Ruth Wallen

BirthplaceBerkeley, CA
CitizenshipUnited States
Cultural HeritageEuropean-American
Light Work RelationshipArtist-in-Residence, 1989
Light Work PublicationsContact Sheet 66
Contact Sheet 97




The following text appears in the image,

The three goddesses, Hera, Aphrodite and Athena, came to
Paris, asking him to choose the fairest among them. Each
offered him a bribe -- he could be lord of Europe and Asia,
he could lead the Trojans to victory over the Greeks, or the fairest
women in all the world would be his.

Each month thoUnited Statesnds of illegal aliens arrive in San Diego, primarily from Mexico and Central America, but also Europe, Asia and Africa. The charm
of America's finest city lures those from around the world.

In her multi-media installation, I LOVE Del Mar, Ruth Wallen created a montage of text, photographs and objects that is a subtle parody of commerce imitating culture in upper middle class suburbia. The piece has been shown at Franklin Furnace in New York City and at the Mandeville Annex Gallery in La Jolla, a fancy suburb south of Del Mar. The installation was set up in compartments carrying specific messages, crammed like a mall with specialty stores or a catalogue that jumps from lawn furniture to men's underwear. Photographs depicting soil erosion or tomatoes in gardens helps explain the farm economy that has been buried under San Diego's rapidly growing suburban landscape. In juxtaposition spanking new homes sit without expression, waiting for young families to live out a situation comedy script, a life as predictable as the Brady Bunch.

Wallen, a Del Mar resident herself, has a background in environmental science and anthropology and in the last few years earned her graduate degree in photography and art. Her concerns about the cumulative impact of quick development on the environment and the social consequences to displaced people are played out in the microcosm of gallery spaces where positioning and accessibility have political meaning. For I LOVE Del Mar she uses a consumer aesthetic to attract the receptive browser and turn our attention from material object to object as lesson.

During her residency at Light Work this past August Wallen worked on parts of several new installation pieces that also confront issues of culture and habitation. The central motif for a major work is a group of photographs and diagrams of a desert condominium with the heroic title, Legends. The San Diego location of this oasis is the heartland of easy living where a military economy (the Navy and Marines), perfect weather and proliferating bio-technical industry have set the stage for immortality.

In the Legends series, three texts converge - the first a narration of the story of Helen of Troy, second a soothing sales pitch straight from the realtor's manual, 'You're accustomed to the demanding the best. And you travel the world to find it.' The third text is printed on black and white photographs of migrant workers and comments on the work force that makes such inflated lifestyles possible in the first place. The series will incorporate the three continuous texts with floor plans and interior views of Legends and similar housing developments. With whimsy and critical irony Wallen works to stretch our understanding of the deteriorating boundaries between culture and consumerism, exploitation and the American dream.

Gina Murtagh (c)1989

Large project Ruth Wallen did, titled 'If Frogs Sicken and Die, What Will Happen to the Princes?'