Ruth Leavitt's introduction to computers was via her husband Jay, though her own background was grounded in abstract expressionism - 'dripping paint, house paintbrushes, and the attitude "I don't know anything,"' as she puts it. The transition to using the computer involved, as for most of the pioneering artists, writing or commissioning programmes to realise a specific artistic intent. In her own case both variation and distortion were important tools in her computer art work, giving rise to a dynamic that encompassed both constructivist purity and more lyrical tensions. Ruth Leavitt was the editor of one of the earliest compilations on computer art (Artist and Computer, Harmony Press, 1976)
"I have been using the computer to make pictures for most of my career as an artist. When anyone asks me how I became involved with computers my retort is, "I married into it." My husband, Jay, teaches in the Computer Science Department at the University of Minnesota. Most of what I have learned has been through osmosis.
As a grand student of Hans Hofmann having studied painting with Peter Busa it seems strange, even to me, to be involved with anything mechanical. My art studies were firmly grounded in abstract expressionism—dripping paint, house paintbrushes, and the attitude 'I know nothing.' It is quite a leap to a computer, a plotter, and conscious decision making. However, the change has been gradual and I feel I am combining both attitudes, abstract expressionism and constructivism in my work.
My first encounter with computers in producing art was to experiment and create graphics with a program that already existed. I drew and shaded pictures on a cathode ray tube using a light pen attachment. The program had features which made it superior to drawing by hand. But after 6 months I was frustrated with it. Everything I drew so freely on the scope was ultimately resolved into a grid. This dissatisfaction, coupled with the fact that I now knew more about how computers worked, led me to think of my own idea for a program. I had had a rubber dollar bill when I was a child. I loved to stretch and distort the image on it."