ruby Sky Stiler’s visual language spans time periods, art movements, and spatial dimensions. Her influences move between the art historical and deeply personal: from textbook images of Greco-Roman sculpture and Art Deco illustrations to contemporary textile patterns and iPhone photographs. Often, Stiler makes use of contemporary materials such as acrylic paint, paper, resin, and wood while visually referencing “classical” or “high art” materials like marble, terracotta, and steel. This weaving together of materials and hierarchies carries viewers between the present and the past—and times in between.
Central to her work is the figurative nude, with its complex history of objectification, gendered roles, and glaring omissions. Stiler has recently expanded her practice to include the subject of father and child in response to the dearth of depictions of men displaying emotional intimacy or being defined in relationship to their children—in stark contrast to the abundant images of mother and child throughout art history. In complicating and repositioning these gender stereotypes, Stiler creates images and models that recall past representations while also reflecting the ever-shifting expressions, expectations, and aspirations of contemporary culture.
Opener 34: Ruby Sky Stiler—New Patterns, a solo exhibition, incorporates the artist’s relief paintings into a sculptural mural alongside a monumental functional sculpture, Bathers, which occupies the gallery floor. Bathers evokes the bodies of water found in modernist paintings of nude figures bathing while also serving as a museum viewing bench. The sinuous blue structure encourages seated viewers to consider their own figure as part of the composition and the historical continuum.
The project is a collaboration with Fairfield University Art Museum where a version of the exhibition, Ruby Sky Stiler: Group Relief, was on view from September 11 through December 19, 2020.
On creating her site-specific mural for the Tang Teaching Museum, Stiler says: “In playing with ways to further extend my exploration of archetypes, spatially and conceptually, I’ve looked back to prehistoric painting, where hierarchical frameworks are rendered in line and pigment on the wall: the wall as ground, the wall as a continuum, the wall as a timeline, the wall as a site for reclamation. I’m employing the gallery walls to establish an encompassing figurative tableau that depicts life as a spherical line, connecting us to the past, present, and future. In one wall relief painting the female artist replaces the male painter’s aggrandizing self-portrait. In another the role of muse is occupied by a reclining male nude. In two distinct sections of the wall mural, a woman is literally and metaphorically holding up time—her arms stretched above her, in support and protest, bearing the weight of history while reclaiming the space as her own.”
Ruby Sky Stiler (b. 1979) has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Fairfield University Art Museum, Fairfield, CT: Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Locust Projects, Miami, FL; Saint-Gaudens Memorial Park, Cornish, NH; The Suburban, Oak Park, IL; and Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, OR. She has been included in group exhibitions at Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, NY; The Berman Museum, PA; The Wellin Museum of Art, Clinton, NY; Providence College Galleries, Providence, RI, among many others. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and her MFA from Yale University and is represented by Nicelle Beauchene Gallery. Stiler lives and works in Brooklyn.