Dear Diary: Rebecca Chernow
Seattle artist Rebecca Chernow earned her BFA in glass and neon sculpture in western New York, and it was glass that brought her out to the Pacific Northwest where she worked early on as an instructor at Seattle’s Pratt Fine Arts Center and the Tacoma Museum of Glass. But you wouldn’t have necessarily guessed that from her standout installation at the University of Washington MFA thesis exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery this past spring. Chernow’s Gegenschein sprawled across the floor of one of the historic North Galleries. Spices sifted through stencils and laid over a black background of activated charcoal made an image of the internet and also brought to mind international trade networks and the nodes and lines of mushroom mycelium structures. Made of edible or compostable materials, Gegenschein paired smartly with Hannah Patterson’s video WE ARE ALL IN THIS TO GET HERE across the hallway, which teemed with plants, color, text, and pop music made slow and strange. Chernow’s piece also recalled German artist Wolfgang Laib’s yellow monochrome Pollen from Hazelnut, a favorite from the Henry’s permanent collection that was installed in the same space two years before.
But the process of making Gegenschein was highly collaborative, and shared labor and co-authorship is something that happens in glass too. So much of Chernow’s work asks viewers to think about systems of making and distributing and remaking. And systems of value and economy were things she was thinking about and working through in her early years as a glass artist.
Stay tuned for pieces informed by Guatemalan weavings (see below!) and new work in silk screening. I can’t wait to see where her thinking will take her next.
Rebecca, who’s splitting her time between Seattle and Portland this year, brings us a couple of days in her busy life:
“This year I was offered a part-time position as an art professor at Reed College in Portland, OR. Having just graduated from the University of Washington this past June with my master’s degree, I figured I might as well say yes.
Not wanting to up and move from the city I love, I now spend half of my week in Seattle, the place I call home, and the other half in Portland where I work.
It’s a little disorienting being in two places at once, so I thought I’d write this diary entry from the point of view that I am currently living my life: from a two-point perspective.” – Rebecca
PDX, 8am: Coffee’s on!
SEA, 8am: Coffee’s on!
PDX, 9 am-12 pm: The class I am teaching this semester is on mold-making and casting techniques. My students have been learning how to cast traditional materials like glass, clay, slip, and bronze, but we have also been experimenting with chocolate, latex, sugar, plastics, and anything else that we think might work. Today we are breaking open our first glass casting molds to see what’s inside.
SEA, 9 am-12 pm: Time to feed the cats, read the mail, spritz my reishi mushroom kit, and strategize the day. I usually have at least one or two grant or residency applications that I like to plug away at with all deliberate speed, depending on the deadline. Between applications, emails, procrastinating with stupid videos, and crying through the news, it is very easy to get distracted on the internet!
PDX, 12-1 pm: Yes, I sometimes eat at the dining hall at school. Reed has this thing called “The Scrounge” that I find very fascinating and make sure to look at only after I’ve eaten since it can sometimes make me quite queasy to watch.
SEA, 12-1 pm: Lunch at home, and on sunny days, it’s always in the backyard. I can’t wait til Spring, which kind of already feels like it is here. That’s our garden over there, with garlic growing, waiting for attention.
PDX, 1 pm: Now that class is over, I often go back to the studio to work on my own stuff and experiment with the mold-making materials to satisfy my own curiosities. In honor of Janine Antoni—who will be visiting Reed next month– I have been using alginate to fill Valentine’s Day boxes of chocolates where the chocolates are pieces of my body, like my lips, tongue, or nipples. There is definitely an abundance of leftover candy at the local drugstore to play with. I am working on a fleshy latex Lincoln log set and lipsticks made from my pinky.
SEA, 1 pm: I have to admit, if it is a nice day, which it has been, I usually take my bike out for a ride around Lake Washington to get some fresh air and exercise. The cherry blossoms are just starting to bloom near our house, and the air smells lovely.
PDX, 3 pm: Depending on where I am at in the studio, I might just keep on working, or I might take a bike ride across town to the climbing gym. Planet Granite rocks my world!
SEA, 3 pm: I recently took a trip to Guatemala and fell in love with the beautiful traditional weaving that can be seen everywhere. I was inspired to learn how to build a simple frame loom and how to weave. Right now I am using canon fuse—or the colorful fuses that are used to light fireworks—to weave small tapestries that can be turned into explosive light shows. The patterns are simple and are based on a combination of the Microsoft Outlook calendar and the I-Ching hexagrams. I am still very much in the experimental stage with these pieces, but I love the process of weaving and am hoping to make enough of these for a small series.
PDX, 6 pm: I might go get a bite to eat with my climbing buddy or one of my co-workers from school. Portland has a lot of yummy food choices, and I am pretty sure it would be easy to drink and eat oneself into a coma in this town.
SEA, 6 pm: Sam and I make dinner together. Tonight it’s nachos! MMMM!
PDX, 8 pm: I really love working late in the studio building when everyone else is gone. I play music loud and rock out in the wood and sculpture studios. I only live a five-minute walk from campus, so it is easy to stay and work in the studio until very late if I want to. I am a bit of a night owl and like to stay up late and play.
SEA, 8 pm: After dinner, Sam and I often have arts and craft night (that’s him making flies for fishing) at home until late.
PDX, 12 midnight: Bed time!
SEA, 12 midnight: Bed time!