No Space for Contemporary Textiles in the Cosmos

Art is elementary, says Ruby Bock.
Photo by Lauren Rutten

Madison County fiber artist Ruby Bock isn’t one to overthink her work. “A lot of people say, ‘My art reflects the deep inner cosmos of this and that,’” she laughs. “But really, it’s just lines and shapes and colors.” 

Her no-nonsense approach to contemporary craft is tinged by ten years spent teaching art in Atlanta public schools, where she lectured young children on the basics — blue and yellow make green, triangles are three-sided, white space is undervalued, and so on. Her former students have since moved on, but Bock is still majoring in the fundamentals. “I’m making art how I taught my elementary schoolers,” she says. 

Silver Cross
Photo by Lauren Rutten

Her fiber work, which encompasses textiles as well as paper, is deceptively simple. A piece she refers to as “just a pillow” — none of her pieces are named — is slate-colored with modish accents, somewhat reminiscent of a Klee painting.

“It’s basic,” insists the artist. “There are rectangles, squares, circles, ovals, and some red thread for a pop of color.”

Spring (prayer flags)
Photo by Lauren Rutten

Implored to offer a more three-dimensional view of “just a pillow,” she finally lets loose a winding, circuitous history of cloth. Though the pillow slip is store bought, all other fabrics are timeworn: gray-washed jeans that had too many holes in the knees, a square of mattress ticking sourced at an antique shop, a strip of fabric from a silkscreening class. Sometimes the artist will hold onto materials for two decades before they wander into a piece. Another pillow — again, unnamed — features fabric from a surface-design class Bock took while studying art education at Georgia State University. 

“My studio is nuts because I can’t throw anything away,” she says. “Even an inch [of material] is useful.” 

Golden Entry
Photo by Lauren Rutten

Her tendency to collect scraps of fabric began in childhood. In the ’50s and ’60s, her father owned a baby-clothing-manufacturing plant in Atlanta called Fawn Fashions. On the weekends, Bock roamed the empty sewing rooms. Though she wouldn’t pick up sewing until high school, she still rejoiced in gathering tidbits of cotton. 

“Fabric has just always been around. It has a history in my life.” 

geometrics pillow
Photo by Lauren Rutten

In 2016, she retired from her second career managing an eight-acre public garden in Decatur, Georgia, to pursue art full time. Called to the insular but thriving arts community of Marshall, she and her husband, Barry Rhodes, moved to a 27-acre former tobacco farm in a quiet, dead-end cove of Madison County. Since Rhodes is a potter, the couple’s life together now revolves around craft. 

Storm Coming
Photo by Lauren Rutten

Bock is also busied by gardening. In fact, she identifies as a gardener as much as she identifies as an artist. 

“They are the same,” she says. “It’s about shapes and lines and colors.” 

Ruby Bock, Marshall. The artist is one of five owner-managers of Flow Gallery (14 South Main St., Marshall, flowmarshall.com), where she will be included in the member show “Upcycled: Alterations & Adaptations,” an exhibit running through Saturday, June 5. The artist is also represented by The Gallery at Flat Rock (2702-A Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock, galleryflatrock.com), where she’ll have a show in October, “Quiet Cove,” with Barry Rhodes.

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