Rachel Mello, who joined Kingston’s Associates in late 2015, came to make visual art through her diverse training and professional experiences in theater set design, mural art, and architecture, making her a choice subject to start our new series, five favorites. What follows are things that are on Rachel’s mind, in a range of media, from literature to music.
1. The evening dusk sky over houses and cities
I love the etchings that the silhouettes of the power lines make in the colors of the setting sun. I have a million photos of this that I take all the time. It’s really just an utter joy for me to see, record, and later respond to in my work.
At its heart, my work is about a sense of place: the roofs, windows, antennas, trees and wires weave a story and make a house into homes, the streets into neighborhoods. I make these explorations coming back to the same subject imagery through a range of media and approaches.
2. The electro-swing band Caravan Palace
I was introduced to Caravan Palace by a friend as part of my project for 2016: to go see 12 new-to-me bands live over the course of the year. They played a super show in May at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. People tend to listen to the music they heard early in life, and I didn’t want to remain stuck in the stuff I know. I have experienced live music in new genres including edm/trance music, psychedelic hard core rock, and an all-woman surf rock band. It supports my premise about creativity that if I know how it’ll turn out, I don’t want to do it.
The night I saw this production (Feb 20, I think), one of the leads was called out for a family emergency. The director made a stunning last minute decision to use another male lead playing two roles! One was his regular role, and one he subbed in for carrying a script. When they announced this at the beginning I was disappointed, but the truth was that the outcome was amazing. The way in which Orwell plays with reality and gaslighting the characters was enhanced by the confusion of having the same man in multiple identities. I was gobsmacked.
In addition to being great theater, it was such a great reminder of how we can plan our artwork, and hope it goes the way we’re planning… but, as long as the themes and ideas are clear, it will be possible to roll with whatever comes up.
4. Janet Echelman’s aerial sculpture at the Boston Greenway.
I went to see this sculpture (As If It Were Already Here, 2015) a dozen times with different friends. It was disarmingly simple: a net with lights on it. The way Echelman pieced it together had the appearance of casual happenstance, but it was truly masterful. I love that it was accessible to everyone. It had the aesthetic of construction barricades, or woven recycled bags. The fishermen who worked nearby could see qualities in it that no one else did about how it was made. It spoke to different people, based on specific aspects of materiality, and so I found it to be more democratic than a lot of public art. Its powerful tactile qualities called on construction, rigging, chain hoists. A female artist made a huge fiber art sculpture, working with engineers specializing in Autodesk/autoCAD. I also hope to create art that pulls you in with beauty, but then the more you look at it, there’s more to find.
5. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
What I love about Tolkien is the infinite depth of his work. While, yes, you can enjoy his stories just following the plot, you can also look deeper and deeper and never get beyond the world he created.
Tolkien was a linguist first, and made the stories to hold the languages he created. The languages, and the incidental sculptures half-buried in the grass, all carry thousands of years of “history” in them beyond the surface of the story. For my own work, most of my large sales take place after people look at a piece repeatedly. They get to know my work and then may commission something, or they keep coming back to a favorite. There is an immediate recognition, but sufficient complexity to offer more over time.
Rachel Mello uses a variety of media to express a sense of place, bringing her background in architecture and mural art to this body of work. She has been a resident at Vermont Studio Center and at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a three-time recipient of the Somerville Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award, and a finalist for the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowship in Painting. Mello works extensively with community art around the Boston Metro area, especially in Somerville. She has a MFA from Brandeis University and a BFA and a BArch from Rhode Island School of Design. Look for her first solo show in Boston, “That Space Between Flying and Falling” at Laconia Gallery opening on Friday, November 4, 2016.