Ruth Marten was born and lives in New York City. From 1972 to 1980 she was an important figure in the tattoo underground and, as one of the few women practicing the craft, was influential in the field of body decoration, championing what came to be called Neo-Tribalism. Working during the Disco and Punk eras, she also tattooed in the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris during the 10th Biennale de Paris.

Hired by Jean-Paul Goude for her first illustration for Esquire, Marten had a 30-year career illustrating for numerous magazines and book covers. She had a brief stint as a fashion illustrator for Bergdorf Goodman, Salvatore Ferragamo, Barney’s, and Vogue Magazine. Her love of the printed image informs her current work, which consists of changing through overdrawing and collage the configuration and content of 18th-century copper plate engravings.

Recent solo exhibitions include Dream Lover, Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Brühl, Germany (2018); The Birds, John Marchant Gallery & Eagle Gallery, London (2017); and Fountains & Alligators, Van der Grinten Galerie, Cologne, Germany (2016). Her work is in the permanent collections of the New York Public Library and the de Young Museum, San Francisco.
For The Wandering Pronoun, Marten reworked an 18th-century print (likely made for a German album of furniture design) engraved from a design by English furniture-maker Thomas Sheraton (1751–1806) titled Nierenförmiger Büchertisch (Kidney-Shaped Book Table). Using watercolor, Marten colored the tables and added elements such as the hair, body parts, shoes, and statue, as well as their shadows. She meticulously opened the drawers by cutting out the drawer fronts from the original print, repositioning them and collaging them into place, and drawing in the sides and interiors of the drawers. She also added the piece of reflective material in the foreground to create a mirror.

Ruth Marten
Aspinwall Editions Ruth Marten Watercolor and collage on 18th-century print
The Wandering Pronoun
Watercolor and collage on 18th-century print
9 5/8 x 7 1/4 in.