This is a portrait of an artist not in her home, but her element – Rachel Harris, contemporary abstract artist & Playboy’s Miss November, moves with purpose around her DTLA studio as she preps for her upcoming art show. She stacks canvases, arranges supplies, changes the song on her 80’s alt rock playlist, keeping conscious of the mood among a flurry of busy work. Everything in the loft is carefully placed with just a hint of haphazard – a set of antlers leaned against a barstool, tiny crystals and trinket boxes scattered around in little nooks, waiting to be discovered. A string of white Christmas lights stuffed under a futon illuminates the sitting area almost as an afterthought and yet, instantly evokes a sense of style that is as effortless as it is unattainable.
For Harris, art is a way of life and it shows. “I’ve been drawing my whole life,” she says. “That became a part of my identity. Art was something that I could work on and push myself and then I could look at it and feel really fulfilled.”
At 23, Straight out of the California College of the Arts and Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, she opened her first art show and sold all 16 pieces in one night. These debut works drew inspiration from Norwegian Black Metal, a rock music sub genre that led Harris down a rabbit hole of gritty texture, heavy brushstrokes and anarchistic symbolism.
“It was a cool period with an uproarious music scene'” she said. “They burned churches built on top of other churches. They found it hypocritical, so they would burn them.”
Harris continues to explore the relationship between music, color and movement in her upcoming show at The Well in Los Angeles on December 11th. Inspired by 60’s psychedelic rock, she fuses rainbows, neon and glitter with themes of chaos and altered perception- each work changes its appearance in different light. It’s a brighter take, but not exactly a total departure.
“Everybody had that same comment that my work was really dark, and I wanted the next collection to represent a different aspect of myself,” she says. “I use a lot of the same techniques and it’s going to have the same texture. You’re going to be able to tell that it’s mine, but a completely different body.”
With her increasing success, Harris is also learning to use her own body as an expression. Recently featured as Playboy’s Miss November, she accepted the gig as an opportunity to come out from behind the canvas.
“In the art world, selling yourself can kind of demean your art,” she says. “But the art world is changing and I really want to be a part of that because people are actually interested in the person behind the work now.”
This is true, at least when it comes to Harris. There is an edge and insight beneath her sweet blond exterior, something unexplained that draws you in. It’s more than a smoldering gaze or a pouty lip, Harris’ beauty is art. It is the wildness of her authenticity, and the lingering promise that she has so much more to unveil.