Jon Ruehle

People ask if I am a scientist making art or an artist doing science. I feel there is no real difference. I am inspired by the world around me, and I try to convey that wonder to my audience, whether they are scientists, students, collectors or fellow lovers of nature. Shape determines how life lives, so science and art merge for me in studying how genes make living things, exploring how brains form thoughts and depicting shapes and behavior in bronze. I received my PhD from UC Davis and my sculptures are in public and private collections worldwide.

I originally studied for a career in Medical Ethnobotany at UC Berkeley, combining interests in the health sciences, traditional societies and the environment, but after two years in the Amazon I traded juried scientific articles for juried exhibits of my research into the anatomy and ecology of North American wildlife in bronze. My interest was still research and sharing my discoveries, but art allowed me to reach a wider audience and filled a deep personal need for creative expression. I had always sketched and made models of anything that caught my attention, so sculpture was a natural pursuit.
After 16 successful years as a full-time artist I returned to school for a doctorate in Developmental Genetics at UC Davis. There with colleagues from Berkeley and Stanford I tackled a problem Darwin had abandoned by devising a technique to track embryology and morphogenesis with tiny molds and castings about a thousandth of a millimeter across. This gave me a moving picture of developing stem cells magnified 40,000 times. My academic and professional journey had come full circle and I was making miniature artwork for embryos!

I am as interested in the process of making bronze sculpture as I am in the final product. I apprenticed with foundries to learn every step of the lost-wax casting process. Command of casting, finishing and mold-making allows me to control the final result and the freedom to tackle technically challenging designs. I work directly in wax using a unique approach that quickly captures the basic form and movement for an idea. This hollow wax original does not require an armature allowing easy modifications of the pose and the original can be cast as a one-of-a-kind sculpture.

Animal subjects allow me to express the bond I feel with all life, and to explore inner states of mind and mood, organic textures and the interactions with the natural world that sustain us all. My favorite comments about my work are that “if you look away, they’ll move,” and “these are the sculptures the animals would collect.” In 2000 an international panel of museum curators and art dealers included me among the 50 most significant contemporary wildlife artists in the world, and I was invited to showcase my work at the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

I currently teach Neurobiology, Developmental Biology, Microbiology, Immunology, Ecology, Zoology, Botany and 3D Art at the University of Arkansas, School of Mathematics, Science and Arts in Hot Springs, Arkansas in. My artwork is in over 1000 public and private collections including The National Academy of Design, NYC, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum, Wausau Wisconsin, and The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, WY. ASMSA recently had me teach my wax sculpting technique to a class of STEM students who produced remarkable results, again tying art, technology and science together in a creative endeavor.