Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?
Growing up I was completely obsessed with figure skating. My brother was a hockey player so I guess that influenced me. I would cut up Bonnie Tyler type medleys on cassette tapes like I was choreographing my next routine. I learned how to bead sequins onto my dresses and I made the best dresses. But, no matter how hard I practiced, I knew I would never land a triple jump, the physics just weren’t there.
I compensated for my athletic limitations with dramatic performances, full of climactic split jumps and flying spins. I was a figure skater until I was 17. My uncle lived in the Chicago loop near SAIC. He told me that my great-grandmother Rachel had gone to school there. So it was in the forefront of my mind that I would go there, too. I enrolled in the early college program to build my portfolio and my skating coach was pretty huffy when she found out, I think she thought I was going to be her assistant skating coach. But it wasn’t in the cards.
What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?
At SAIC I took classes in almost every department, painting, video, printmaking, fiber, etc. I thought film was the greatest art form and in my third year I quit school and moved to Mississippi with my best friend, thinking we would transfer to a film program. We made comics and watched movies for three years before transferring to a hippie art school in Massachusetts. I made experimental videos using green screens and analog video mixers for one semester. I finished my final year back at SAIC in the advanced painting program. I was arranging large underdeveloped paintings in grids looking for magic combinations. Nearly all of my artwork involves combining a lot of different materials and crafted objects, pulling together different aesthetics, perhaps in preparation for the ultimate synthesis of filmmaking.
What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?
That the earth is outer space. I still entertain the idea that we are living in a simulation and the code can be accessed through the deepening of our practice. Painting is a spiritual practice, a place where I organize my emotions and express my vision of hope for the future. When I paint for so many hours I get lost and go to these black spaces, and I know there’s something there. I marble paper, crochet, fold origami, paint with encaustic, dye yarn, work with polymer clay, and use cheap crayola air-brushing kits, all in a non-functional and meditative way that results in a lot of raw material for larger-scale artworks. I also transform these raw materials using scanners, xerox and risograph machines, or even as visual references for abstract paintings. I’ll make a painting based on a tufted rug, or vice versa.
Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?
Frank Stella, Vuillard, Miyazaki, Tracy + the Plastics
Where do you find inspiration?
Visual equivalent of static noise, taping things together, temporary fasteners, breakdown of analog/digital, clash of gloss and matte as surface, transparent materials, puddles and pools of paint, garbage, tropical foliage, ambient filmmaking, Japanese video games and comics, Technicolor palette in film and the charms of domestic life.
Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?
Rug tufting forces me to be painterly in a more focused way without referencing textile or commercial art or cheating myself out of time working in the studio. I used to make large pieces very quickly and now I work slowly.
How did it begin? and how did it evolve?
I wanted to incorporate rugs into my paintings and in the course of my research I discovered rug tufting. Once I found it it was everywhere.
What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?
Resource materials in a way that is sustainable. Hard work is ultimately more satisfying than the instant gratification of a short cut.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a commission to install a rug on a wall.
If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?
Take better pictures of your paintings and don’t lose your hard drives.
About the Artist
Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Rachel Collier is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Minneapolis. She has her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has exhibited throughout the United States, most recently with Hair and Nails Gallery and Waiting Room Gallery. Her recent work reflects her desire to be released from the confines of traditional painting materials. Her paintings arrange elements created from various studio practices and are imbued with a search for joy and newness. In 2020 she has introduced rug tufting to her practice and is hand dyeing her wool and nylon.