Connecting Art with Nature

A conversation with

Main Gallery Exhibitor,

Ruby Merritt

Our current Main Gallery and Studio Gallery exhibitions will take us through what elements of nature inspired the artists when creating their works. Ruby Merritt, our Main Gallery exhibitor, reveals her inspirations behind the monumental exhibition, “Root Cellar.” 

Ruby Merritt

You have a history with environmental studies, when did you begin to combine this interest within your artwork?

Being in nature gives me the same rush that creating art does. I discovered what I wanted to visually portray, made itself without me knowing, until I slowed down to look and understand the physical process (evaporation) that happens all around us. The patterns made from my inky solutions looked like underearth landscapes, otherly world scapes and cystalined strataed textures. What I wanted to make, created itself and felt so fractal to all the imagery that inspires me! I also had a burning love affair for my found rocks and crystals, hard mushroom parts, roots, logs, and piles of soil in grad school. After a long car ride home from assisting at an contemporary gallery solo show installation in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY for the artist/instructor I studied with in New Paltz (in other words a long but wonderful 10 days of hard work…) I truly had an epiphany during that car ride (6 Hours…is that called exhaugation or bliss?). I discovered, my love for nature and my love for art could collide together; be as one-literally and figuratively. I would show actual natural organic objects that to me are ‘art objects’ in their own right, due to their formal beauty, textures and colors. Conceptually, their important role in our environment was what I wanted to share and spread. (Especially the carbon cycle, and before we know it, the water cycle.) It is not unfair to say this was my duchampian moment and I am by no means trying to out rank nature, but use what it just does on it’s own and give it a lending hand by sharing it’s a wonder that a lot of us don’t get to see.

How do you come up with your unique color schemes in your pieces?

Color is ephemeral to me and I let my decision pour, you could say it’s quite a witchy process that is then rained in by planning a color scheme for the studio session. I often work on multiple pieces in rotation at the moment and throughout the years. Parts of the prints on display for root cellar are over 15 years old with layers from the recent rediceny. To me this is my own geological layering of my shifting and thrusting studio practice (and color palettes), mixed into my artistic-teaching career and dedication to supporting non-profits.

Where did the title Root Cellar come from?

When I first found out about my acceptance of a residency at Book Arts and the opportunity to fill the Main gallery space the first thought I had was visual. Stacked in my mind were cabinets everywhere, and organic items drying from the ceiling along with jars of specimens and clustered trinketries. I also had the handful of prints I knew I wanted to frame…easy uppers but also the notion of a unframe installation of my prints that I worked on at book arts during the residency. I wanted to pack it to the brim, but that visual in my mind was the construct of my attitude and a motivational premonition of a grandiose explanation of what I make as a printed/drawn/painted artform. Something I think we have to learn how to control as an artist, our limitless premonitions of what type of fanatical space we can make or create on a piece of paper. This “pack rat” vision, reminded me of root cellars and gathering from the land…AND root cellars are underground… the main rail I ride on for visual endpoints is creating that underearth space feel connectable with emotions of intrigue and conceptual curiosity to wonder about the earth that surrounds them!

What has it been like being a Teaching Artist for Book Arts?

As a Teaching Artist for the Book Arts Center, I enjoy the sense of belonging that creating with a community harnesses. Each session adds to the next, and it builds into seasons of creation. Even if it is the same technique of a project, new and returning people allows for innovation and explorations making it new and exciting. I consider my teaching style to be humble, raw and experimental- book arts helps to stich it up’, giving it a glamorous presentation, that I have come to learn, everyone loves showing off their unique style to the group. I have been fortunate enough to see some of these small hands grow, hold a brayer stronger or make a crease straighter. Hearing my students say “I remember this… look what I did this time” inspires me and allows those true happiness moments of life to settle in. Learning what we can do with the finesse of our hands and the power of ideas into goods that we can share, give away, or keep for long moments keeps us human. It’s the learning of history, heritage and sharing of cultures that makes being a Teaching Artist special. Adults that come enjoy hearing the history and the science behind printmaking, sparking their curiosity and giving them a time, space and the material to create and unwind with family and friends; and take home that memento, hand made of course and cherish it, but more importantly, cherish the occasion that the Book Arts Center and I make happen.

What would you like audiences to take away from your exhibition?



“Being in nature gives me the same rush that creating art does.”

This blog post was written by Book Arts Intern, Nina Grenga. Nina is currently getting her Master’s at the University at Buffalo in Critical Museum Studies with a concentration in Arts Management. Nina has been an avid lover of the arts and books, so this internship was the perfect fit! 

Root Cellar in action!