Minneapolis-based mixed-media artist Rachel Collier is a true artist of the upper Midwest, drawing inspiration from the grand skies and vibrant sunsets this region offers. “I’m especially attached to the big skies and neon sunsets, which can be seen in my painting and fiber art,” she said.
Growing up, Rachel’s family moved around Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa, which makes her feel rooted in the prairie landscape even today—which is evident in her work through textures, colors, and patterns.
Rachel earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the top art schools in the U.S., and has since been consistently making work for over twenty years. However, only in the last five years has she been able to attempt sustainability in a full-time professional practice, which has also been an opportunity to build a community with other likeminded artists.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to work every day and am thrilled to share and grow with my painting family,” she said. “There is an emotional focus of my work that helps me to connect with myself and others in a way that I find cathartic and healing. I’m drawn to aesthetic cults and collective consciousness and I feel socially gratified when making work that is in dialogue with artists that have influenced me.”
Currently, Rachel is working on some new pieces for a group that will be in a show titled ‘Chimera’ at Hair and Nails Gallery in Minneapolis. The show includes fellow gallery artists and friends of Rachel’s, including Emma Beatrez, Julia Garcia, and Christina Ballantyne. All work can also be seen on the Hair and Nails Gallery homepage of artsy.net.
Pictured here are some of her pieces titled “Your call is important to us,” “Roll by our silo,” and “Breakwater,”—all are multi-paneled paintings made with acrylic and wool. This is a recent development in her work and she has been excited to be more seamlessly transitioning between fiber and paint through a technique called needlefelting.
A unique and empowering aspect of her story is that she is a fourth-generation female painter in a direct matriarchal lineage. This inspires her to feel a deep connection to her artistic practice as a way to carry on the work and legacy of her grandmother, Marticia, and her mother, Rachel, whom she was named after. “I feel strongly that painting has been passed to me by my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother,” she said.
From an academic perspective, Rachel hopes for her work to be seen in lineage with the spiritual abstraction of Hilma Af Klint, the healing properties of Emma Kunz, the domestic and Japanese inspiration of Vuillard and Bonnard, and the maximalist materialism of Frank Stella. She also finds inspiration in many other art forms, from ambient filmmakers, silent comic writers, ASMR video artists, tarot card readers, gnostic gospel scholars, noise musicians, sheepherders, and ancient weavers.
In a world where 2D art can be so dimensionally limiting for an artist who craves a more immersive experience, Rachel bridges the worlds of 2D and 3D with her work through relief, physical layers, and rich texture. But why are texture and dimension such valuable elements of creating for her?
“I feel like painting is intimidating in a way and I try to overcome that by translating the most intuitive elements into other mediums and dimensions,” she said. “It’s kind of tricky in a fun way to demonstrate how wool can be mixed together like paint and the color theory I’ve learned through painting can also be expressed with fiber. Flatness is also a dimension and I like to exercise that concept. Ultimately, I enjoy making things that want to be seen in person and touched when no one is looking.”
The Fargo Connection
Rachel’s philosophy through her work has resonated with many communities, including Fargo. When the Kesler apartments were being built in downtown Fargo, The Kilbourne team was seeking art that supported local and regional female artists with subject matter that gave a nod to the wide open spaces of the Red River Valley to furnish the spaces. Rachel’s “Every Night” caught their eyes and proudly hangs today in the main lobby at Kesler.
“Every Night” was a piece that was originally made for Rachel’s show at the Nemeth Art Center in Park Rapids, MN, titled “Soft Landing” and curated by Tessa Beck. The title and series focused on how Rachel’s journey in creating a new piece—which starts with her asking “impossibly broad questions that have no answer, grasping vaguely at a theory of everything,” as her artist statement said. “I begin as a psychonaut, opening a portal into outer space while my earthly self prepares a soft landing for the astronaut’s return—the completed artwork.”
The finished piece, which is non-representational, allows the viewer to come up with their own ideas for what the subject matter might be. It’s a piece not just for the observer, but for the daydreamer as well.
“I was so thrilled to have ample space and made a couple of paintings that were as big as I could fit through my studio door—this is one of them,” she said. “It was the last painting I made for the show and I remember feeling so much pressure to pull it off in a short period of time. To combat the sense of pressure, I relied on experimentation and covered the canvas with a black background to amplify the noise. I hoped to convey a ‘charged moment’ that inevitably happens in some place or another every night.”
The black base of the canvas perfectly fits the space of the lobby, which dons black walls. The bottom left of the artwork feels floral, almost as if a handful of lilac was used as the paintbrush to create the look. The streaks of neon and vibrant color throughout could almost be the lights of cars buzzing up and down Broadway, with the signs of nearby shops adding illumination to the ambiance. But that’s just one editor’s interpretation. Meditate on the artwork yourself and see what your mind comes up with.