(For more information about the “Viewfinder Project” click here.)
I met Rachel Welling in 2003 at the Vermont Studio Center’s artists’ residency program. Rachel is a native of Indiana and at the time was finishing college at Indiana University in Bloomington. While in Vermont, Rachel was struggling to both use the traditional skills in painting she had gained at Indiana University while also breaking free from some of the rules of observation. She was aiming for representations that had more of a metaphorical impact. Later, she attended the M.F.A. program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. While there, I once met up with her for a studio visit.
What I find most interesting about the “Viewfinder” that Rachel Welling sent me (the painting seen above) is how it emphasizes chance. I am specifically directed to the dice in the picture. What I find compelling about the dice is that they seem to present a paradox. They represent chance yet they are the most grounded and exacting information in the painting. The figure an the surroundings have a gestural unfinished quality. However, because of their detail, the tiny dice stand out with a sense of permanence that is not realized elsewhere in the picture.
Another element I am attracted to is the mysterious circular outline in the upper right part of the picture. It reminds me of the stain from a coffee cup and seems to reaffirm the notion that anything can happen.
Emphasizing the role of chance may have a heightened sense of relevance to artists who have less than stable financial situations. For some artists chance and art making may remain more of a constant than relationships, paychecks, and living arrangements. Although permanence is an ideal, chance may seem more predictable than other factors in an artist’s life. One never knows when or if the the “big break” will come or when or if the “other shoe will drop”. In the mean time the artist keeps working and keeps rolling the dice.
Below is another painting by Welling; it also seems to be fraught with fluctuation and variability. This piece seems to be like a compressed play where the various acts have been superimposed and arranged together. Rachel currently lives and works in Chicago. For more images visit Rachel Welling’s website.