Manifesting variously as performance, installation, and video, Between Tin Men
follows the ongoing story of Nimmie Amee – a minor character in Baum's bewitching universe – and her infatuation with a Tin Man who has already lost his heart to another metal lover.
For this exhibition, Between Tin Men: Gifts and Souvenirs, Ruhl charms life into the various trophies of her adventures through Oz, turning the gallery into a shop that exists in direct opposition to its Disney counterpart. From a magic mirror, the female protagonists of Between Tin Men protest their entrapment in the commercial space of the gallery, violently rebuffing their status as art and as objects of desire. To the side, caught on the smaller stage of the cabinet display, these same faces are frozen in the enamel of collector's plates, packaged for purchase. Arranged like token keepsakes, these characters are made object in a way that both flattens and elucidates the ways in which they were already flat. Despite Jinjur's forcefulness and Polychrome's flamboyance, the reductive materialization of these characters poses subtle questions about the role of consumption in the construction of identity. Fluidly translating Nimmie Amee's devotion to the Tin Man onto the viewer's covetous desire for the objects in the store, Ruhl suggests that, whether sexual or material, desire seeks to fill an absence, to reach for a state of wholeness. Denying us the satisfaction of easy possession, Ruhl presents us with objects already full of personality; these plates are not leather jackets or ostentatious handbags but are fully-fleshed identities with histories of their own. Ruhl invites you to try a type with no promises that its features will slip easily into your own.
– Nicole Kaack