As the Art Department Chair and teacher of ceramics and studio art, Rachel Van Wylen spends her days helping White Mountain students learn how to create art; she is also an accomplished artist in her own right. Rachel graduated from Gordon College with a B.A. in Art and English Language and Literature. She then went on to study at The New York Academy of Art, graduating with an M.F.A. in Painting in 2009. While in New York City, she also studied at the Art Students League of New York. In 2015, Rachel was the winner of the Loeschner Competition at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. This is one of the most significant sculpture collections in the Midwest and Rachel’s winning piece is now part of the museum’s permanent collection. Rachel has also shown her work throughout the Midwest, the Northeast and in Italy.
Rachel is one of two artists (with Andy Frost) whose work will be featured at WREN (the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network) for the month of March in an exhibit called People and Place. Rachel’s work is mostly landscapes, all of which have been painted on location. The following is Rachel’s artist statement which explains why this is so important to her process.
“Experiencing a sense of place is essential to my creative practice. I like to paint on location because it allows me to have an authentic experience of each place, to smell the air, see the light from the windows flickering on the walls of the rooms, and talk to the people who call that place home.
I first took an interest in the idea of places and spaces when I was a graduate student in New York City living in a claustrophobically small apartment. I thought about how different I felt when I was in this tiny space as opposed to when I was walking in Central Park or standing in a quiet gallery of a museum. With that in mind, I made a series of paintings showing women in various interior spaces. All of them were meant to show the relationship between the qualities of the places we inhabit and the thoughts and feelings we have when we are in those spaces.
I continued in this vein for several years after graduate school until one summer when I was at the Vytlacil Campus of the New York Art Students League. For the first time, I tried painting outdoors en plein air. The challenge of capturing the ephemeral qualities of rippling water, moving clouds, and changing light was tantalizing to me, and I realized that I loved painting places that were in a state of flux. My current work continues to address the idea of space, both interiors and landscapes.”
A number of current and former White Mountain faculty attended the opening of People and Place at WREN on March 2. Rachel’s paintings will be on display at WREN throughout the month of March, but if you can’t make it to see them in person, you can click here to see some more of her beautiful work.