This Q&A series focuses on artists contributing to the #ArtisticVisionPgh project cosponsored byMost Wanted Fine Art and Penn Avenue Eyewear. Our next contributor is Zena Ruiz.
Name: Zena Ruiz
How old were you when you first had to wear glasses? I was 20 when I first had to start wearing glasses. I noticed my vision was getting blurry during my pregnancy and asked my doctor about it-they said it would be back to normal after having the baby. “Great!” I thought. After having my daughter, my vision never went back- I have an astigmatism. That was the beginning of my framed adventures.
How old were you when you had to pay for the glasses you wear? I was 27 when I had to pay for my first pair of glasses. Fortunately, my mother had wonderful eye care so my last year on her insurance I got my last eye exam. The next year I bought my first pair online and paid $27 for my prescription frames. Not too shabby I thought, but when I received my frames they had a santa in a sleigh design on the sides with “Merry Christmas”!!
Have you ever had to “fix” your own glasses with tape, string, glue, etc? Yes!! Super glue to fix fractures in the frames. Beeswax for the metal hinge so that it could still fold in.
Tell me about a character in literature, film, television or other pop culture who wore glasses and how that resonated with you for good or for bad. Steve Urkel! OMG I loved him. he definitely embodied naiveté and his life was a series of “comedic” accidents, but he had a sincere quirkiness to him that I adored.
Describe your relationship with your glasses now. love//break relationship.
There’s a pervasive stigma about wearing glasses for young and old, but an equally pervasive idea that glasses indicate intelligence (or hipness.) Explain that duality. As a small child, the stigma of people wearing glasses was that they were “nerds”. I never automatically associated that term with intelligence, but more of being socially awkward. Now there are people wearing frames without prescriptions. Not all people who wear glasses are socially inept and someone took the time to get to know the person behind the lenses. I’d be delighted to read a thesis on the subject so I’d be better prepared to answer this phenomenon.
Can you describe how the cost of vision health services has had a negative impact on your life? I can’t afford to get my eyes examined. The problem with this is that prescriptions are only valid for a couple years. After that you can’t use that prescription to order new frames if you lose/break yours or order contacts. Because my prescription is so low, it doesn’t affect me as much as it affects my husband, who has -4 and can’t see without his contacts in. How is one supposed to order contacts if they can’t afford an updated eye exam?
Tell me about your work for this exhibit. I am designing a pair of frames for this exhibit at Most Wanted Fine Art in the Waterfront. My traditional medium is printmaking and sculpture. I am working on a design that I will carve out of the wooden frames; a wood cut if you will. If they don’t break, I will pull a few prints off the frames.
How can readers learn more about your work? Oh goodness, I’m terrible at keeping my website updated or publicizing my work for that matter. Facebook is the best place to get the most current happenings in my practice. Most of the work I’ve been doing in the past couple years has been community organizing on a grass roots level in North Braddock, Pa. My work is/will be exhibited in: “Gardweeno”, a summer garden project for middle school aged students in the neighborhood; “Golden Girls”, a show at Most Wanted Fine Art in Garfield opening September 5th; and “Pour One Out”, a Dia de los Muertos show at Unsmoke Systems ArtSpace opening on November 1st.
Thank you, Zena.