The artist’s memorial to Boulton Stroud, whose troubled nature is represented in the jacket’s tortured surface, evidently won’t be the last time von Rydingsvard sculpts with leather. In the warm, light-filled upstairs room of her Bushwick studio, a couple of brown hides are stretched out on the floor. Around the walls of the space, pinned salon-style, are what the artist refers to as “little nothings”: small carved spoons, or ephemeral passages in fabric, thread, lace. There are blank spots on the wall—many of the “little nothings” have already been sent to the Fabric Workshop, where they will be exhibited alongside her sturdier work, but what remains here is a study in texture and frailty.
Lace has preoccupied von Rydingsvard for some years, to the extent that some of her bronze works miraculously stretch into lacey perforations at the top. She used to collect it, but stopped when it became difficult to find good quality examples of the material. “I like how vulnerable it is,” she says. At the same time, she’s fascinated by the creative, even eccentric ornamentation that she’s found on certain fragments—with balls of linen hanging dramatically from it, in some cases. “The lace I do have is really kind of nuts,” she says. “I can’t help but think that this was a way for women to express themselves or have some power that they create.”
Elsewhere in the room, perched on top of cabinets and shelves, is an array of figures, masks, and bowls, many of them African, vessel forms that inspire her. She is drawn to bowls because they are “familiar,” the artist says. Indeed, it’s difficult to avoid connecting the emergence of bowls, spoons, plates, and forks or shovels in von Rydingsvard’s largely abstract practice to her past. When her family ate in the camps, she later tells me, they were served from a single bowl at the center of the table, typically the Polish dish kluski, which is something like potato dumplings. Other critics have written about the place of wood in the artist’s consciousness as an expression of memory—of the wooden cabins she once lived in in Germany and the forests nearby.