Artist Creates Murals of City Skylines Using Old Parking Tickets

The Allston artist's work will be on display at the State House through July.

Photo via Ruth Rieffanaugh

Photo via Ruth Rieffanaugh

When Boston drivers discover that ominous orange piece of paper sticking up beneath their windshield wiper, they may feel like ripping it up in frustration. And that’s exactly what Allston artist Ruth Rieffanaugh does, but instead of throwing away the torn bits of parking violations, she instead turns it into art that highlights her favorite parts of the city’s landscape.

Using bits of newspaper, piles of old parking tickets, and some strokes of a brush, Rieffanaugh has created several murals of the Boston and Cambridge skylines, and those works will be on display for public viewing in the State House on Beacon Hill.

Rieffanaugh, an art teacher at Boston Architectural College and director at the Dorchester Alternative Youth Academy was inspired by the tickets as a way to “capture her feelings” about Boston “drawn from personal experiences” to create work that’s “passionate and pleasurable with a blend of angst and anguish,” according to a statement about the exhibit.

The showing, called “Parking Ticket Blues & Other Rediscovered Uses,” presented by Unbound Visual Arts, Inc., will include “other emotion-driven artwork created from discarded newspapers.” The exhibition runs through July 31, and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We caught up with Rieffanaugh to see what the artist had to say about how she collected all of those tickets, and how it made her feel tearing up the citations that everyone loathes.

So how many tickets did you use to create these murals?

I actually never counted. I collect, separate into piles based on color/texture, then, when cutting I will often look for certain areas of the ticket, such as capital letters, or perhaps a grouping of lower case letter…and use that way.  I have a bunch in still. The collages also use some of the old paper tickets—these are relics. [It’s like] new antique art.

Be honest: it sort of felt good to rip them up, didn’t it?

It felt great to reconfigure them into a cityscape many can relate to as their experience of Boston.

Were the tickets ones that you got, or did you collect them from other people, too?

I gave myself a rule—I would never take them off a car, they had to be found on the ground [or] discarded in disgust by others. So I would comb the streets looking [for them]. There is one piece that required tickets from Cambridge, so I hung a sign at work asking for people to give me their Cambridge tickets.

Do you always work in this collage style? Or was it specifically for these murals?

I generally work from an idea, concept or thought that I am trying to convey, that often drives my choice of materials.

What is it about Boston that made you want to put together these landscapes?

Are you freaking kidding me? Do you drive and park in Boston?

Sometimes. The city is sort of synonymous with horrible parking options and excessive ticketing. Is that what you tried to capture here?

Absolutely! It’s a personal experience shared also by many others.

You said you used old paper tickets, too. How long ago did you make the murals?

Well, my art making is ongoing. I have made a couple over the last six years. There are some different points of view [for each]—I’m actually beginning to work on  [a new] view soon.

So it sounds pretty exciting that these will be on display. But don’t you think it’s funny they will be in the State House, where laws about driving are made? 

Yes, a kind of strange way to laugh at it all. I hope it gives other people a little chuckle.

Where else can people find your artwork?

I have two utility boxes left in Cleveland Circle that I painted for the city’s Paint Box Project. I had four, but I think NStar changes the boxes out for new ones periodically.

As an Allston artist, do you think Boston does enough for the art community, or should the city get its own citation for not doing enough?

I think they are improving and working to do more. It would be great to have more live in workspaces that are actually in the city or close like Allston area. More public art [and] spaces for the beautification of the city would be great too. I have several ideas and would love to share them with the city representatives.