Unfurling

“Unfurling”, 2002-2009, 450′ x 12″, Ink on Paper

This is my largest, most ambitious work to date. I worked on “Unfurling” for seven years on three rolls of white paper. The graphic novel panels range in width from one to ten feet. “Unfurling” is an autobiographical tale of my transition from living in an industrial warehouse in San Francisco to falling in love with a man in Wyoming and eventually moving to his off-the-grid one-room cabin location. I used ink pens and liquid ink washes with a brush. In 2009 we hung the work in entirety in SOMArts Gallery in San Francisco.

Read about “Unfurling” at these blogs:

LA Times
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2009/11/ruckers-scroll.html

Forbidden Planet International
http://forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2009/unfurling/

BoingBoing
http://www.boingboing.net/2009/11/03/unfurling-isabel-ruc.html

ARTIST STATEMENT: “Unfurling”

“Unfurling” is a 450-foot long graphic novel illustrating my transition from living in an industrial warehouse in San Francisco to falling in love and moving to an off-the-grid cabin in the Gros Ventre Mountains of Wyoming. Over seven years and on three scrolls of 150’ long paper I drew the tale with black ink and watery ink washes, with the panels ranging in width from one to ten feet; the paper is 12” high.

When I began “Unfurling”, I knew I wanted to draw a physically long comic strip but I hadn’t realized the amount of time it would take and the absolute growth in my drawing that I would experience. The first few panels are tentative in width, but once I got comfortable with the unbound width of the medium my hand was freed, and by the 15th panel I drew a 10-foot wide scene of Cesar Chavez St. in San Francisco. That street runs from the industrial warehouse where I was living all the way to the residential neighborhood of the Mission District, and in that panel the viewer can see industrial yards, freeways overhead with homeless encampments underneath, air traffic, geometric building lines on the hills and simple pedestrians.

Throughout the story, I flash between the chaos of urban life and the calm of the wilderness. I drew the new experiences of visiting my boyfriend in Wyoming: utter quiet without electricity or plumbing, horse-drawn farm equipment, being snowed in far from a road, and wild game for meals. I began work on “Unfurling” before I had moved to Wyoming, so my contrasting lives were acutely felt and shown in the comic.

Moving to Wyoming was not without conflict. When I landed in my new home, I endured the pointed hatred of another ranch worker and so the story became complicated beyond a simple love story. I was driven to reflect inward for strength. Through this search I had to find ways to visually illustrate ethereal ideas, and towards the end of the story I have found paths to peace as illustrated in Panel 175: “Gus and I photosynthesize the light.”

An interesting result of working on scrolls of paper was that the story would physically disappear as I moved forward and rolled up the paper to continue the drawing. I found that this was similar to how we keep our memories: I was able to recall a lot of the panels but had to rewind the paper to unearth the details. “Unfurling” became a tangible objectification of my memory.

In 2009, “Unfurling” was exhibited in entirety at SOMArts Gallery in San Francisco. The work snaked along the gallery walls and became an installation with audience participation. The three rolls were hung one above the next, so when a viewer got to the end of one roll he had to walk back to the start. As a result, viewers interacted with one another as they were walking along the piece.