Rachel Harris is an abstract expressionist artist based in Downtown Los Angeles. Known for her large scale paintings that play on color and technique, material and matter, each of her pieces is an otherworldly, dreamlike experience. Lately, she’s been pouring all of her attention Red Tides, her latest body of work that is debuting at Miami’s Art Basel.
On display at Fountain Le Bleau Hotel’s Ballroom from December 7th until December 10th, the show will focus on the natural phenomenon. Basically, when the eco-system is out of balance, natural toxins are produced. These toxins are known as red tides. Harris found much inspiration in this process, stating, “The visual effect is quite electric, the ocean becomes florescent and neon, created in natural toxicity. A representation of life, sometimes the most vivid and interesting of human interactions is when we are out of balance and pushed to extreme. I first saw this creation when I was ten years old and it left a deep impact that something so wrong could appear so beautiful.”
We’re excited to share an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at this show, shot by Nicolas Corradi, alongside a chat with Rachel. If you happen to be in Art Basel next week, don’t sleep on this show! Best part of all? A percentage of all proceeds generated will be donated to Oceanic, a foundation dedicated to keeping plastic out of the water.
LF: 2017 was a year marked with change – not only in pop culture and politics, but also for many artists. How have you seen your work evolve this year?
RH: That’s an interesting observation. This year I worked with a lot of new material. Also, my inspiration was a color palette that is very different to the things I’ve done in the past, so working with dark blacks and neons while using new materials was a big change. I was also inspired to contribute to this world by donating works from this series to Oceanic, a fundraiser committed to keeping plastic out of the ocean.
LF: Lately, when you haven’t been creating art, what have you been up to?
RH: I love music and I travel often for work. So… Dancing and traveling to new places.
LF: You often create large-scale works, with your pieces for Red Tides ranging between four and eight feet. What is your creative process like for such big pieces of art?
RH: I like to work on many pieces at the same time – that way I can do layers on each piece throughout the day and then continue the process the following day. I generally start out with framing, picking background material, and then a layer of texture. After, I begin to mix colors using dyes and paint.
LF: How did your creative process for Red Tides differ from that of Strung Out?
RH: Strung Out was inspired by psychedelic rock, so the color pallet was rainbow, and pastels. The Red Tide series is inspired by a natural phenomenon that occurs when the ecosystem is out of balance; essentially the ocean becomes a giant glow stick, with waves of bright neons. This is created in natural toxicity, and from this I created a pallet of dark blacks and neon greens. The difference in the work is the inspiration and the color pallet derived.
LF: Have you always considered yourself an abstract expressionist artist? Have you dabbled in any other genres of art?
RH: No. I have been an artist my whole life but I started out as an illustrator, and then later a painter. I didn’t get into abstract art until my last year at fine art school – I think it’s really important to learn the fundamentals. Learn the rules so you can break them.
LF: What is your favorite Art Basel memory?
RH: That’s definitely hard question… Art Basel is more than shows, it’s half art and half fun. For a lot of people, it is unfortunately barely even art. For me it becomes a 24/7 adventure – both seeing the art during the day and living through the night. It’s a wild week that’s both inspiring and draining.
I’ll share a crazy memory. I went to go see a gallery with my friends who had just taken acid. They kept losing me in the crowded show, so I went to a party supply store and bought a giant gold “O” balloon – it resembled Koons’ work. Needless to say, my friends didn’t lose me, and the rest of the crowd thought I was an art piece and started to take pictures. There is so much going on at Basel that the concept of art becomes burry.
LF: Does being a model, and thus being a subject of another person’s artwork, influence how you approach your own creative pieces? How so?
RH: Yes and no. I do tend to hold onto creative control during a photo shoot, especially if it’s me in my studio. However, making myself vulnerable to the viewer through photography directs an audience that otherwise wouldn’t see my art and challenges me on both a creative and spiritual level
LF: How fast do you live?
RH: Extremely. My youth is dedicated to experiences and I use all the energy I have to do it all.