Stills from the video and images from Ruth in an installation at the University Art Museum at Albany
In an effort to respect the authenticity of original stories while still inserting myself in them, my narratives are fictionalizations of the original texts. For example, my portrayal of Ruth (Ruth, 2017) is based on the events of The Book of Ruth, but I explored her psyche more than her story, inserting imagined information. I did not do this to create a compelling drama or a morally didactic film; instead my piece asks Ruth to take some power, to create herself apart from history’s full grasp on her. My character does not reveal everything about herself and does not spell out her moral purpose. And while my Ruth is modified, I don’t compromise her story. My interest is not in retelling her story or taking a stance on it. It is about revisiting the balance of power in the culture she was a part of and her strength in the trauma of her situation as a widow.
My own culture and period dictates the imagery of this story. Ruth wanders contemporary power lines, gathering weeds that look like grain. Parts of her costume bear commercial brands on their tags, and her psyche is as colorful and eye catching as the advertisement culture I am used to. Similarly, Barent Pietersz Fabritius placed Ruth in 17th century Protestant Netherlands in his painting, Ruth and Boaz (1660). The details in the artwork timestamp the characters and pull the story into contemporary conversation, like my video does. The digital, video game aesthetic creates a space that allows the character to interact with her terrain in recognizable ways. The pop colors and synth noises add to the playfulness of the environment. The immaculate mindspace modeled after pristine digital spaces is muddied by the duplication of my image as the character, which is imperfect, sometimes pixelated, and often transparent in some areas.
For those interested in learning more about Ruth's story as it is recorded, check out "Ruth," the 4 chapter book about her in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. It's not long, but it is more complex than I initially thought.