From December 2022 to January 2023 American artist Ruth Cohen is an artist-in-residence at Studio 88. Ruth is a self-taught mixed media artist who has been creating art since 1992. Her creativity is impacted by visiting other countries and cultures and includes travels to Europe and regular stays in Bangkok, Thailand.
Ruth’s work comes from life—the scenes she witnesses, the places she visits, and, increasingly, the people she observes. As a world traveller, she spends a great deal of time walking, sitting, watching, and drawing. For the past seven years, she has visited Bangkok, Thailand, where she stays in the centre of the city’s hustle and bustle. It was there that she started to work on The Backs of Women series.
During her morning walks she began to notice women street vendors and became curious about them. Growing up in a working-class context where labour was part of everyone’s lives, she felt a connection to the Thai women vendors, in spite of their different experiences. Observing the strength in their movements, Ruth developed thirteen mixed media drawings and twenty prints, using a gel pen and a watercolour brush to spread the ink and create different values.
In each image, one or more women move through a gritty warm atmosphere. Wearing worn clothes or uniforms, the women cook street food, sweep the street, mop an entrance, arrange dried flowers, push a cart or cross the street between waves of oncoming traffic. They are sturdy and focused and always moving in relation to the street’s life. As a body of work, Ruth hopes that The Backs of Women can honour women’s determination, their strength and important labour, shedding light on the often-overlooked working women to recognise their contributions, individually and collectively, to their communities.
This is a series of work that Ruth will continue while at Studio 88, focusing on the working lives of women in Chiang Mai and its surrounding communities.