A haunting, mesmerizing, and heartbreakingly generous work of art.
Book of Ruth is a modern fairy tale unlike any other, arriving from a corner of the world where fiction and fact are interchangeable. . . . Open this book and lose yourself. Out of bits of ephemera held together by cloud and glue an entire universe will rise up to greet you.
Behold Seydel’s “Ruth”—banker by day, scriber of daily wonders by night, whose art of “damaged things made” pours forth from a “healing imagination [with] animals in it.” Rich with “white magic,” as Joseph Cornell put it, Book of Ruth is an enchanting, mischievous, often deeply moving act of invention and homage.
Robert Seydel’s Book of Ruth is an alchemical assemblage that composes the life of his alter ego, Ruth Greisman—spinster, Sunday painter, and friend to Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. Through collages, drawings, and journal entries from Ruth’s imagined life, Seydel invokes her interior world in novelistic rhythms. These seductive, unearthed artifacts, conceived as a gathering of materials from the Smithsonian and a suburban family garage, construct a mosaic portrait of a reclusive, unknown artist for whom the distance between the ordinary and the extraordinary is infra-thin. The fragments and detritus from which Seydel fashions Ruth’s art and narrates her inner life shine like the pages of an illuminated manuscript, revealing as much about the imagination of an artist as well as about the tenuous creation of self.
The magical qualities of Robert Seydel’s work never cease to astonish me. He conjures something visionary at the edges of language and the fragile material world. Who knew such light could come from torn paper? What joy to finally have this long-awaited book in hand!
ROBERT SEYDEL (1960-2011) was an artist and writer who left behind a richly layered, highly original, and massive body of work after his sudden death at the age of fifty. Book of Ruth is the first publication and a rare opening into work marked by an unrelenting sense of play and wonder as well as as deeply embedded with a vast and eclectic body of knowledge. Seydel worked on multiple ongoing and interrelated series that incorporated collage, drawing, photography, narrative and lyric writing, often using various personas and fictional constructs, such as Ruth Greisman. Reclusive and unwavering in his dedication, he rarely exhibited his work—most recently a solo show at the CUE Art Foundation in NYC and “Five Contemporary Visual Poets” at the Wright Exhibition Space in Seattle. Despite the limited exposure, Seydel’s projects have generated intense interest through word-of-mouth by other artists and poets. A beloved professor at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachussets for more than a decade, he also served as curator at the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University for a number of years where he organized ambitious exhibitions and programs. Seydel edited Several Gravities (Siglio, 2009), a volume of collages and poems by National Book Award-winning poet Keith Waldrop.