By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — Ingrid Ludt opened the door to her spotless Clifton Park home bedecked in paint splattered blue jeans and a white button up shirt.
The Clifton Park-based multi-media artist first became involved in the world of art through ballet. As a young girl, she imagined she would one day become a ballerina until, at 15 years old, her instinct began to steer her in another direction — visual art. She recalled asking herself, “Is this the highest form of expression you want to bring to the table?”
Though she knew she wanted to focus on her art, painting in particular, her father warned her against focusing solely on painting. She heeded his advice, to a degree, majoring in design and minoring in painting at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
While she’s originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York, Ludt spent a decade living in the Pacific Northwest, both in rainy Portland and the high desert in Bend, Oregon. “I went to Portland, got drenched, so I went to Bend to dry out,” she laughed over a cup of coffee as we sat in her kitchen.
She returned to the northeast and began pursuing a Master’s in Fine Arts at SUNY Albany — an experience she likens to a lobotomy. She entered as a painter and left as a sculptor. “Whatever their methodology was, it worked because it pushed me out of my comfort zone, which you absolutely have to do as an artist,” she said.
Between painting and sculpting came a period of drawing — this helped ease her transition since she was still working on a flat surface. Still, she said, “Eventually the drawing just wasn’t enough. I wanted something tangible. Making sculptures is more physical and thus more appealing to me. You’re interacting with form and space in an entirely different way.”
Some of her recent work involves collecting objects from the natural world then casting molds of the object and creating paper mache copies of the original object. She paints the paper mache, then fastens the objects on walls in various patterns. It’s all about working with the wall and creating a new way to experience something from the natural world, according to Ludt.
Near her stairwell, metal shelves hold baskets of rocks and shells from Florida, Costa Rica, the Finger Lakes and Cape Cod. “It’s a record of where I’ve been and research of where I’d like to go,” she said. Natural forms have always interested Ludt and she’s collected little stones, shells and pieces of bark since she was a little girl. “My mom has a polaroid of me with a collection when I was six years old,” she said.
Ludt sees possibility in a form. She’ll cast a mold of one stone, then replicate it over and over again, color them a deep royal blue and place them in a spell-binding way across a stark white wall, creating a completely new way to see something that might have once been considered ordinary.
She’s exhibited her work in galleries in Boston, New Orleans and in New York City but is now taking a self-imposed sabbatical after several months of exhibitions. “It’s hard to do when you’re addicted to busy,” she noted. While she’s taking a moment to step back from exhibiting her art, Ludt has been revisiting her writing, namely poetry. “I’m feeling really joyous about it — the words,” she said.
On being a mother and an artist
Ludt has three sons, six year old Sam, eight year old Will and 15 year old Aidan. Her younger sons attend Shenendehowa while her eldest, Aidan, attends the Christian Brothers Academy. “They all have a creative strain from me but who knows if they’ll use it,” she said. She noted, “Once they’re up in the studio, you can’t get ‘em out!”
She recognizes the joys of motherhood but noted, “that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging.”
She recalled a moment when she was working in a studio in graduate school and one of her professors came in to tell her, “You know, it’s really too bad you have a child because you can’t really pick up and move to New York City tomorrow. You really had a shot. It’s too bad.” She told him to get out, and he did.
“That was a great moment for me when I told him to [leave.]”
On being a mother and an artist, Ludt said, “If you want to do it right, yeah, it’s hard. They have opened me up, and so for that, I’m eternally grateful. No amount of work, or challenge or frustration I might feel, nothing could replace that sense of openness they have given me.”
She taught drawing classes at SUNY Albany for a while and said “teaching had it’s moments,” but when she wanted to have more kids, she had to decide whether to continue pursuing teaching or maintain a studio practice.
“Work with your limitations,” she said. “They’re really not — they’re more like parameters.”
A bowl of fossil-imprinted rocks, seashells, a typewriter and a fallen eight-legged forester moth rest on the work table in her art studio. A deep red Amaryllis from her mother’s garden sits in a pot near the window. Little framed portraits of Patti Smith and Louise Bourgeois sit on the table, too. Ludt looks to Smith and Bourgeois not only because they were great artists but also because “they were both mothers.”