On Tuesday night, sitting on the floor of Taylor Hall surrounded by a barrage of cloud and star-painted sheets, senior and Lynn Herrick Sharp Award winner Ali Ruffner spoke about what exactly it means to make art. Student’s art at the Bachelor of Fine Art Exhibition ranged from pieces made of sheets and dirt to detailed photography and paintings. Ruffner’s, in particular, displayed a collection of art inspired by conversation and reality, titled, “S— I think you should care about.”
Ruffner, like the other recipients of the Lynn Herrick Sharp Award, received a grant that funded the creation of her collection, which was later presented to the public.
Prior to her art show, Ruffner presented her work in Smith Hall to current students pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). She discussed using her art to address intimate and important issues, like social injustice, sexual assault, immigration reform and the importance of self-care.
“It’s really hard to talk to people about pain, there’s sort of a resistance to language,” she says,
“Being really prepared to have difficult conversations is one of the most important things.”
Since much of Ruffner’s art stems from conversation and learning, she emphasizes the importance of valuing the people that come in and out of your life.
“I would spend a lot of time reading, researching, talking to people, getting a really good grounding of knowledge before I start anything,” she says.
Ruffner is a double major in art as well as women and gender studies. Studying the topics she discusses in her art is extremely important, she says. Ruffner says that the art community on campus has been increasingly supportive of her work.
“One thing that’s awesome about my cohorts at UD is that competition isn’t there because we care about each other,” Ruffner says. “We care about each other’s work, we show up to each other’s stuff, we’re interested in what people are doing.”
This sentiment was reflected in the atmosphere of Taylor Hall the day of the art show. The room was filled with support from friends, family and art lovers alike who walked around observing the collection, asking questions and engaging in conversation.
Ruffner’s art, combined with 17 other graduating seniors’ in the BFA program, were also featured at the Mixtape: 2017 BFA Exhibition on May 12 .
After graduation, Ruffner plans to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in service work, specifically in a women’s shelter. She hopes to continue to make art, but not for profit.
Having worked for a while in a domestic violence shelter, and being a member of the university’s Sexual Offense Support (S.O.S.), Ruffner explains her passion for service and social work.
“I don’t think that you can do art about sexual assault and not care about survivors of sexual assault,” Ruffner says.
In her pre-show talk, Ruffner spoke about a piece she created, titled “Violations,” in which she asked eight of her friends who had been victims or survivors of sexual assault or abuse to give her their underwear. The piece grappled with what it was like to have a garment so personal and private, connected to such a traumatic experience, exposed in a public space.
“I think that art sometimes bridges the gap that language can’t fill,” she says.