Artist of the Week: Rachel Niffenegger

Rachel Niffenegger lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.  She is currently pursuing her MFA from Northwestern University.  Niffenegger recently had a two-person exhibition with Paul Nudd at Western Exhibitions.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I received my BFA from SAIC in 2008 and am currently working on my MFA in Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? In addition to painting materials such as paper, paint, fabric and tape, I use materials from a collected pile of sawdust, concrete, ash, hair, teeth and torn up and discarded work. Each piece has part of the pile in it, mixed in with acrylic medium as a sort of magic dust that gives them life and a connection to each other.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Shrouds, auras, effigies, doppelgangers, ghosts, mummies, rituals, mutilation, formlessness.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I’m currently working on a Lithograph with Anchor Graphics in Chicago. It is a new process for me and has allowed me to really focus on the act of drawing and simplify during a time when I have been using excessive layering. I will be beginning my thesis work soon for the Spring of 2012.

How has your work developed within the past year? I have been working on doing site specific installations that haven’t been shown yet where I make work on a tarp or ground where it is meant to be shown. Instead of making polished objects I have been trying to show some of the process because the way each piece is created, destroyed and transformed is important to me. The sculptures are dragged and busted as they are made and it creates this mark making on the ground which further ties together my interest of where painting and sculpture intersect.

What artists are you interested in right now? Huma Bhabha, Lynda Benglis, Daniel Gordon, Paul Thek, Nathalie Djurberg, Agathe Snow.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Dan Gunn’s 12×12 at the MCA.

Favorite music? Anything sad and folksy, Bill Callahan, Silver Jews etc. But I do really love the new Girl Talk album for working in the studio.

What were you like as a kid? I owned the entire Goosebumps collection, traced the drawings in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and my favorite toy was “Dr. Dreadful’s Squeemy Snack Lab” where you could make candy skin, brains and boogers.

Any upcoming shows we should know about? I’m showing a collaboration in Ryan Travis Christian’s show at Western Exhibitions opening October 21st.  I’ll have some paintings at Domy Books in Austin in October as part of Monster 6 and the Northwestern Thesis Show at the Block Museum in May 2012. Not everything in 2012 is ready to announce just yet so keep your eye peeled.

*Portrait via Joseph Rynkiewicz.