Montgomery, AL, March 3, 2023 – Imagine an apocalyptic landscape. It appears barren, devastated, and hopeless. It is not. At the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), internationally renowned artist Ginny Ruffner creates a seemingly bleak environment that suddenly blooms into a thriving floral oasis by combining traditional sculpture with augmented reality (AR) technology. In collaboration with
animator and media artist Grant Kirkpatrick, Ruffner brings to life a colorful world where glass stumps suddenly sprout mythical flora that have adapted to their surrounding conditions in unexpected, beautiful, and optimistic ways. By transforming the galleries into a multidimensional experience, Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination, a nationally touring exhibition from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, calls into question the very notions of reality and fantasy, of concrete and abstract, and of desolation and hope. The exhibition will be on view at the MMFA from March 17 through June 11, 2023.
“As with our colleagues at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), we believe visiting exhibitions and participating in their related programs to be meaningful opportunities for us all to grapple with some of today’s most pressing challenges,” said Jennifer Jankauskas, Curator at the MMFA. “Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination provides a powerful platform for thinking about climate change and its potential effects on the natural world through a lens of optimism. And that, in creating this immersive experience,
Ruffner turned to the intersection of art and technology—she creates an opportunity for both art- and technology-leaning visitors to see the beauty and interplay of both disciplines, both useful tools for pondering what brightness the future might hold.”
Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination is one of the first exhibitions at the MMFA to explore an expanded definition of contemporary craft and new technologies. Ruffner is among a vibrant group of artists bringing AR to museum installations. By using this technology as another art medium, she transforms visitor experiences. The installation consists of five landmasses, each featuring intricate handblown glass sculptures of tree stumps, with painted tree rings that function as discrete QR codes. These five islands relate to a sixth landmass that supports a large fiberglass stump sprouting beautifully grotesque bronze and glass appendages. Other than the central stump and the painted shelf mushrooms and tree rings on the surrounding stumps, the scene appears colorless and desolate; however, when viewed through AR’s technological lens, an alternate landscape is revealed.
Visitors can download the free app “Reforestation” on their phones or use the iPads available through the MMFA’s visitor’s services desk to bring this second reality to life. When the tree rings of a stump are viewed through the device’s camera lens, a hologram of a fictional plant appears to sprout from the sculpture. These imagined fruits and flowers have evolved from existing flora, developing dramatic appendages and skills necessary to flourish in this radically different environment. In this reality, tulips develop stem flexibility, pears contain windows to the outside world, and flowers take on the form of birds. The installation includes Ruffner’s tongue-in-cheek descriptions of her fanciful flora and their remarkable, sometimes humorous adaptations, as well as 19 original drawings by the artist that were the inspiration for the AR images.
“This is nature reimagining itself,” said Ruffner. “The imagination cannot be exterminated. It just re- creates itself. To me, ‘Reforestation’ is about hope.”