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Topography of the Soul: A Conversation with Ursula von Rydingsvard

by Jan Garden Castro

Ursula von Rydingsvard is known for monumental works, usually in cedar, that evoke her Polish heritage, her hard childhood in Polish refugee camps in Germany, and childhood games and family. Her abstract compositions also evoke the body as a metaphor for our innermost yearnings and struggles. In addition to using the circular saw as a way of carving cedar into larger-than-life shapes that seem both timeless and intimate, von Rydingsvard has been following the path of her own and other bodies—drawing on psychological and physiological notions of the body’s skin, scars, and outer layers, as well as its inner workings. This layer of meaning offers new ways to view von Rydingsvard’s recent exhibitions at Madison Square Park and Galerie Lelong. Her new works explore female shapes that simultaneously speak to an evolving aesthetic of cedar and urethane, the ways in which women experience their lives, and how art may both comment on and provide solace from horrible events in one’s history and era.

 

Five Lace Medallions, 2003–06. Cedar, graphite, and chalk, 5 units, 116.5 x 501 x 9 in. © Ursula von Rydingsvard, Courtesy Galerie Lelong, NY.

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