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About ruth

bio Ruth Pettus came to the US in 1978 from Australia, prior to living in London. She arrived in Baltimore 1980. She had studied art history at University of Sydney, hoping to pursue a career in art restoration, and painting at the Corcoran School of Art. In 1988 she began to exhibit paintings in Baltimore and the mid- Atlantic region. In 1995 she started to work with old used shoes as well as continuing to paint and draw. Her work has been shown in the US, Russia and Spain. She enjoys teaching and... more

On An Overgrown Path, Stevenson University, Stevenson, Maryland

"On an Overgrown Path" is the title of a piano composition by Leon Janacek composed between 1901-1911. After hearing a performance I thought it would use it for the project at Stevenson.
Over 100 shoes traverse the gallery on white-painted cardboard boxes textured with joint compound, coffee grounds, pine needles and kosher salt. Hanging on the walls are 2"x2" ink wash studies, as if from the overgrown path one could see a landscape in the distance.
In the end, the path reminded me of the Appian Way, an old Roman road.

  • From an Overgrown Path detail

    Showing the ink washes on the other wall.
  • Overgrown Path detail

    Shows the spatial relationship between shoes and one wall of the ink wash studies in the gallery.
  • 20-copy-2.jpg

    Another ink wash of far away horizons.
  • Overgrown Path detail

    Another detail. Nylon fishing twine around top left shoe over wax.
  • Overgrown Path detail

    The almost empty box shows the texture of pine needles and joint compound. The kosher salt, although not seen here, sometimes gave a sparkle to the surface.
  • Overgrown Path detail

    Shows different levels on the path. Also a canvas shoe that adds a lightness to the procession among the heaviness of the stone, wax and leather shoes.
  • Overgrown Path detail

    Another view of the beginning of the path. The material on the shoes in the middle is wax.
  • On an Overgrown Path detail

    The beginning of the "path".
  • Overgrown Path

    Although this shows the small wash drawings on only one wall, it does show their relationship to the "path" and gives a good sense of the trajectory of the shoes at the entrance to the gallery.

Conventions, Area 405 Baltimore, Maryland 2011

Area 405, in Baltimore, has a huge rough exhibition space, it was once an old window blind factory. I shared the gallery with artist RoyCrosse http://www.msac.org/artists/roy-crosse#/.
We were given the title Conventions. ..the title did not guide me, I just needed to fill the space, mindful of Roy's work.
The floor was wonderful to work with.

  • Conventions detail

    In spite of the darkness of the corners I wanted to use them, the varying textures and patterns of the walls corresponded with the shoes, the deep gloom allowed the shoes to be small beacons, In Baltimore finding a red shoe is unusual, however it found a place in this corner.
  • Conventions detail

    A large group of shoes making their way across the floor. The "ski " has some white rice on the piece of shoe ( an Inner heel ) up front.
  • Conventions detail

    This shoe stuffed with wax and clay was originally placed on a small board giving me the option of floor or wall.In the background one of the machines once used in the factory, looking almost like early 20th century sculpture.
  • Conventions detail

    Shoe caught in chain Iink fence...
  • Conventions detail

    Nails in the wall gave me the option to hang some pieces.
  • Conventions detail

    Two "skis" one with a shoe stuffed with white llama fleece.The "skis" not only carried shoes but odds and ends such as, dried orange peel, string and buttons stuck in wax. Another shoe hanging from a metal structure.
  • Conventions detail

    Another group, a larger group, more spread out.
  • Conventions

    Throughout the gallery I placed the shoes in small groups of differing formations.The changes in the flooring patterns was exciting to work with.
  • Conventions detail

    Another line of shoes making their way across the gallery floor, lead by a shoe placed on a metal structure. One of the "ski" pieces follows behind.
  • Conventions detail

    The gloomy light added an atmosphere of weariness to the shoes as they serpentined along the floor.

De Paso, Palacete del Embarcadero, Santander, Spain, 2009

The Palacete had been a small 19th century custom house on the quay of Santander in NW Spain. It is now a gallery space under the direction of the Cultural Office of the Port.
Curator, photographer, and professor Oscar Villegas-Paez and I created a simple format on which to place 96 shoes, 8 pieces of 3'x 6' lightly varnished 1/8th inch plywood.
All the shoes used in this space were created in Chinchon, Spain between 2006- 2008.

Three sets of six 10" x 10" paintings entitled "The Six Seasons" was hung in a small gallery at the back of the main space.

