In a few sentences, tell us who you are and describe your medium of choice/ & why?
My name is Rachel Strum and I am a contemporary artist working primarily in the realm of mixed media painting. I tend to mix several different mediums such as acrylic, spray paint, sometimes enamel and sometimes oil paint. In the past I have worked with photography as a food stylist and food photographer and focused mostly on sculpture and installation work while in college. Just over the past few years have I found my home as a painter, and it is a great feeling. To me, being an artist is like being a yogi -- endless learning, always striving to deepen your practice, and always moving forward. Painting has such an immense history behind it, to be a painter is overwhelming and stimulating at the same time.
Something I find most interesting is how an artist’s studio is chosen and molded around their creative habits. Give us some insight on why you chose your space to create. What makes it absolutely perfect for your process?
Ha! I would say that my space chose me rather than vice versa. At this point in my career I am happy to have space, period; I am not a full-time artist just yet and still work a 40 hour a week day job to pay the bills. I am grateful to have even a small bedroom dedicated to creating my work. Quite honestly, it is not even remotely close to perfect for my process. I need a spray booth, a proper ventilation system, more wall space, more storage space, the list goes on. I am constantly battling my work space, but I am grateful to have one.
Give our readers some insight on the current body of work you’ve sent to prjct omni.
My current body of work plays with ambiguity as a common theme. Through the manipulation of space and color, my work investigates the relations of abstract and representational, elusive vs. tangible, and the realms that exist in between.
What purpose does painting fulfill in your life?
A very important one. Painting fulfills my desire to constantly be challenged, pushed, pulled, built up, torn down, and to come out feeling accomplished and learned. In general, art has served as a great educator and documentation of my own growth and how I interpret the world around me. The process of creating is oftentimes looked upon as being “easy” because you have a “talent” for it. In reality, the process of creating is incredibly challenging and that is what draws me to painting.
Is this your first time showing in Michigan?
Yes, it is!
Tell us why you chose to work with prjct omni for this group show?
I was intrigued by the concept of prjct omni and I love creating connections with people and artists from all over.
What obligations or aspects of life pull you away from painting?
As I have stated earlier, I am currently not a full time artist and the daily grind of working a job five days a week can definitely be a challenge. I am constantly reminding myself that resistance will always be present and comes in many different forms, so to just take the situation head on and work through the obstacles.
Has your family been supportive of your career path?
Absolutely. My father was an artist and a musician and I was always encouraged to be creative by both my parents and grandparents. Coming from such a supported upbringing was truly a gift that I am now able to value much more than I did when I was younger. I spent countless weekends in Manhattan at the Met, MoMA, the Museum of Natural History, and was immersed in the arts from an early age. At that young age, I thought it was commonplace to experience the world and culture that way, and never even considered being an artist myself until my last few years of high school. I definitely took it all for granted back then.
Do you consider failure an important part of the creative process?
I consider mistakes and adversity to be a very important part of not just the creative process, but of life in general. I’m not sure failure is the right word to use, as it seems pretty intense and negative. I don’t consider anything I have done or experienced in my life as a failure. Everything is a learning experience whether it is positive from the get-go or there is a challenge along the way, the end result is always growth, which to me, is the creative process in a nutshell.
Describe what the feeling was like selling your first piece.
I sold my very first painting to the Provost of the School of Visual Arts during my freshman year. I remember thinking, “Holy shit. Maybe I’ve really got something going on with this art thing.” The painting assignment was so rudimentary. I don’t even remember what my painting looked like, but the instructor liked it, called me a genius (which made me feel awkward), put it on display in the hallway, and the provost bought it. I was stoked.
With Platforms like Instagram and Tumblr, it’s quite easy to consider yourself as an artist. How has social media played a role in your success as an artist?
Honestly, I am at the very beginning of my career as an artist and I think that social media platforms can be a great tool if used correctly. There are many microcosms within the art world and I think that there are plenty of artists who exist within those sub- “successful artist” worlds. Some are comfortable with that and some strive for more. It’s a difficult and complicated game to play, and unfortunately just considering yourself an “artist” means little to nothing. Constant education, constant evolution, and keeping up with the cultural and social changes is necessary to move forward in all realms. For those reasons alone, I think that platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. are great to accept and utilize. In the end, those who strive for more will find what they are looking for.
What are some interesting barriers that have been created by social media as well?
Authenticity has been compromised, for sure.
If you can, recall a time when someone gave you good life advice?
I feel like that happens every day in very subtle ways. I am constantly looking in on my daily interactions with people and finding myself inspired by the individuals in my life, close or acquaintance, and taking up lessons from them. My boyfriend is always bringing up times when somebody said something that was super impactful and stuck with him, but I have a hard time with things like that.
Why is imagination so important us?
Imagination is inherent in human nature. It is the reason why society and culture has progressed to its current state; to look beyond what is in front of you and question how things might be if they were different, that requires imagination. Imagination propels us forward and that is important.
What would you like to happen to your artwork when life is said and done?
When my life is said and done or human life? Ha! I would love for there to be a legacy to leave behind when I pass, whether that is in the form of artwork or even just verbal stories to inspire. I grew up listening to stories about my grandmother being a painter and her cousin, Ben Shahn, being a successful artist. Hearing those stories, uncovering their artwork, and feeling a connection the past really inspired me to become an artist myself.