By Lisa Fierstein —
Directly following our “Writing About the Arts” class, I sat down with first-year student, Rachelle Gage, to discuss her personal connection to the arts that she has developed over the years. Rachelle clearly has a love for the arts, and speaks about various topics of art with confidence and exuberance. Ever since an early age, she has been interested in art and continues to pursue her passion in college. She enjoys experimenting with unusual art materials, and has recently taken to printmaking. Rachelle does not create art for simply aesthetic reasons; her mission is to dig past the surface and produce art that holds significant meaning and elicits powerful emotions.
What got you involved in art?
Art has always been something that I’ve had an interest in since I was young. I started out with drawing on scrap paper and coloring books and as I grew older, I took classes. I remember in elementary school I loved doing arts and crafts with my friends. I recently spoke to an old friend and asked her if she wanted to pursue art in college. She said “Oh, that was just something I did in Kindergarten!” This was so strange for me because art was something that wasn’t just a school activity; it was something I really truly loved to do.
Primarily, what form of art do you most prefer to do?
I draw and paint, but I’ve recently gotten really interested in printmaking. I started taking some classes and I’ve also tried a lot of different techniques. I love how you create your main plate and can make hundreds of prints and create a series with the one surface. You don’t really need to worry about messing up or making something you don’t like because you can keep printing. I like to play around by making a print and then printing it over a second time or another print upside down; I love how I can make a whole new picture from just one plate.
Do you plan to professionally pursue a career in the arts?
I definitely came [to college] wanting to be a studio art major. Art is something that is not just a hobby for me—it’s something I really want to keep with me. I want to find a major where I can use my creativity. I’m not really sure at this point career-wise because I have lots of interests, such as psychology. But, I find that I can incorporate all these other interests into my art because I see a connection to art in everything. Whatever my future field is, I’ll definitely be using my artistic ability.
What are some of the challenges you feel professional artists face in their everyday lives?
Generally when I say art is something I love, people ask, “How are you going to make money doing that?” Many times if someone is a painter (at least with the adults I’ve met) that was not their main job. I had an art teacher who taught at school and on the side she would have works commissioned; she created paintings that people could buy, and she would always talk about how she wished that that would be enough. I think that with any career if you really put your passion into it, you can find a job with which you’ll be able to sustain yourself while doing something you love.
Describe your most favorite work of art that you’ve done and why was it your favorite?
I have so many favorites, but one really interesting piece I’ve created that often comes up in conversations was a large scissor sculpture. I took a normal pair of scissors and measured every aspect of it, and I multiplied those measurements. With the new measurements, I created the piece with a material called “Pink Panther Wall Foam.” I cut out each shape and attached them with a dowel, so they’d be movable. Many people are reminded of [the artist] Claes Oldenburg because of the scale. I think it’s so fun to be able to create a piece that breaks out from my normal limits.
Do you think that Skidmore provides a good foundation for cultivating future artists?
I am definitely satisfied with the arts at Skidmore. At the beginning of the college process, I was looking toward art schools but didn’t like any of them, for I wanted the liberal arts experience. I knew I wanted a place that would have a good art program, so when I visited Skidmore, I saw all the arts facilities, and the many different classes and choices. Even with the introductory class, Visual Concepts, I saw that there were so many sections of that one class, and I think it’s great that you can start there and eventually go in a direction that you want by taking classes for specific media.
What art classes, if any, are you taking this semester?
I started with Visual Concepts. Normally you’d take more than one art class a semester, but since it is the first semester, it was recommended that I start with one. This is a foundation class and even though I’ve done other art classes before, I still think it’s a great class to take because you’re looking back at the how you create something. Sometimes as you advance, you forget about the main elements that go into a piece and it’s a great refresher for people who have drawn already and also for people who have never even created art.
What is one form of art that you admire but haven’t tried yet or would like to try in the future?
I love exploring with different media as I did with the giant scissor piece—I’ve never really created a piece with such strange materials; wall foam is something that you would normally buy at a hardware store for your house. I think I would like to continue creating with unconventional materials.
Have you ever had your work exhibited publicly? If so, where? How did it make you feel to see people viewing your art?
In the past couple of years, my [high] school gave me a lot of opportunities to have my pieces shown. The first time, I had a print in a student gallery at Pace University. The teacher could only choose four students out of the whole class, and it was a very proud moment to have my piece chosen. The second time, I had a different print put in a gallery exhibition called the “Young Artist Exhibition” at the Katonah Museum of Art. What was great about this time was it was in a real museum, and when it was hung up, it had a sticker underneath it with name of artist, materials, and title. To walk into a museum gallery and see my art hanging up was very exciting. I went to the opening night and saw people staring at my piece. They didn’t know I was the artist and I came over and listened to them interpret the piece. That was really wonderful because when I create art, I hope to trigger an emotion—some kind of response. I like to create something that goes deeper instead of it being just aesthetic.
If you could meet any artist- living or dead- who would it be, and what questions would you ask them?
When I think of the famous surrealist artist, René Magritte, his piece of the man wearing the hat with the apple covering his face [The Son of Man] comes to mind. What’s so interesting about surrealism is that it’s a kind of mix of psychology and art. It depicts a dream-like state but at the same time, it has realistic objects placed in strange ways. I wonder what inspired them to do this and I’m curious about the message of the piece. When I look at an artwork, I often think of my own interpretation. If I met a surrealist artist, I’d ask: where did their idea come from? What emotion did they have? Is there a back-story? And, why did they decide to place things in a specific order?
Do you find a blank canvas to be daunting or full of excitement and potential?
I think it really depends. In the beginning, when I first started creating a piece on a larger canvas or larger sheet of paper, I used to be kind of intimidated. Having a blank canvas can spark an intimidating feeling because you’re starting with nothing and not really sure about the placement of something. You don’t want to start making something super detailed and then realize that it’s at the bottom of the page or in an awkward place. However, I’ve come to the point (especially with drawing) that I’ll start out with a gesture drawing, which is a very loose, quick, scribble-y way of getting everything on the page. I think that’s a great way to start.
If you could paint a sound, what sound would you paint?
That’s very interesting because coming to Skidmore, I did the Tang pre-orientation which was based on the exhibit here about the visuals of sound. The group went into town and recorded different sounds based on certain emotions, and we collected objects and then created an installation based on that. I think it’s such a cool idea and it’s definitely something I would like to try as my own kind of art piece. It breaks that barrier between seeing and hearing something; sometimes people can’t connect those together. If I had to choose a specific sound, I would probably want to choose something that isn’t recognized easily, like a knock on the door. I like to put meaning in my work and choose something that really makes the viewer think. With a cricket chirping sound, for example, depending on the chirp or the tone of the specific sound, the type of line that I would draw might have a specific feel to it, as I have learned in my Visual Concepts class. You can have a “wet” line or something that uses more “muscle,” which is stronger. Even if it is a totally abstracted piece, I would play around with the type of line and shapes that I put in, which would help to remind the viewer of the sound of a chirp.
Thank you, Rachelle, for taking the time to share your art background and passion with LINE Magazine readers. It will be exciting to see how you progress as an artist, the new art mediums that you will discover, and what impact you will have on the art community during your four years here at Skidmore College.