For the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University we designed an exhibition catalogue for the collection of Ruth A. Ruege. Below find the introduction to the catalogue by the director of the Brauer Museum, Gregg Hertzlieb. The museum insisted on using one of two pre-selected woodcut prints for the cover, so we had to focus on the overall page design and the placement of the text. Below are some initial versions of the cover, with the final version above.
We at the Brauer Museum of Art are pleased to present Spectral Speculations: Nineteenth-Century Yōkai and Creative Prints from the Ruth A. Ruege Collection. The Ruege Collection is a welcome addition to the Brauer Museum of Art, reflecting in its depth and diversity the many faces of Japanese printmaking. Ruege’s fondness for particular subjects gives the collection a unique nature that serves as an enduring reminder of the remarkable eye and skill that Ruege brought to her collecting.
The story of how Ruege’s collection came to the Brauer Museum and Valparaiso University is a fascinating one. I initially met Sandy Kita when he served as a scholarly consultant for the organization ASIANetwork and visited the Brauer Museum to see firsthand the Japanese prints in our permanent collection. Of particular interest to Kita during his visit were the many stencil prints by Sadao Watanabe (1913–1996) in the Brauer’s collection, a depth of holdings that impressed him a great deal. Kita immediately saw the need for establishing context in the Brauer’s collection for these Watanabe works and began thinking about Ruege’s collection, as well as curating several exhibitions that included Ruege material. Ruege had taken several classes with Kita, and she impressed him with her passion and ability to locate very fine works in a wide variety of places for affordable sums of money. Kita and I began visiting Ruege in order to view her collection closely and discuss ways the pieces she acquired could be used at the Brauer to tell stories about Watanabe’s place in a much larger context of Japanese printmaking, with modern creations tracing their stylizations to earlier imaginative and abstracted visions.
Ruege began to see my personal enthusiasm for the beautiful prints in her collection and realized that her collection would be put to good educational use at the Brauer. She agreed to donate the incredible collection that had taken her a lifetime to assemble, and in return for her generosity, Valparaiso University awarded her a Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 2016. She will always be remembered at the Brauer for her drive, passion, expertise, and above all her giving spirit arising from her heartfelt faith.
The Spectral Speculations publication features an essay by the legendary scholar/curator of Asian art, Donald Jenkins, who places the Ruege Collection in greater context. Curator Sandy Kita’s impressive original research reflects his years of studying the Ruege works in detail, demonstrating the collection’s overall cohesion and highlighting pieces of great rarity and special nature. I believe the publication and exhibition stand as a tribute to an individual who saw herself on a mission to learn and acquire, and enjoy herself in the process.
I would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their support in making this publication and exhibition possible: The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Christopher Bowen, Sandy and Terry Kita, Denny and Frances Gulick, Mark Heckler, Donald Jenkins, Joyce Nowak, the Brauer Museum of Art’s Robert and Caroline Collings Endowment, the Brauer Museum of Art’s Brauer Endowment, Valparaiso University’s Cultural Arts Committee, World Friendship Among Children, and the Partners for the Brauer Museum of Art.