Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination

National Tour

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
in Kalamazoo, Michigan
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
in Wausau, Wisconsin
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
in Montgomery, Alabama
This is an image of a flower coming out of a tree trunk

Reforestation of the Imagination, Ginny Ruffner with digital collaborator Grant Kirkpatrick; 2018; fiberglass, foam, sand, paint, glass, augmented reality; size: variable; courtesy of the artists © Ginny Ruffner, Photography by Fiona McGuigan.

“This is nature reimagining itself. The imagination can’t be exterminated. It just recreates itself.”

—Ginny Ruffner

Ginny Ruffner (b. 1952) is an artist best known for her elegant sculptures and mastery of glass techniques. Recently, she has created work that combines traditional glass sculpture with Augmented Reality (AR) technology to create an interactive viewer experience. Visitors to the exhibition Reforestation of the Imagination will use a downloadable app that superimposes digital information over seemingly barren sculptures, creating two distinct realities to explore.

The installation consists of six islands, each featuring colorless glass sculptures of tree stumps. The landscape appears barren and bleak. Ruffner has imagined a gloriously complex and colorful alternative environment that viewers can access using AR’s technological lens. In this second reality, the stumps grow unique appendages of mythical flora. Ruffner designs these fictional species to adapt to their surrounding conditions in a means unexpected, beautiful, and optimistic. These plants have evolved from existing fruits and flowers, developing dramatic appendages and skills necessary to flourish in this radically different environment. Reforestation of the Imagination calls into question our very notions of reality and fantasy, of concrete and abstract, and of desolation and hope, all while drawing attention to contemporary ecological issues. The installation also includes nineteen drawings that were the inspiration for the AR images.

Reforestation of the Imagination is a collaboration with Grant Kirkpatrick, a Seattle-based animator and media artist.

Ginny Ruffner currently resides in Seattle, Washington where she moved in 1984 to teach at the influential Pilchuck Glass School, founded by Dale Chihuly fifty miles north of Seattle in Stanwood. Originally a rustic summer camp where artists taught artists nestled in the foothills of the Cascade mountains, it is now a world-renowned glass school. Her work is in over forty museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Renwick Gallery, and she has produced numerous public art commissions. She was the subject of an award-winning feature length documentary, “A Not So Still Life” in 2010, chronicling her artistic journey after a life altering, physically debilitating car accident.

Reforestation of the Imagination is the latest project at the Renwick Gallery to explore an expanded definition of contemporary craft and new technologies. It was first shown at MadArt Studio in Seattle from January to March 2018.

Please note: To protect the artwork, no strollers are permitted in this exhibition. Stroller parking is available at the Renwick basement entrance. Children age 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult in the installation.

On the Blog

Eye Level, June 25, 2019, "Artist Ginny Ruffner Reimagines Nature"


Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination

Ginny Ruffner offers tongue-in-cheek descriptions of her fanciful flowers in this interactive “field guide.” The booklet ($18.95) is available in the museum store and in the online bookstore.

Download the Free App Now

The holographic images in this installation and in the accompanying field guide can be activated through your phone’s camera. Download the free app Reforestation; follow the prompts. 


A photograph of a person holding an ipad with an image of a flower on it.

Ginny Ruffner with Grant Kirkpatrick, Digitalis artherium (Double art flowers), 2017, sculpture (handblown glass with acrylic paint tree rings), island (plywood, low-density foam, fiberglass, epoxy, sand, pebbles, and acrylic paint), and holographic image. Sculpture: 9 x 13 x 11 1⁄2 in. Installation view at MadArt Studio, 2018. Courtesy MadArt. Photo by James Harnois.


Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination is organized by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Support for this exhibition is provided by Art Bridges. Generous support has been provided by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Elizabeth and James Eisenstein, Ed and Kathy Fries, Shelby and Frederick Gans, James Renwick Alliance, Colleen and John Kotelly, Betty and Whitney MacMillan, Jacqueline B. Mars, Kim and Jon Shirley Foundation, and Myra and Harold Weiss.

Color logo that says "Art Bridges"
The logo of the Smithsonian's Women's History Initiative