The life and art of Ginny Ruffner is featured in Karen Stanton’s profile film “A Not So Still Life.” Ruffner is a Seattle based artist renown for her work in glass but, as the film reveals, Ruffner truly is a “universal artist,” working not just in glass but also in paint, metal work and drawing. In the late 1980s to early 1990s, Ruffner was an artist poised on the precipice of stardom when she was in a horrible car accident. When doctors said she’d be lucky to live her life in a nursing home, mere steps away from being a total vegetable, she proved them wrong by not only relearning how to speak and walk, but also relearning how to create her art. Her story is inspiring and amazing and Stanton does a nice job capturing the lightning in a bottle that is Ginny Ruffner.
Ruffner burst on the Seattle art scene in the 1980s as a vibrant, colorful, sexy and smart Southern Belle. He personality was infectious and everyone who met her was drawn in by her creativity and charm. She whistled through boyfriends and yet endeared herself to those around her all the while reinventing how the art world thought of glass work. Her pieces were almost psychedelic statues done in torched glass that featured animals, fruit and greenery tucked into elaborate, winding tubes of glass. While Ruffner’s art isn’t really up my alley, her pieces are undeniably intriguing.
“A Not So Still Life” covers Ruffner’s life up until now where she’s still living and working harder than ever in Seattle. While I feel fortunate to have learned about such an interesting and vibrant artist, this film is pretty much a puff-piece about it’s subject. And hey, that’s fine, but details are mentioned in the film and never followed up on and that left me wondering why not. For instance Ruffner had a boyfriend (Steve Kursh) who by all accounts was riding his girl’s coattails to get better noticed for his artwork in New York. Later, when Ruffner is wheelchair bound and barely able to speak, Kursh whisks her off to New York to oversee her recovery and it works. However, Kursh is nowhere in the film nor is the reason for their final break-up mentioned. Granted, by the time the accident and recovery are revealed in the film, we know Ruffner cannot be held down by any one man, but it was still a curious decision. Viewers are also left in the dark as to the circumstances surrounding the car accident that complexly changed Ruffner’s life.
That being said, “A Not So Still Life” is a fun and accessible documentary about an amazing person and artist. By the time the film was over, I felt as if I knew Ruffner and would love to spend an afternoon with her. Especially at her wonderful home which is shown throughout the film and is a living, breathing incarnation of her creativity. Ruffner still walks slowly and uses a cane, and her speech is somewhat slurred, but her brain and heart are functioning at full-force and we all get to enjoy the art she puts into the world.