Tag Archives: arts

Artist Profile

rachelwright-portrait

A mischievous face peeks around a small, forgotten looking metal door, and offers a cheerful greeting.  Rachel C. Wright welcomes me into the chilly interior of a giant warehouse in Portland’s Industrial area. Wright directs me to her studio space, weaving through a maze of walkways to Wright’s studio door. I open the door wide, only to push aside a handful of trial sculptural fetuses, which scrape across the concrete floor. Interesting introduction, I think to myself.

Rachel is mid-project, completing a utilitarian sculpture made of all recycled materials. It is a one of a kind dress. This is quite different from Wright’s usual figural sculptures that make up the bulk of her three-dimensional art.

Even though utilitarian objects aren’t a typical part of Wright’s practice, she is in line with her usual practice of appropriating traditionally feminine skills in her process. She tacks cardboard onto a bodice shape and later painstakingly hand-stitches, taking few shortcuts.

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Later, we reconnect over a coffee, in true Portland style, for an interview. I want to hear from Rachel Wright firsthand, in order to understand Wright’s labor-intensive process, motivations, influences, and general thoughts on art.

What’s your process?

I am a process-based artist, so my process is tedious, on purpose. At times I think the process is almost more important than the end result. I get tunnel vision when I work, and believe the time spent translates in the final art. For example, I spent 280 hours on the recycled dress sculpture I recently finished.

I also often work in soft materials and choose to hand-sew over using a machine.

Why sewing, when this is a traditionally feminine skill?

The female performance artists of the 60s influence me. Some artists reclaimed sewing. I also appropriate sewing, and find the act to be meditative. It is important to mention that I don’t sew to make utilitarian objects, usually. I sew to make sculpture, with feminist undertones. That is different from the traditional sense of sewing.

Why art?

Well, art wasn’t the only thing I was good at, but it was damn near close. [Wright smirks.] Art came easily to me, and I was able to advance in art. I loved my foundational first year in college, to understand color, composition, mediums, and other fundamentals. I was attracted to sculpture in the first year, and have focused on that since.

I chose art because I can ask myself, “What am I going to make next?” After that first year in school, I got past angst filled art. I developed my process, made questionable art, and then began asking that question, “What’s next? “ over and over.

What is questionable art? 

It is art you wouldn’t want to show anyone, but you do anyway. While the questions of whether art is bad, good or questionable is relative, I believe it is about taking risks and seeking feedback with your art. I seek feedback from people I respect, professors and peers.

Even the best artists make questionable art. It happens. They seek feedback from critics, art experts, and the public.

Name your top 3 influences, famous or not. 

My top three are Magdalena Abakanowicz, Louise Bourgeois, and Ledelle Moe.

I identify with female artists that work in sculpture with figural subjects. I also respect women who “make it” in the art world because there are so few in comparison to male artists.

Abakanowicz is known for hand-stitched, burlap figures with the H/holocaust as a main theme. Louise Bourgeois is a giant figure in the feminist art scene of the last century. A main theme in her oeuvre is family matters, like me. Moe is a former professor and works in monumental, concrete sculpture. She is a mentor and supports me in so many ways. She offers direct, honest feedback.

Tell me a favorite art memory.

I lent a hand to a peer and friend, May Wilson, to help cast dead animals. The report of a fresh road kill animal off the Jersey Turnpike was the first experience.

The animal needed to be as fresh as possible, so we drove in the middle of the night, picked up the stinking animal after spraying it with a poly spray, and spent the rest of the night problem solving how to cast it before it decomposed.

It was nasty in the moment, but such a memorable experience.

What else should people know about you and your art?

I am not the stereotypical artist, living a bohemian lifestyle. I am living in a suburban area, working diligently, and raising a family with my husband. I believe in myself and in making art. If I can do this, so can others. I hope people understand that belief in themselves and their capabilities will lead the way to achieving their goals too.

In terms of art, my art is part of a timeline that is evolving. I explore the limits of human strength always. So far, in the timeline I have explored family matters: birthing children, breastfeeding, maintaining relationships, overcoming dysfunction, and breaking the cycle of abuse.

To some, my art’s meaning is mysterious and I have received feedback that it is too mysterious. However, my work is actually hyper-personal and I don’t mind if it comes off as mysterious. Art making is therapeutic for me. Art is empowering. I will consider myself a successful artist if I consistently produce art for the rest of my life, regardless of how popular or visible my art is to the world.

Rachel C. Wright is an artist. She continues to make art after college and plans to do so for life. She is a parent of two children, married, and makes time in the studio to steadily evolve her art. She is determined to keep up her art practice.

Check out Rachel C. Wright online to follow her artistic evolution. See updates, new art, and learn of upcoming shows.

IMG_1817Greetings readers!

I will post my monthly review of First Thursday for August later tonight or tomorrow. Posting later than usual is good, trust me, because I am fine tuning the content to be top-notch! I am excited to share my experience with you soon.

Did you go to First Thursday last week? Please don’t hesitate to share your review and thoughts too. Let’s have a conversation.

