Turn deconstructed sneakers into works of art

Artist Justin Ruby isn’t squeezing paint out of a tube, he’s cutting up sneakers.

“It’s pretty cool with the product he’s using, which is kind of a pop art product, and he’s using it to make a statement,” said Andy Walker, art teacher at Central York High School. “Maybe it’s not always supportive, but it sends a message to people.”

Ruby is only 22, but he’s already making waves on the art scene.

His medium is expensive sneakers.

“When people see his work, they’re like, ‘OMG, I can’t believe you cut that $500 pair of Jordans for that piece,'” Walker said. “His painting is expensive. I have one of his originals, and I had it signed.”

York Art Association exhibition:https://www.ydr.com/story/news/2022/01/17/readers-choose-best-york-county-scenes-yorSearch Assets k-art-

The word “sneaker” is usually attributed to Henry Nelson McKinney, an advertising man who popularized the phrase in 1917. He said that rubber soles made shoes “stealthy”, so he called them sneakers.

Ruby said a big part of her job is to explore what people identify with in society and what they value. That’s what made him break them up in the first place.

“I see a lot of people and have experienced it myself, placing a lot of value on material objects,” Ruby said. “I think sneakers are a really cool language to start with because anyone can look at their feet and relate to them.”

Two of Ruby’s pieces are on display at the “Stolen Goods” exhibition at Marketview Arts in downtown York – “Larry Hoover” and “Untitled (Street Casualties)”.

“The purpose of the exhibition was not to push just one side of the agenda. We didn’t want to exhibit a bunch of work that made fun of Donald Trump,” said Matthew Apol, co-curator of the “Stolen Goods” exhibition. . “It was more like, hey, there’s a reason why this happened and we’d like you to simmer on that.”

"Untitled (street victims)" by Justin Ruby is displayed at the "Stolen items" exhibit at Marketview Arts.

And there is the dark side of sneaker culture. In the documentary “One Man and His Shoes”, murders on Air Jordans have been happening regularly since 1989.

When Ruby cut off his first pair of cherished sneakers, he said it was a true sacrifice because they were more than just sneakers – it was years of hard work, his identity and all that. he had put there.

He also sees in it an allegory of what is happening in the streets, especially in York.

Justin Ruby at "The Ruby Show" exhibit at The Grotto community center.  Brittany Nicole.

“You just have to see so much violence, grow up and realize it’s exponentially worse,” Ruby said. “It’s like, what caused this? And what can we do about it?”

In 2021 alone, there were 14 homicides in the city of York. There were five others in the rest of York County.

Of the 19 homicides, 14 were due to gunshot wounds, three were stab wounds and one was due to strangulation and blunt trauma.

2021 York County Homicides ::https://www.ydr.com/story/news/2022/01/03/york-homicides-2021-city-sees-slight-increase-do

Creating art for Ruby is her language, and sneakers have been the conduit that connects two cultures — professional sports and hip hop style, Walker said.

“It’s not just about making pretty pictures to hang on the fridge, it’s very meaningful and intentional,” Walker said.

But Apol said Ruby was kind of stuck in a paradox in the middle where he was talking about really important issues while gaining attention and making money for his work.

"larry hoover" by Justin Ruby is displayed at the "Stolen items" exhibit at Marketview Arts.  Justin Ruby.

“He gets the best of both worlds, and the more he splits between those two paths, the stickier it will be,” Apol said.

“It’s difficult, but eventually he will have to make a choice,” he added.

To see more of Justin Ruby’s work, click here.

The “Stolen Goods” exhibit runs from Jan. 6 to Feb. 6. February 23, 2022 at Marketview Arts. Free entry.

Kaity Assaf is a reporter for the York Daily Record, part of the USA Today Network. Reach her at [email protected], on Twitter @kaitythekite or by phone at 717-472-0960.

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