Inside the Artist's Studio: Ruby Sky Stiler in Gowanus 

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Both your new and previous exhibitions at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery have elements of architecture or installation; is that something you're consciously trying to explore, or just something you incorporate as it pertains to sculpture?
I don't know if there's a particular reference to architecture. I do find that I become really preoccupied with the site. I'm interested in eking out a particular relationship of the more conventional sculptures in the room to the space itself. I do feel like looking at a sculpture—particularly versus a painting, although a painting is an object but you're looking at it so differently—really invites you to acknowledge the space surrounding that thing. I feel pretty preoccupied with that. When I was thinking about showing this work at Nicelle's I knew I had to think about how to really make it feel like a relationship as opposed to plopping this thing down.

When I made that show in 2009 it was such an awkward time to do a show of for sale objects, and I was really thinking about how the gallery is this really fancy retail space and this long-term interest of mine has been an investigation of what makes something valuable, emotionally or monetarily. And I think the work that I've made, regardless of whatever form it's taken, has been shifting between states of worth and value. I was interested in cultivating a space that would speak to those issues, and so that was how I came to the decision to make that sculpture of the attic floor. It's a bit of a self-conscious gesture, too. Because the idea of what makes something successful in an environment like a gallery versus a studio is so bound to the sales aspect. So I was subverting that aspect of its potential. Plus making giant sculptures is a different endeavor than making more sellable things. So this is my way of saying that I'm rich. (Laughs.)

I have a big concrete sculpture at Socrates Sculpture Park right now. Working there this summer, it was like the furthest place to get to from Gowanus. It's fucking cool though, like a scene from the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. That's a very different gallery. When I make things in my own studio and think about an indoor space that has the qualities that an indoor space has I use the human body as a point of reference for scale. But when you make a sculpture that size and place it on the horizon of that sculpture park it looks like Stonehenge in Spinal Tap.

What makes you return to certain recurring forms and motifs like human figures, vases, columns, and so on?
This last year has been the first time that I've really fully incorporated and embraced the figure, but even though the forms I've been making have been more abstract or more utilitarian objects, they still have an anthropomorphic presence. They've always had that human scale. I made one very large vase sculpture and I always thought it had this very overripe female form, kind of demanding, with its hands on its hips. And I actually showed that piece with this very skinny stick that came directly out of the floor and had three gloves hanging off of it, and that show was really funny because I had a relationship to those sculptures that was almost like I was a stage mom, and I found myself advocating for them, the way that one would a child actor. I noticed that since this woman form was so bossy and robust, its counterpart—which was almost like a buddy movie sidekick—would get shoved in the corner, so I had to stand up for it. And it felt like a really human relationship, like empathy, that I had with it. So i had to really advocate for it. And that felt for me more like relating to an individual with human attributes than to an inanimate sculpture. So I think it's kind of a natural evolution that the more overt figurative work is coming into play. I feel like that's a really typical gesture, to relate to anything in a figurative way, like a chair or a column, you just think of ways that it relates to your body. That's just how you go about the world, just to categorize things; it's an easy way to put things away.

It almost seems like you're problematizing that with this installation because most of the sculptures you see first from the back, and then only afterwards do you realize it's a human figure.
Yeah, so that makes the process of categorizing that form and putting it away slower. It makes it more of a sustaining relationship.

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