For now, enjoy this provoking quote by Pablo Picasso. “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Another post coming soon!

 

Visual Wednesday: After Postmodernism in the “Seven Ages of Buildings” Series

Tower Reflection

What Comes After Post-Modernism?

To discuss current buildings and structures, is to consider architecture in terms of the question, “What comes after post-modernism?” Perhaps, when discussing those structures that are recently built or still in process, is to discuss the now. Comparing contemporary buildings and structures to Shakespeare’s line, “At first, the infant. Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms”, these new buildings are as fresh to the world as newborn infants. Recent and in progress buildings are in a period of architectural beginnings, and their futures are unforeseeable.

As I see it, there are two upfront limitations to talking about such fresh, infancy stage buildings. The first limitation is a lack of perspective.

Jumping into a conversation on current architecture is a good reminder that we are living in current times as well. So, there may not be an adequate perspective yet. Further, architectural discussions in art history typically hinge upon a process of distinguishing the characteristics of a movement (or style) from previous movements and noting new conventions. This could be problematic when attempting to analyze a current architectural style, because we aren’t removed from the present. Neither do we have the perspective allotted us, as we do when discussing older forms of architecture.

The second limitation is based on the trend away from labeling. Simply put, many academics and architects alike don’t care to label or name specific styles in contemporary architecture. It is problematic, so it is avoided.

Contemporary architecture discussion requires little to no labeling, at this point in time. In my experience, post-modernism is one of the last movements discussed in an art historical context. It seems the buildings of today are simply part of contemporary architecture. Surely, current buildings are contemporary architecture, but is a label necessary? I argue that it is too soon to name the current style, and that maybe labels aren’t worthwhile anyway. (I don’t think I am alone in this assertion, so perhaps I am stating more of a consensus than an argument. See this article.)

On to buildings and structures of today.

View a quick slide show of recent stunning buildings completed since 2009.

Current buildings are amalgamations of all architectural forms before them. Many architects try to incorporate newness in terms of materials, building processes, and thoughtful designs. Plus, a lot more, that is too lengthy to cover in a single post.

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An interesting example of a contemporary building is the Sky City building that broke ground in China about one week ago. Set to be constructed in 10 months time, it is scheduled to be done in 2014. It will be the tallest building in the world at 838 meters, and an entire 10 stories taller than the current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. See full details.

Adding to the complex conversation about contemporary buildings and structures, the following video highlights a number of architects’ opinions regarding the reason they chose architecture as a profession and the biggest challenge facing architecture today from MOCA tv.

While a contemporary discussion of buildings and structures has some limits concerning perspective and labeling difficulties, there is a lot we are able to consider. Surely, the place in history of today’s buildings and structures is unknowable, but there certainly are a prolific amount of buildings and structures that belong to what I will loosely call contemporary architecture.

Photo Source: 1. Absolute World in Mississauga, Ontario from Flickr 2. Sky City in China from Radio City

 

Visual Wednesday: A Wooden Mallet

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Photo Source: Mittlerbros.com

July’s First Thursday Review & a Wooden Mallet

First Thursday fell on a holiday this month, so I didn’t attend the event. I did, however take advantage of an early free admittance on Wednesday at the Museum of Contemporary Craft (MoCC). Last month I wrote about the bowl at the MoCC, so this month I will share another highlight of an exhibit that I viewed more intentionally.

On this first Wednesday, I interacted with Soundforge by metalsmith Gabriel Craig, in partnership with composer Michael Remson. Soundforge was first realized in Houston, Texas and now Portland, Oregon at the MoCC through September 21, 2013.

The piece includes 16 wooden hand-carved mallets in a variety of shapes and sizes. The mallets are arranged vertically along an invisible horizontal line, with a white outline of each mallet’s uniques shape and a grey painted wall for a background. Each mallet is supported at the intersection of the head and handle by two nails. The rest of the piece includes hundreds of vertically strung hand-forged metal pieces that Craig refers to as keys. Three stands generously spread throughout the room organize the hundreds of hand-forged metal keys. The stands and keys are similar to vertically oriented xylophones. Further, there are a number of important interactive components that include multimedia, performance by musicians, and an invitation for all viewers to play the instrument as well.

To promote a complementary viewer interaction, Craig explains that all notes are in the same key of F minor pentatonic scale. This way the sounds work together, but are arranged in no particular order.

Personally, I truly enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in the work. I found myself curiously experimenting with the various mallets and the percussion sounds of the keys individually and together. Often I held two mallets, randomly striking and tapping keys. I noted the keys sound different depending on where you strike the metal, the middle, edge, top or bottom. A few other people were viewing and engaging with Soundforge while I was there, and I found our playing to be surprisingly cohesive.

Soundforge, according to Craig, highlights a specific moment in the metal forging process, when metal making is accompanied by percussion. His expressed intention to highlight the process, and act of object making is not only an interesting concept, but the intended meaning was well received by myself and other viewers I observed.