Paroles Perdues, or â€ślost words,â€ť is a dictionary in which a word has been burned from each page, then reprinted on thin streamers that emerge from the sides of the book, giving the book an appearance of weeping. The book is set on a kind of altar, at a height that requires most viewers to climb the stairs in front to view it. The form references Jewish synagogues, in which the service is conducted from the bimah, raised above the congregation; and the burning recalls the thousands of Jewish prayer books ordered burned by the Catholic church. The words in this honored dictionary are rescued from artificial destruction- but words often disappear from usage in a natural cycle of language evolution. Which words were chosen to be burned were done so by random means.
Donna Ruff received an MA from Florida State University and an MFA from Rutgers University. She produced art for film and television and illustrated childrenâ€™s books before devoting herself full-time to her own work. Continuing her interest in books and the sequencing of narrative, she has explored expanding the book conceptually and re-figuring the text. This has taken the form of nonverbal language that was developed from gesture, and words removed from texts or recombined by systematic or random methods.
She has had solo shows or siteâ€“specific installations at ArtSPACE New Haven, NEXT Gallery, Eldridge Street Synagogue, the New Jersey Print Council, PS 122, and the Westchester Center for Arts, as well as being the featured artist in the book program at Bravin Lee Projects in New York. Her work has been included in many group shows nationally, as well as in shows in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, India, Australia, and the Czech Republic. She has received numerous grants and awards and is in the collections of several corporations, including Macdonaldâ€™s, Estee Lauder, and Johnson & Johnson. She also received a Curatorâ€™s Opportunity Grant from the NewArt Center in Brookline, Massachusetts to curate â€śOff the Wall>Rethinking the Print.â€ť Her most recent curatorial project was â€śStatus Updateâ€ť at Haskins Laboratory of Yale University, along with Debbie Hesse.