  • Palacete del Embarcadero:

    THe small palace on the quay,the building where DE PASO was exhibited. The title DE PASO refers to not only the spanish word for step 'paso' but also the verb 'pasar' (to pass) as a reference to people passing each other and in a more abstract sense, the passing of time. Oscar and I spent many hours watching people, families,dogs walking up and down the boardwalk.In searching for a title we always came back to the images of people passing by.
  • DE PASO detail

    Some of the holes of this stripped inner sole are filled with wax, pieces of brick, and an old iron bolt. I covered some of the waxy holes with brick dust before the wax hardened.
  • DE PASO detail

    This type of brick with holes that is jammed into the shoe is common in construction and reconstruction in Chinchon, broken pieces of it are everywhere. I found one unbroken with 8 holes and used it for pencils. The material on the toe is wax.
  • DE PASO detail

    2 contrasting shoes.In the foreground a pale disintegrating espadrille tied onto a board covered in the dust from limestone, a material in excess in Chinchon. The shoe behind it is sandal pierced by a rock and spike of wood, held by wire.
  • DE PASO detail

    A boot wrapped with rope and wire.I found the rope in Chinchon. It is very roughly braided and although it looked fragile and to be falling apart it was still strong and did not crack whilst I wrapped it.
  • a Season ( one from a set of 6 paintings)

    !0" x 10" canvas,gesso, acrylic, brewed coffee grounds or texture.
  • a Season ( one from a set of 6 paintings)

    10" x 10" canvas. Water-based media, brewed coffee grounds for texture.
  • DE PASO

    This image shows most of the exhibit. The black painted backdrop simplified the background. "The Six Seasons " were hung in the room on the right.
  • DE PASO detail

    A sideways image of the shoes, looking static.
  • DE PASO detail

    A detail that gives the impression of the shoes moving forward.

Shoes 2014

Shoes reconstructed and/or finished n 2014. Mostly in Baltimore.
I became interested in "pedestals" traditional and non-traditional.

  • Shoe XXXXIV

    A dried mop in a shoe. On a tall piece of 4x4 lumber.
  • Shoe XXXXIII

    An older shoe I rediscovered.Stuffed with rocks, roofing, wax, duct tape.And a shoe lace around the toe.
  • Shoe IX

    A big piece of asphalt from road construction in my neighborhood,On the sneaker is an empty cardboard box,dried paper towel and a white rock.
  • Shoe XXXI

    Russian woven- bark slipper, stem of bunch of grapes, on painted wood with a high heel and a piece of brown wax.
  • Shoe XIII

    Made in France. Flip flop on a broken roof tile with white piece of ceramic and corner of athletic shoe.
  • Shoe XXIV

    Shoe in stirrup on brick on marble from Baltimore.
  • Shoe XXIII

    Chopsticks in slippers on wood on a piece of styrofoam that I picked up from a traffic accident.
  • Shoe XII

    Pink wax looking like quartz, dried coffee grounds, canvas string.
  • Shoe XV

    Foam pedestal from Ireland, once the seat of small chair, with rocks gauze bandaged onto the inner sole of a man's shoe, with piece of cement for a heel from Baltimore.
  • Shoe VII

    Dried banana skin, part of a wig over small screws and wax on a piece hardened white latex paint.

new shoes 2013

New shoe work created in Baltimore and in the west of Ireland, where my brother lives in Co. Galway. Chicken wire straw , blue synthetic twine are some of the rural materials on my brother's property that I put to use.

  • Shoe XX

    Shoes,rocks and dried lemons on 2 pieces of wood that is part of a "ski" series.
  • Shoe L

    Pale blue synthetic twine a common sight at my brother's "farm" in county Galway, plus green bristles from a broken broom.
  • Shoe XXXX

    A plastic shoe with a coathanger, insole on a piece of driftwood attached to a wooden canvas stretcher bar.
  • Shoe XXXXV

    Another format using an long piece of wood as pedestal for three shoes.
  • Shoe XXVII

    Made with a piece of chicken wire in Ireland.
  • Shoe IV

    A pair of felt slippers from Ireland,ready for bed.
  • Shoe XXX

    Two boots from Paris, found together after a night of heavy rain. The wooden blocks are also from Paris, found in construction sites close to where I stayed.
  • Shoe XXV

    Old hay tied onto an Irish niece's slipper with canvas thread and like blue synthetic twine.
  • Shoe XI

    Double decker sandal with cherry pits.
  • Shoe III

    Mustard seed on this wall or table piece.

new shoes2015-.........

used shoes transformed

  • Shoe XVII

    A pair of shoes and a piece of a walnut shell on an old breadboard is tilted up on a piece of sidewalk.
  • LVI

    A shoe with mango seeds and dried mango skin on a chunk of dug up sidewalk. The white powder is an organic pesticide.
  • Shoe LV

    A piece of honey coloured rock, a beige slipper, and piece of cement.
  • Shoe LIV

    The soles of the shoes are covered with black sesame seeds. Twine is used to secure them to a cement covered brick. The pedestal is wood painted with black ink not paint. The surface is smooth and opaque.
  • Shoe XIII

    Dried banana peels layered on an old sole. The peels dry in interesting shapes and create an intricate texture. Very fragile.
  • LX

