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Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Ruth Duckworth's artistic synthesis-combining aesthetic influences from many times and places with her unique contemporary vision-is most masterfully executed in her figural studies grounded in Cycladic formalism. The artist has acknowledged the inspiration she has derived over the years from viewing collections of Early Bronze Age Cycladic sculptures, and her modernist figures reveal a kinship with these ancient works.

Cycladic sculptures are almost always female, supporting the belief that they were created as fertility idols. They are always naked, with folded arms, and they have simple modeling of the breasts and a deeply carved cleft between the legs. The body is divided into three equal parts: head and neck, torso, and legs.

Duckworth passionately responded to the harmonious proportions and the graceful interplay of angular and curving contours of these figures. Her reworking of their archaic attributes is exemplified in the figure pictured above. Duckworth's sculptures resonate with the primal spirit of their ancestors; they embody the Cycladic elongation; graceful integration of proportion, line, and balance; clean silhouettes; and strong shapes with minimal but precise detail. Her figures are also based on a three-part division, although the torsos and legs have been transmuted into flat rectangles and triangles that ingeniously allude to body parts rather than attempting naturalistic depiction.

The almost featureless U-shaped heads have been broadened into half-discs. Bifurcated circles define the facial outlines containing plain holes for the eyes and notched slits for the nose. Even in their most austere state, Duckworth's porcelain figures exude a female essence, perhaps a result of the artist's unconscious self-scrutiny.

  [left] Untitled [sculpture], porcelain, 1988.
  [right] Female Figure, marble, Greece, Cycladic Islands c. 2500-2400 B.C.
  Minneapolis Institute of Arts, gift of the William Hood Dunwoody Fund.