Visual Artist Rachel T. Harris challenges expectations of process, vision, concept... and herself
by Jack Raplee
It's somewhat cliché to say that things aren't always what they seem. Even among people who understand this basic concept, many individuals continue to cling to stereotypes and generalizations as a way of understanding the world around them.
This is often true in the world of art, which, ironically should encourage creativity and individualism, yet emphasizes a certain level of formulaic protocol on how to be a "successful" artist.
This apparent conflict of ideas is not lost on Rachel T. Harris, a Los Angeles-based visual artist who's own vision is to challenge this notion both within the artistic community and in the surrounding culture as well.
Having attended the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, Harris is well aware of the dichotomy between creativity and protocol within the artistic community. "It's very hypocritical," she says. "There's a hierarchy that says how to direct your career as an artist that's very rigid."
She balked at this protocol and promoted her art on her own, which served her quite well. She put on a sold-out show in in Los Angeles in May 2015 where she was first approached by Playboy to consider posing for the magazine. She was named Miss November of that year, leveraging a new media opportunity to further promote her art (her pictorial was shot at her Los Angeles studio).
In December 2015, she did another sold out show, though by now, she was a Playmate as well as an artist. "While my art began to reach a wider audience, people had ideas and assumptions about me that my work and my art were able to address," she says. "Yes, I have a brain, I have talent and I have ideas."
Art has always been an outlet of expression for the 25 year-old Harris. Born in La Canada, California, she discovered her natural artistic gifts as a child, often drawing and creating on her own in solitude. She ultimately turned to abstract art as a medium while working briefly in the fashion industry following her schooling. "My work in the industry was tedious and boring," she explains. "Abstract art was a medium of self expression for me."
She doesn't identify any other artists as influencing her per se. "I'm influenced by nature, music and texture," she says. She further explains that her art isn't simply painting because she uses a variety of materials in her work such as concrete, epoxies, dyes, etc., giving her projects unique depth and structure.
Her creations are also exceptionally large (often 10 or more feet in height), which stands in sharp contrast with her relatively small stature (5'3"). "People are often surprised that someone like me would create something so big," she adds. "I always want to challenge people to avoid coming to conclusions that are based on assumptions. There's always something more."
Rachel T. Harris has had a number of well-received shows in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Miami particularly, but would like to continue expanding her reach. "My parents are from England," she says. "I would like to get my work over there at some point." Given the impact and objective of her work, that, along with her other artistic goals, seems attainable.
For more about her and her work, visit: racheltharris.com