    I also used boards to support the shoes and spread out some details around the shoes rather than on them. A dried tangerine, olive pits and an extra shoe that appears as a sundial surround a pair of sandals joined by a rock.
  • Shoe LIII

    A large chunk of sidewalk supports a tar-covered brick, a sandal, a flat rock and dried banana peal. This year the shoes ranged from light and simple to heavy piles.
  • Shoe XVI

    This shoe is one of an exquisite pair of unworn Italian shoes I found on the streets of Baltimore. Not much was needed but a dried lemon and pointed piece of wood.
  • Sandal VIII

    A small sandal, silver spray-painted wood and a thin piece of wax work in combination for an almost weightless piece.

piazza,plaza, ploshadz

Approximately 30 shoes on gold painted roughed up cardboard. In St.Petersburg, Russia creating a surface similar to cobblestones.The use of gold originally stemmed from the atmosphere inside the Orthodox Church and its use on the icons within. But my readings of Russian history informed this piece and the dark corners reflect an exhaustion and melancholy prevalent in the history.This was my first international installation I completed.

Momentum, Hunt Gallery, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton Virginia 2012

The gallery length was 3 times its width. I thought to accentuate this feature by placing 100 shoes on heavy rolls of white paper so they would appear to be streaming down the gallery floor.
The unusual checkered pattern of the floor was reminiscent of interiors of Renaissance painting, giving an unexpected historical echo.

  • Momentum detail

    Shows different uses of string on the shoes, as well as the individual's shoe in contrast to the shoe sculpture.
  • Momentum detail

    A close up showing a cardboard square and chipboard rectangle for separating individual shoes off the paper.
  • Momentum detail

    Another view of the rollout towards the end of paper. Victoria Ray, a student at Mary Baldwin during the show, did a great job documenting the show for me.
  • Momentum detail

    The opening. The disadvantage of showing the shoes on the floor is that it is difficult to see any detail. For the most part, I do not mind people getting close, touching them and even picking them up, if I am present. The students who helped me set up had a great experience handling the shoes.
  • Momentum detail

    I had brought too many shoes, but the students, who were helping unpack and place them, wanted to use them all. So we stacked the long boxes, in which they has been transported, between pedestals, where visitors could sit.That provided an opportunity for them to be examined up close.
  • Momentum detail

    Detail of previous image. Most of the shoes were created in Baltimore but the black pair bound with light rope was made at a residency in Koli, NE Finland.
  • Momentum detail

    Detail of 120 shoes from Baltimore on white paper on the right hand side of the Hunt Gallery.

To Market,To Market. Linenhall Art Center. Castlebar,co.Mayo, Ireland 2013

The gallery at the Linenhall Art Center was originally an indoor market hall for the selling of flax. I used the marketplace as my theme, recreating the hustle and bustle of a 19th century market day. I had 55 shoes in Ireland, made at my brother's house in county Galway so I brought over 50 from Spain. Holly Ellis of Kinvara ,the photographer, balanced at the top of a high ladder to take the aerial shots.

  • To Market detail

    As a rule, I do not use children's shoes because an abandoned child's shoe, for me, suggests a tragedy. However a pair came to me - I covered them with old scraps of metal that, in my mind, acted as protection.
  • To Market detail

    This also came from Spain. A corduroy slipper placed in a black Croc The board with moss is from Ireland. I picked up many old broken boards and pieces of slate, around my brother's house, to place under the shoes.
  • To Market detail

    A very small white satin wedding I brought over from Spain filled with building material and a broken piece of ceramic.
  • To Market

    An aerial shot showing both shoe-mops. One at the top of the image has a red net,once for oranges, covering it, the other is in the right hand corner, also a detail in second image.Holly Elllis, fearless photographer,was balanced at the top of a perilously high ladder to take this shot.
  • To Market detail

    One of my niece's slippers, covered in coffee grounds, held up by a piece of strong piece of bent metal,hovers above the table.
  • To Market, detail

    My brother had 2 abandoned mops. This one is tied to a felt slipper with nylon fishing line, placed one half of an old iron pipe.
  • To Market

    On my vist to Linenhall Gallery in 2012, after they had accepted my proposal, I saw the carpeted floor would not be an ideal surface for the work. Being an Art Center, for teaching, they had long metal tables available for me to use. We used 5 6 foot tables and covered the surface with heavy white paper so the shoes would not get lost on their scarred and painted surface. This is an aerial shot showing the variety of texture and shape of the shoes.
  • To Market detail

    The chicken wire is strong enough to hold up the shoe, rural Ireland.
  • To Market detail

    Another import from Spain. It is also a detail in the DE PASO project below, but not surrounded by such a jumble.
  • To Market detail

    Check out this shoe in a DE PASO detail.It shows the other side. It stands on an old beam with lots of nail holes and scrapes.

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