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Why Do I Make Art?

Why Do I Make Art?

Ursula von Rydingsvard shares why being an artist is so important to her.
Ursula von Rydingsvard
Photo: Josie Lepe

The sculpture MOCNA, by Ursula von Rydingsvard, is the first piece of artwork in Denning House’s art collection. Below are Von Rydingsvard's remarks at the sculpture's dedication ceremony on October 11, 2018.

I have sometimes been asked why I make art. It is not a question I find easy to answer with any kind of clarity, but I will try to poke around some possibilities.

Why Do I Make Art? Mostly, to survive. To ease my high anxiety, to numb myself with the labor and the focus of building my work — objects or the process by which I concretize my ideas feels so good. 

Because, I invariably, especially with my monstrous pieces, run into intense anxiety moments from which I have to unravel myself.

Because there's a pleasure in it. Because there's pain in it. Because I endure a hefty load of self-doubt. Because I have confidence in the possibility of seeing this work through.

Because I see life as being full of abominations. Because life is full of marvels close to miracles. Because I still don't get who I am. Because I will never get who I am.

Because my deepest admiration goes to those who have made art that has interested me. Because I want attention from those who make good art.

Because I need to use both my body and my mind. The labor of my body is what keeps me awake and alive...what numbs me and offers a kind of veneer between me and the things in life which are painful to face.

Because the visuals  that which I perceive through my eyes  are an extraordinarily important part of my life. Because I don't want to be doing anything else with my life — that the building of my art work feels like the most consequential thing I could be doing with my time.

Because I can run into a world of my making, both physically and mentally. Because I like working with a group of assistants who become another kind of family. Because I like the daily rhythm of going to my studio. Because it's a place to put my pain, my sadness.

Because there's a constant hope inside of me that this process will heal me, my family, and the world.

Because it helps fight my inertia.

Because I like embroidering around my long-ago Polish fantasies. Because I can reach into the future with my work. Because I constantly need to try to better understand the immense suffering and pain of my family that I never seem to be able to really understand.

And also because I want to get answers to questions for which I know there are no answers.


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