Interviews

Daniel Traub on Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own

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Daniel Traub on <i>Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own</i>

by Paul Hansen 24 September, 2020

Works of art can come in all shapes and sizes, and the sculptures of Ursula von Rydingsvard can be monumental.

The new film explores the manner in which she creates her large sculptures (many made with cedar) with a team of associates and also delves into her life story which at times has been tumultuous. 

Born in 1942 in Germany, she spent the age from three to eight in a displaced person camp before immigrating to America in 1950 with her family where she continued to endure an abusive father. After a failed marriage to a mentally unstable husband, she ultimately made her way to New York City to attend graduate school and open her own studio. Throughout the film, clues are offered as to influences that shaped her esthetic.

Von Rydingsvard’s career seems to represent a triumph over adversity. In 2008  she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her permanent commissions are on display in such prestigious venues as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, and the Bloomberg Building and Barclays Center in New York.  She has also taught at Yale University.

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own is directed by Daniel Traub who is a New York-based filmmaker and photographer. Traub lived in China from 1998-2007 and worked as a cinematographer for a number of networks and production companies. His photographs have been displayed in prominent galleries and venues worldwide including the Edelman Gallery in Chicago and the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia.

ScreenPicks posed some questions to Traub about his new documentary. 

Q. Why did you decide to make a documentary about Ursula von Rydingsvard?  What aspects of her artwork particularly appeal to you?

Daniel Traub: There’s something primal and timeless about Ursula’s work. I wanted to understand the persons behind it and where the forms come from.  I was particularly interested in her process which is intuitive and visceral.

Q. Was there anything especially memorable or unexpected that happened during the course of the filming?  What was it like to work with von Rydingsvard on the documentary?

Traub: Initially, Ursula was a bit hesitant to allow the film to become too personal. She saw it more as a professional profile. The production of the film spanned about 3 years or more, however, so over that time Ursula and I got to know each other well and she came to trust me. So it organically moved into a more intimate and emotional direction.

Q. Are there any other filmmakers that you particularly admire?

Traub: There are but too many to mention here.

Q. Is there anything in general that you would like to tell us about Into Her Own?

Traub: In the end, for me, what was most moving about Ursula’s story is her courage. In her life, she has had an incredible drive and tenacity to follow her instincts despite tremendous obstacles. This courage and will is what I wanted to convey in the film. 

Q. Would you like to share with us what your future projects are? 

Traub: I’ve currently been editing a couple of books of photographs of work that I did 15-20 years ago in China.

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own available on DVD and VOD in the U.S. and Canada on September 29.