LA-based artist, Orly Ruaimi, talks us through her artistic process of building materials out of steel, wood and concrete to create unique art installations.
My work is rooted in my experiences growing up in Israel. Using steel, wood, and concrete, I explore ideas of physical harm and protection as they relate to conflict. I create steel prosthetics that serve as body armor, shields, and weapons – all theoretically made to protect. Yet instead, my works harm the person wearing them. I also use wood furniture that is purposely damaged and distressed to explore these ideas of violence and danger.
My most recent work is a series of wood furniture that is subjected to “pain” or “torture”, resulting in surface and structural damage. Then, the subsequent repair becomes part of the fabrication process. For example, one piece from this series is a set of chairs that I shot with a handgun, threw off a cliff and burned with a torch. Afterwards, the furniture is “rehabilitated” to a functional state by welding steel tubes that serve as crutches, or prosthetic “limbs”, replacing parts lost in the “torture” process. I complete the piece by giving the furniture a new way to “protect” itself via a shield or other weapon elements that I make out of steel.
The idea for this project was conceived when I took a furniture making course last summer in downtown LA. It was the first time I had ever built furniture out of wood. As an artist who has mostly used steel when building, I found it extremely challenging. It required me to slow down my creative process.
The subsequent fabrication is also more labor intensive because wood requires more steps in preparing it. Wood is a natural product, and are sold in rough dimensions at lumber yards. The process starts with milling the wood, removing thin layers off the surface to bring it down to the appropriate thickness. Once that process is complete, I begin gluing and cutting pieces to size and making joinery connections. Throughout the process, the wood needs to be stored and handled with care to minimize distortion by heat and moisture. Next comes the fitting and permanent gluing, which can take days since it has to be done in stages. Then comes the sanding – a lot of surface sanding! After this is complete, I begin to apply a base coat or stain application, followed by the top coat layer.
In contrast, steel can be purchased at a variety of readymade thicknesses which already allows you to start the fabrication process – cutting to size, welding, grinding, and finishing. I felt frustrated with the tedious construction and process of wood furniture fabrication. Also, furniture design is expected to comply with particular aesthetics. The long and challenging process made me question my focus on adhering to the preconceived specifications. It made me want to modify carefully crafted aesthetics to uncarefully crafted aesthetics.
As I pondered the idea of aesthetics, I found the following definition for it: “Concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.” The definition of beauty is as follows: “A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” This work made me question how and why society decides what is considered pleasing or beautiful. Through purposefully damaging gestures, I attain a new unconventional impression of aesthetics.
Click here for more info on Orly’s work.
Photo Credit: Michel Roy