WORKSPACE MEMBER: CECILIA RUIZ.

THE ILLUSTRATOR’S GARDEN OF FORKING PATHS.

The books of Workspace member Cecilia Ruiz take place in a perpetual twilight where figures and background exist in flat layers of muted grays and trims of brown, where tears of bright pastel set off banks of ocean or sky that seem to emerge suddenly in a dreamworld. The Book of Memory Gaps, published by Blue Rider Press (a Penguin Random House imprint) explores imagined conditions of exaggerated memory disorders, a collection of visual riffs on subjects akin to Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Like Sacks’s book, she starts with the implications of peculiar neurological conditions but in place of Sacks’ case studies she uses each case as the prompt for a flight of terse, poetic imagination: Simon, a priest, is tormented with a perfect memory, and so can’t forget any of the sins confessed to him; Veronika can’t remember faces (a condition called prosopagnosia), and so designs a special perfume to identify each person in her life.

One of Ruiz’s projects as a student studying graphic design at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City revolved around the revaluation of the Mexican peso that took place in the early-1990s (to reverse the effects of a highly inflationary period, the new peso was valued at 1000th of the old peso). After the death of her grandmother, Ruiz’s family discovered that she had privately accumulated a substantial horde of the old currency, which by then was no longer accepted for exchange and had become worthless paper, intricately designed and covered in the now-shed 000s of its old denominations.

Ruiz moved to New York to pursue her interest in illustration, studying with Viktor Koen in the MFA Illustration program at the School of Visual Arts. Like Koen, who is known for his graphic alphabets and bestiaries of fantastic creatures, her work sometimes catalogues typologies. After Memory Gaps, she has worked on a series of ex libris bookplates: both rubber stamps and pasted-in prints, which identify a certain volume as being “from the library of” its owner with a unique graphic design.

To facilitate her project, she recently bought a laser cutter and installed it in her kitchen. An inexpensive model, it was functional enough but proved unpopular with the rest of the household, as its poor exhaust system led to a thin layer of laser-dust and constant smell of molten rubber. In the A/D/O Workspace, she has access to a more reliably ventilated laser cutter, along with the Risograph, which she uses to  experiment with layering, testing ink overlays in compositions. “You can see it’s out of registration here,” Ruiz said, leafing through seconds “but these kind of mistakes are interesting.”

Cecilia Ruiz’s forthcoming second book, The Box of Extraordinary Deaths, is another menagerie of the odd and catastrophic, derived in part from one of the more exquisitely composed Wikipedia pages. The ex libris stamps and printed bookplates are her ongoing project for 2018.


The Workspace at A/D/O is a collaborative laboratory for developing new design solutions with cutting edge technology. Learn more and apply for membership.