About RuiNation

The Industrial Revolution is officially over. After an era of cultural optimism and pure industrial might, the United States no longer finds itself in a booming manufacturing-based economy. Many plants have closed, supply lines slowed and our once-proud workforce has faded into office cubicles and super-store checkout lines. The revolution is dead and the result is a sprawling countryside peppered with barren smokestacks and blackened factory framing. Within that imagery lived the inspiration for a project that would ultimately become this art show.

In early 2010, two brothers, Jeff and Joshua Ball, looked at what was happening to the nation’s industrial infrastructure and saw more than just rusted steel and crumbling brick, they saw art. The brothers grew up in Toledo, Ohio, which has long lived in the mechanical shadow of industrial Detroit. For a majority of the 20th century, blue-collar cities like Toledo relied heavily on the auto industry and the manufacturing jobs that it produced. In the past few decades, the industrial Mid-West has witnessed countless businesses leave, factories close and middle-class jobs disappear. The “rust-belt” is now a mere shadow of its former self and while the industry is gone, many of its ruins still stand.

Growing up in an environment where industrial abandonment was commonplace, it only seemed natural for the Ball brothers to make art out of the “urban decay.” The pair started this project in Toledo and traveled throughout what was left of the industrial Midwest in an effort to capture striking imagery of the rust-belt. This journey would take them through cities like Toledo, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Gary and Chicago. While each city offered different decaying attractions, they all portrayed the same story of decline, degradation and abandonment.

Where many see twisted metal, rotting timbers and concrete dust, the brothers saw an opportunity to capture the nontraditional beauty of that decay. These long-lost pieces of the industrial Midwest are a testament to our country’s history; they stoked the fires that fueled the engines that built a nation. Now that the revolution is dead, those pieces of rusting rebar and crumbling masonry now stand as both monuments and ruins to a nation that continues to survive. The remains of the rust-belt remain.

The images in this collection are not intended to simply remind us of better days when a factory worker could provide their family with a piece of the American dream. They were created to remind us of our potential, our collective drive to build a better world and to create wondrous things that never existed before. This is the essence of art, and the inspiration for these images.