Featured Artist: Rebecca Schultz
Interview by Karen Hunter McLaughlin
Since we’ve featured our member artists in 2016, we’ve added a few new members. Rebecca Schultz and I have gotten to know each other a little since working together on some new printmaking projects at Cheltenham Center for the Arts. She has quite an interesting background so I asked a few questions so you can get to know her better too. – Karen
Karen: You have a very diverse artistic background. Can you tell me where you started in your creative journey?
Rebecca: My creative journey started with ballet lessons with Miss Audrey in Pittsburgh, PA at age 6. I then shifted over to piano and choral singing when I realized I was nowhere near good enough to become a professional dancer (you learn that lesson young in ballet!). It wasn’t until high school that I started focusing on visual art–I had always loved drawing but got bad grades in art in elementary school because I refused to do the assignments the way I was supposed to. I took pre-college art classes at Carnegie Mellon University and then majored in painting at Rhode Island School of Design but really struggled with it. So I start making mixed media pieces using alternative photographic processes, collage, printmaking, fabric and found objects. These pieces got bigger and became installations and then I stuck myself in them and they became performance art. I moved out to San Francisco right after college and got into the video/performance art scene there, which led to 20 years focusing on performance and theater before finding my way back to visual art several years ago. So I’ve kind of cycled through all of the major arts disciplines. I’m pretty content making visual art right now, but want to start to figure out ways to do performance again and have a crazy dream of making arty electronic music or creating a lounge singer act.
K: You’ve done some pretty interesting residencies. How have these driven your art?
R: I love traveling so much, and as the working parent of three teenagers, I don’t get uninterrupted time and space to make my work. So residencies seemed like a pretty amazing way to have both of those things. My first residency was in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Up until that point my work referenced the forms and patterns of the natural world but didn’t directly reference it. The work I made at that residency was my first foray into directly using landscape as a reference point, even if I totally deconstructed it. So I started seeking out residencies that would take me to places with landscapes that I felt would feed my art.
K: Why rocks?
R: I fell in love with rocks last summer when I did a residency in Iceland. I took tons of photographs of the landscape and kept getting drawn back to the forms found in the rock formations there, which are pretty stunning. Pictorially, they offer lots of possibilities in terms of composition, allowing for a structure that I can then abstract and blow apart. So using rocks as my subject matter really moved my work forward in the formal sense. But then I really started reflecting on rocks as witnesses to our evolving planet, and their seeming permanence which is, in reality, an illusion. Everything around us changes, our planet will change, and we probably won’t be around, but the rocks will, in one form or another. I recently started studying geology to learn more about how rocks are formed, their composition, the different types, and it is fascinating. Plus all of the geologists and petrologists and rock enthusiasts I follow on Instagram are a pretty neat bunch. I hope one day to be able to go out on field expeditions with scientists and show my work at science institutions.
K: I know you’ve traveled extensively and lived all over the globe, do you think it’s personally important to experience different locales for your inspiration?
R: Location is everything to me in terms of making creative work. My artwork has always explored issues of identity and culture (particularly around gender), and more recently has also focused on the fraught relationship between humans and nature. My performance and installation work is often site-specific, and examines my relationship to my immediate environment; my two-dimensional work draws directly from whatever landscape I am near. And, more personally, being in a cross-cultural marriage has taught me so much about the deep impact that our cultural backgrounds have on how we move through the world. Travel is one of the biggest mind-opening experiences one can have, and I don’t think I would be able to continue developing creatively without those experiences.
Rebecca’s website- http://www.rebeccaschultzprojects.com/