Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 29, 2020

Ursula Von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own

Filed under: art,Film — louisproyect @ 7:36 pm

Now available as VOD on Amazon, iTunes and Vimeo, “Ursula Von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own” is a film biography of one of the most renowned monumental sculptors in the world, a male-dominated field. That in itself would be extraordinary but Von Rydingsvard rise to the top against odds that would have daunted anybody, male of female, sets her apart.

She was born in Germany in 1942, when her Polish parents were swept into that country after Stalin and Hitler carved up their country. After WWII ended, they lived in displaced peoples camps until 1950. That year, the family resettled in Connecticut at a time when American policy toward refugees was relatively humane. With seven children, her father had a tough time keeping them housed and fed, usually working two jobs. His anger over the hand fate dealt him as well as a mean streak he was born with led him to verbally abuse and beat his children.

There were few signs that Ursula could have transcended such a mean environment other than her being chosen by her classmates to do all the artwork for school functions. Not long after graduated high school, she married a man whose schizophrenia was only latent at that point. After he suffered a number of psychotic episodes, she separated and took their baby daughter with her to New York, where she survived on food stamps and minimum wage jobs until she landed a job as a public school teacher.

With the money she put aside as a teacher, she bought a loft on Spring Street in Soho in 1975, when she was 33 and ready to start a career as a sculptor. Like other artists, she had become disenchanted with minimalism and was ready to take a new approach. Using 4×4 cedar beams of the sort that could be bought at any lumberyard, she began to carve them into an object looking more organic than the typical modern piece, usually attaching them into larger edifices that often looked like inverted tree trunks. Her work drew the praise of art critics and led to major commissions and teaching jobs at Columbia and Yale.

I have to admit that monumental sculpture is not my favorite genre but as a story of a woman defying all obstacles toward achieving her dream, “Ursula Von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own” is an inspiring documentary.

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