Ruth Rippon is one of Sacramento’s best known – and best loved – artists. Her work is acclaimed nationally and internationally for its whimsy and humanism. She was born and raised in Sacramento, and continues to live and work here.
“I had opportunities to go to San Diego State or here and I chose here – Sacramento. And I’ve never been sorry. It’s half way to the mountains and half way to the coast.”
From an early age, Ruth showed a talent and a passion for sculpture…
“When I was in high school I used to do a few little studies for my friends during the war. I would make little clay heads of sailors or Marines, and there was one woman who had a kiln, somewhere in the outlying districts. She’d fire them and I’d paint them and give them away. That was my first exposure to manually working with three dimensions.”
Ruth was certain she wanted to pursue some form of art as a career, and enrolled at the prestigious College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, where she studied under famed sculptor Antonio Prieta.
“My parents wouldn’t support me at art school unless I got a teaching credential. They were looking ahead for my own well-being! I had to take a ceramics class as one of the prerequisites to other things, and Tony Prieta was the instructor. And I got hooked!”
Throughout her career, Ruth has worked to promote an appreciation of ceramics and sculpture with the general public. One of her first endeavors was the Creative Artists’ League, which sought to boost the profile and reputation of local artisans. Founded in 1953, the group successfully lobbied the Crocker Art Museum for more locally-themed exhibits.
“At that time we had a pretty free reign with whatever we wanted to do at the Crocker. We could install a show ourselves. You could select the type of show that went up, mostly oriented toward the crafts, because we didn’t feel that had been addressed very well.”
In 1956, Ruth took a job that she would remain in for more than three decades: as an instructor at Sacramento State. She helped found their much-lauded ceramics program, and trained hundreds of students during her tenure there. Many of those students have gone on to successful careers themselves, as sculptors and teachers.
“One person in the State University system said that because I was a female I would have a difficult time being advanced – which was not the case at all, because of the wonderful Art Department. They were very supportive.”
Of Ruth’s recent work, the most famous are undoubtedly her “lollies” (short for “little old ladies”). She was commissioned to create two in clay for the Pavilions Mall in Sacramento, and then did a bronze casting for a single lollie who sits at the entrance of the UC Davis Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care facility.
“The lollies at the Pavillions have always been received well. People bring little gifts at Christmas and put them on their laps; a fresh peach, or something like that. People sit and talk and touch it. It just gives me pleasure that it’s been received so well.”
Ruth is proud to be a colleague of the other fine Sacramento artists profiled in this show – and proudly considers them her friends, as well.
“I love Helen’s work, and Allen’s too. I’ve been to all their shows and exhibitions, and I think they’re amazing for what they’ve done and what they’re still doing. And I went to school with Greg Kondos. It was after the war and he was a little bit older, but he was at the junior college when I was, too, and I love his work.”