Studio Proof: "Neon Dreams" explores the imagination of Esther Ruiz

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The first exhibit at the new Glass Axis space in Franklinton is a glimpse inside the curious mind of Brooklyn-based artist Esther Ruiz. Ruiz’s pieces incorporate colorful neon Plexi, cement, sand and mirrors to create the effect of an otherworldly realm.

Ruiz’s smaller pieces, a collection of cylindrical cement and concrete bases with vibrant geometric glass and neon shapes, are like ethereal horizons. The plain where the colorful elements meet the flat rock are intended to create a strange and wonderful landscape.

“I’m definitely thinking about landscape and I’m thinking about fictional landscapes. I think about this a lot — and it might sound silly — but I think about what the sunset might look like on Neptune,” Ruiz said after her artist talk Sunday. “That is part of my vocabulary and where I draw inspiration from.”

Where Ruiz is drawing inspiration for her landscapes is both scientific and fictional. She said a geology course had a profound impact on her practice, but sci-fi movies like “Star Wars” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” have a place too. Ruiz’s tattoo of an X-wing fighter on her arm serves as proof of her affinity for the genre.

Besides the smaller pieces, Ruiz is also exhibiting a couple larger ones that are the beginning of a new direction for the artist. Besides working bigger, Ruiz is forgoing the symmetry of her previous work. Two amoeba-like mirrors with a searing neon frame are shining examples of this development.

These were the first pieces I viewed in the gallery, and they immediately captivated me. By staring at my reflection, slightly askew, it put me in the right mindset to view Ruiz’s work. It felt like she was asking me, the viewer, to step into her imagination, a place that has elements of science and fantasy.

“Neon Dreams” serves as strong opening exhibit at Glass Axis, and is a wonderful exploration of glass. Check it out before it closes Feb. 21.

Photo courtesy of Esther Ruiz