In every generation, we sense that some people are forward-looking while others weigh the import of history as a guide for their lives. Some few, however, we recognize as links between our common past and what is yet to be. Just such a link is Ford Ruthling. Ruthling's mother was employed by the family of William Penhollow Henderson. His family counted John Sloan among its intimates. Ruthling studied art at the University of New Mexico with Randall Davey. After a lengthy tour of duty in the military, Ruthling became the curator of exhibitions at the Museum of International Folk Art under Alexander Gerard. Of such connections the art history of New Mexico consists!
What of Ruthling's personal artistic roots, however? In the 1930's, the tiny northern New Mexico village of Tesuque seemed far from New Mexico's art centers of Taos and Santa Fe. It was not far enough, however, to keep the young Ruthling from being steeped in the spirit of creativity. The Mexican and New Mexican crafts which surrounded him developed in him a love of nature. Living things fascinated Ruthling. The variety of animal life and the forms of plants as they cycled through their growing season developed Ruthling's sense of style. The curious ways in which the beings of the natural world combined and recombined led Ruthling to create images with a kind of subtle humor. They also taught him to utilize many media in what he made. Ruthling's cross-media versatility led him to make use of tin, wood, clay, iron, and paper, in addition to oil and canvas for his paintings, for which he is most famous.
Today Ford Ruthling is a Santa Fe Living Treasure. He has never ceased providing a link for us with the past. However, as time goes on, Ruthling has become more than a link. He is an icon of what Santa Fe art means and a perfect example of what this generation hopes to pass on to the future.