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 Ursula Vaard Von Rydingsvard  (1942 - )



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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut / Germany      Known for: large-scale abstract wood sculpture

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Ursula von Rydingsvard is primarily known as Ursula Vaard Von Rydingsvard

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Ad Code: 3
Ursula Vaard Von Rydingsvard
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for her large-scale sculptures, primarily from blocks of cedar, Ursula von Rydingsvard works with a team of assistants to create huge carved shapes with complicated surfaces.  Her art is rooted in her childhood as a displaced person born in 1942 to Polish/Ukrainian parents in a German work camp in Deensen.  In 1950, after moving among refugee camps for five years, she, age eight, came to America with her parents and six siblings, settling in Plainville, Connecticut.  There her childhood was far from ideal as the family was poor, the parents both worked long hours, and some of her outfits were made from army blankets.

She attended the University of New Hampshire, and met her first husband, Milton von Rydingsvard, who was studying pre med.  The couple moved to Coral Gables, Florida where he attended medical school and she earned high school teaching credentials.  She put her own creativity on hold, while teaching, raising a daughter and supporting her husband's career.  When the marriage ended, she and her daughter returned to Connecticut.  She taught art and at age 33, had saved enough money to enroll in the Columbia University M.F.A. program in New York City.  She and her daughter lived on food stamps and $2000.00 a year.

Her teachers who were especially influential included Meyer Schapiro, Ronald Bladen, Jean Linder and George Sugarman.  Linder was the most impressive because she was a strong female personality, who was remarkably successful as a sculptor, and who got away with outrageous expression.

Von Rydingsvard began her career as a painter and did welded steel sculpture before discovering wood, which she shapes with hand tools.  Michael Mulhern, an artist, was the instigator of her focusing on wood when he gave her cedar beams.  She said that she immediately felt as though she had found her "true medium".  A theory is that her fascination with wood is tied to her childhood in the refugee camps, where she played in wooden barracks and a walking plank was her link to the outside world.  "Her mature works in cedar convey a sense of protective enclosure, of rendering the harsh outside world habitable and safe." (108)

After five years of working as a teacher and as a meal-delivery person for the elderly in Times Square, she bought a loft in Soho.  Then in 1982, she moved again to Connecticut to fill for six years a full time assistant professorship at Yale University.  There she met Paul Greengard, a Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist, and they subsequently moved back to New York City where he had a Rockefeller University professorship.   She established a studio in Brooklyn, and works with a crew of assistants.  Her career 'took off' with two one-person exhibitions: a 1998 show at Exit Art and a 1992 retrospective at Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York.

From that time she has done numerous private commissions including site-specific sculpture for Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington; and for a couple's ranch in Sonoma Valley, California.  Her piece, Three Bowls, is at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Queens County Family Courthouse in New York has a five-story high sculpture.  She has also experimented with motorized works with lids rising and falling in rhythmic motion.

Ann Landi, "Prime Cuts", ARTnews, January 2007, pp. 107-109

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