Thursday, May 28, 2020

Finally, one hellava artist worth knowing and viewing -- Daniel Traub's URSULA VON RYDINGSVARD: Into Her Own

After watching quite a few documentaries over the years about visual artists of some note, and finding them ranging -- to my taste, at least -- anywhere from so-so to very good, what a knockout it is to encounter URSULA VON RYDINGSVARD: Into Her Own. This merely 57-minute (not one of those wasted) movie, directed by American filmmaker Daniel Traub, introduces an artist new to me, the work of whom opened my eyes (and mind and maybe even soul) in ways I did not expect.

Mr. Traub (shown at left, who both directed and shot the movie) does a fine job of combining Ms von Rydingsvard's family history with her art -- regarding its theme(s), provenance and psychology.

It is the artist herself (below, center) who narrates a good portion of the documentary, recalling her early life, her hugely abusive father and more kindly mother, and the positive ways in which art impacted her and how, now, she continues to pay this back in kind.

The movie begins with the sound of what could be the finale of Ibsen's A Doll's House; then we're told that "touch" is the hallmark of this artist's unsettlingly beautiful work (von Rydingsvard herself tells us that she dislikes the word "beautiful").

Still, her sculptures in wood, copper and bronze seem to TrustMovies to be among the most magnificent, immense and utterly organic he has ever seen. One interviewee here -- these include friends, family, artist, critics and gallery owners -- calls her work "monumental," which proves yet another potent and choice description.

Von Rydingsvard and her family were formally "displaced persons" post-World War II, and her early life was difficult, even after the family of nine emigated to the USA and settled in a working class town in Connecticut. When Ursula marries (that's she as a young woman, above), it is to someone  -- perhaps not surprisingly -- who possesses a little too much in common with her father.

Striking out on her own, as a single parent of one young daughter (whom we see as child and meet as adult), she comes to New York City, and with the savings she's managed to accrue, buys her own loft and begins her real career. Fortunately the documentary offers up a lot of her work through the years, so we can see her change and growth -- including one unusual sculpture that actually moves.

By the time this near-hour has ended, I think we know the woman and her work about as well as could be possible in this short a time frame. At 77 years old, she is still going strong, and as friend and fellow-artist Judy Pfaff notes at the conclusion, "I always thought that when Ursula had achieved a certain level of success, then she could finally relax. What was I thinking? That ain't gonna happen."

From Icarus Films, the documentary opens at New York City's Film Forum in "virtual" release tomorrow, Friday, May 29. For more information on how to view the film, click here.

Note: Join Film Forum for a live, virtual Q&A 
with Ursula von Rydingsvard & Daniel Traub, 
director of Ursula Von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own
 on Sunday, May 31, 5:00 PM EST 
 FREE ADMISSION (first come, first served)

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