California State University, Long Beach’s (CSULB) School of Art’s Mark Ruwedel, whose ongoing photographic work presents and explores enigmatic images of landscapes impacted by human technologies and cultures, has been named the recipient of two national creative recognitions from two countries.
Most recently, Ruwedel was named the winner of Canada’s 2014 Scotiabank Photography Award. The prize carries with it a $50,000 cash award along with a solo exhibition at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Centre next spring and a full catalogue of Ruwedel’s works, to be published by the renowned German publisher Steidl.
That announcement came just weeks after Ruwedel was named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow in Photography. In its 90th annual competition for the United States and Canada, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded 177 fellowships to a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientists. Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Ruwedel moved to Montreal in 1980 to pursue studies in photography at Concordia University. Since graduating in 1983, he has been producing work as well as teaching, both at Concordia until 2000 and at CSULB.
“Individually, either of these awards—given in recognition of his lifelong body of work—properly places Mark in the ranks of today’s top artists worldwide,” said Jay Kvapil, CSULB director of the School of Art. “To receive both in the same month truly illustrates the depth and excellence of Mark’s work. Congratulations to Mark on these much-deserved honors. We in the School of Art are proud he is a colleague.”
Ruwedel’s treatments of landscapes are described as subtle and occasionally wickedly amusing. He has photographed projects tracing ancient footpaths and long-since departed railways in the American West, and leftovers from a long-ago nascent nuclear age.
For his series “Crossings,” Ruwedel photographed the landscapes around the borders of California and Mexico, capturing objects cast off as people moved from one life to another—a Guatemalan passport or a baby carrier.
“I am interested in revealing the narratives contained within the landscape and am most attracted to places where the land reveals itself as being both an agent of geological processes and a field of human endeavor,” Ruwedel said of his work.
“I have been living in Southern California for more than 11 years, and, while photographing extensively in the desert regions that surround Los Angeles, have spent considerable time thinking about how to photograph this vast and complex city,” Ruwedel explained, discussing his current projects. “I have come to understand Los Angeles as being the site of conflict between Arcadian and Utopian impulses. It is also perhaps the ultimate environment in which to study the dynamics of the nature/culture dialectic. As Mike Davis writes in Ecology of Fear, ‘Los Angeles’ wild edge is the place where natural history and social history can sometimes be read as inverted images of each other.’”
In announcing the Guggenheim Fellows, Edward Hirsch, president of the Foundation said, “These artists and writers, scholars and scientists represent the best of the best. Since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has always bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue the tradition with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”
Guggenheim Fellowships are grants to selected individuals made for a minimum of six months and a maximum of 12 months. Since the purpose of the Guggenheim Fellowship program is to help provide fellows with blocks of time in which they can work with as much creative freedom as possible, grants are made freely and the amounts awarded vary.