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New Show // Rachel Sitkin

Posted by buysomedamnart on

Miami, AZ, $350.

Where are you from and were do you live currently?

I grew up outside Philadelphia, but I have lived in Baltimore on and off for the last 12 years.
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Where are the landscapes you paint? How do you select them?

I have two bodies of work building right now. The first is a series on surface mines in West Virginia and Arizona. I first chose to visit mountain top removal coal mines in West Virginia because I was interested in the subject of surface mining as a metaphor for the relationship between humans and our environment. The coal mines in WV supply electric power to Baltimore, and so I went there to see first-hand the results of my own personal power usage. In 2010 I received a small grant to go to Arizona to visit several copper mines in the state, some of the largest in the world.
The second body of work is a new series on the disparate vantage points and incorporation of the landscape into the residential architecture of the wealthy versus the poor. I began this series while in living in Peru last year. I had intended to continue my work on surface mines in Peru, but it was difficult to get permission to visit most of the gold and silver mines there. However, I found the contrast between the traditional and contemporary inhabited landscapes.
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It seems ironic that land cut-up for industrial purposes can look so beautiful on the surface. How do you view this anomaly?
When I made my first visit to the mountain top removal coal mines in West Virginia, I expected to be disgusted by what I saw. But the enormity of the mines, and the graceful sweeping curves dug out of the hillside were just so impressive, and beautiful as a representation of our ability to manipulate our surroundings. Viewing the copper mines in Arizona was almost a religious experience for me. Our relentless extraction of natural resources has resulted in the creation of an interior architecture that is reminiscent of cathedrals, an architecture of devotion. It made me wonder, “In 1000 years when the minerals are gone, what will people think of these giant concentric rings that we’ve dug into the earth?” Will they think it was art?
I found that work that addressed this dichotomy added a depth to the work that was lacking in a didactic approach that merely reiterated what we are “supposed” to think about environmental devastation.
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A common theme in your earlier work is people in water. Was the progression from one theme to another a natural one?

The underlying theme has always been the figure in the landscape. The underwater paintings addressed a more personal and romantic relationship. I found that when I wanted to address broader issues, the use of the figure confused the issue. The specifics of the figure, the gender, the race, or the age carried too much weight. I found that an insinuation of the figure in the landscape would better illustrate the concept I was after.
 
Shishio, 2005.
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Name 5 things that inspire you.

Saville’s or Monet’s, learning new languages, Jeff Buckley’s music, travel.
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What kinds of experiences have helped you grow as an artist?

Travel has been hugely important to my work. Every opportunity I have had to see new parts of the world has sparked a new interest or direction.
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What does it mean to you to be an artist and environmentalist?

I don’t consider myself to be an environmentalist, though if my work inspires people to think about the environment and our collective impact that would make me very happy.
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What can't you live without?

My husband, my dog, my friends and family, summertime, and chocolate!

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