Rachel K. Garceau

Rachel K. Garceau, Graft [courtesy of the artist]

ART PAPERS: Where do you look for inspiration?

Rachel K. Garceau: I’m not sure that I look. I think it finds me. Whether it begins with curiosity about a single object or location, it always grows from an obsession—an inexplicable urge to make. Sometimes it means carrying an object in my pocket, studying it daily, until at last I begin to sculpt, mold, and cast. By recreating its likeness in porcelain, a formerly mundane or everyday object becomes precious, tender, ghostly. Other times, I might visit a site, and the memory of what I saw there haunts me until I can return and discover more—by interacting or collaborating with it, [and by doing so] bringing the objects of my labors into a dance with what already existed. In either case, I never fully understand why I was drawn to that object or place until I arrive at the end of making and/or installing. It is the journey and the arrival that reveal the formerly mysterious draw.

AP: What do you wish for people to know about your work?

RKG: Over the past several years I have developed an intimate relationship with porcelain. Day after day, I handle the material in its fragile, bone-dry state—carving it, sanding it, loading it into kilns. My mind must be focused and my touch must be sensitive. I have come to recognize how this impacts my behavior outside of the studio as well, perhaps even how I exist in the world and amid other people. In his book The Courage to Create, Rollo May describes the risks of intimacy: “Like a chemical mixture, if one of us is changed, both of us will be. The one thing we can be certain of is that if we let ourselves fully into the relationship… we will not come out unaffected.” As an artist, I influence my material—it is changed through my visions and manipulations of it. But it also goes the other way—I am simultaneously affected and transformed by my material. If I am truly honest in this process of my own transformation, it will come through in the work and give the viewer an opportunity to consider their own potential to change and to be changed.

AP: Describe your studio when you’re working.

RKG: My work cycle has different phases, and the feel in the studio changes accordingly. Before I start a new project, I clean and organize the studio. At the beginning, when I am planning and drawing, writing, and making molds, the studio is quiet and I prefer to be alone. This is the meticulous work and I need to be very focused. As I move into the casting phase, the work becomes more repetitive and predictable, and I love to fill the space by listening to podcasts (Radiolab, This American Life, The Moth, Dolly Parton’s America). For larger projects, I’ll often have some help in the studio, so it’s a more relaxed, social, community environment. As the casting gets rolling, kilns get firing, pieces start piling up, and the studio gets a little messy. By the time I’m packing for install, every surface is covered. Once an install is complete and I get back to the studio, I wonder who the hell left this place in utter chaos! And the cycle begins again.

AP: What are your plans for 2020? Do you have upcoming shows or projects you’d like to share?

RKG: I have two show coming up this spring in Atlanta. The first will be in Shedspace and the surrounding garden at Whitespace from March 20 to April 25. It will be alongside Whitney Stansell’s show in the main Whitespace gallery. The second will be at Gallery 378. It is a group show including Pandra Williams, Shona Wilson, Cynthia Farnell, and Deborah Heidel. The dates are April 3 to April 25.

AP: Read anything good lately?

RKG: All-time favorites that are always nearby: The Courage to Create, Rollo May; Tales of the Dervishes, Idries Shah; The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Recently read top recommendation: Among the Maasai: A Memoir, Juliet Cutler. Current bedside stack: The Evolution of Beauty, Richard O. Prum; Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert; When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, Terry Tempest Williams; Courage to Grow: How Acton Academy Turns Learning Upside Down, Laura A. Sandefer.



Learn more about Rachel on her website.

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