Ruth Marshall is a visual artist who works with knitting. As an activist, her primary focus has been to bring awareness to the plight of endangered animals by reproducing their pelts and furs in knitted intricacy that mimics the look of real animal pelts. The illusionary hides have fooled many art patrons, at least until they come close enough to examine the “skins” up close.
Marshall says that, “people behave toward the work as if it’s real, even after they realize it’s knitted. They still engage with it as if it is a real animal,” and it is that engagement that lends such power and force to Marshall’s message. She focuses on animals that have been abused, taken for granted, and exploited, sometimes purposefully by humans but in other instances, through simple ignorance.
Marshall spends months studying animals in museums, such as at the Melbourne Museum, Australia, and at the American Museum of Natural History. Then she maps out the animal’s pelt on graph paper and begins to knit from that plan using intricate intarsia and Fair Isle techniques.
As she says on her website, “The twenty-first century is gripped by the predicament of habitat loss and species decline. There is an urgent desire in me to say new things about this disappearing world and to contribute to the efforts to help wild animals and wild places endure. I am devoted to telling the stories of individual animals who have been forgotten, lost, or who are in danger of becoming so.”
Marshall participated in the Su Casa Community Arts Engagement program that places artists in residence at more than one hundred senior centers across the five boroughs of New York City. Marshall spent four months with senior ladies who crocheted and knitted a variety of objects, including working with nylon paracord and jumbo size crochet hooks to make roses and leaves for the artist’s installation at Montefiore “Hanging Garden.” Marshall said the experience was amazing, and she plans to apply again to participate next year.
Recently, Marshall received a Community Arts Grants and has begun working on “Art in the Air” in partnership with her local library, Morris Park, New York Public Library in the Bronx. Funds were made possible for the project through the New York State Council on the Arts. The project consists of artwork made from paracord by the general public and will be installed from the ceiling in the library over several months. If you are in the area, check the library’s event page for information because the schedule for creative sessions changes. Learn more about the project here.
Learn more about Ruth Marshall's art on her website.