My name is Rachel Prior, and I am a 2D art major focusing on painting and printmaking. I am originally from North Bend, Washington, a small, rainy town with luscious vegetation and a decent outlet mall. Before coming to Whitworth, I worked as a visual merchandiser for a home decor company, as well as an intern for an interior designer. My interest and brief experience with interior design greatly impacts my work in painting and printmaking. This combined with my fascination with the complexities of emotions and the things that evoke them are what lead me to make the work that I do.
These three pieces represent a few of the different materials I have explored in combination with linocut printing. Oil paint, polyester plates, and chine colle have been implemented in the expression of various emotions through the representation of interior spaces. How Intimate, this Chopin and Honeymoon both portray a graceful poignancy, illustrating an elegant lifestyle with an inexplicable undertone of malaise. A Good Place to Be Alone uses different rooms to portray different states of comfort. Celestial dreaminess, rich, romantic warmth, and cheerful serenity are all represented through overt and even kitsch decor. This makes these moods stand out as firm retreats from the turbulence of the dark ominous sky, rocky shoreline, and rough waters surrounding the house. These internal retreats allow the harshness of the outside world to become excitingly dramatic, rather than intimidating. Each of these pieces follow my ultimate goal of expressing complex emotions through decorative spaces and surrounding environments.
These works continue my pursuit of expressing emotion through interior and exterior environments. These three, however, delve more specifically into the theme of childhood and how its lingering impact can have a profoundly melancholic effect on our emotions as adults. Fear that Grows Up with You for instance, features a My Little Pony (a toy I was quite enamored with as a child) portrayed as massively over-sized with dead pupil-less eyes and pink and silver metal leaf giving it a whimsical glimmer. The pony is an emblem of childhood, but now stands in discomforting contrast with the flatter, more somber-toned surroundings. It is both nostalgic and frightening, and dominates the space it occupies.
Isolation reflects the strange dichotomy that often arises from being a deeply sensitive and intensely emotional person. For me, this means that childish wonder and powerful excitement for life allow imaginative dreaminess to flourish, and enthusiasm over sailboats, pretty trinkets, and glitter to spark great joy. The intensity of my emotions, however, can run in the other direction as well, and sometimes lead to less than healthy coping mechanisms and flare ups of debilitating fear and sadness.
Securely Adrift is a painting in which I allowed my inner child to take over while painting the environment around the houseboats. My intention was to create a joyous, colorful space from which to view the childishly magical world as it moves around you. While this effect is strong, and the cotton candy clouds and metallic stars and moon are very potent in their sweetness, the difficulty and turmoil of life is still present. Both boats are tilted and do not appear to be peacefully drifting on the large, dark waves.
The three pieces shown here use interior and exterior environments to express different reactions to more negative emotions. Melancholy Dreamland uses a more muted color scheme, ominous sky, turbulent sea, and view into a dark interior to evoke a sense of dread. This is offset, however, by the whimsical subject matter. The lighthouse with white picket fence and garden, the sailboat rendered in a cartoonish style, and the friendly rounded hills contribute to a light dreaminess. Growing up in one of the rainiest regions in the country, I became accustomed to a pervasive dreariness, and this painting reflects the delight I take in the romance of such melancholy surroundings.
Cauchemar expresses a strange, inexplicable uneasiness similar to how I often felt at nighttime as a child. The room is lit with a soft glow. That, along with the abundance of pillows, pale pink roses, and soothing decor should make the space look enticingly comfortable and safe. Yet the harsh dark lines and deep black night outside prevent the room from feeling entirely peaceful. Feelings of unease and discomfort without a concrete source remind me of lying awake in my pink bedroom as a child, unsure as to why I was too frightened to fall asleep. Wide cartoon eyes peering out from under the bed were included as an evocation of a children’s book read at bedtime, yet it is unclear if they belong to a monster, or someone hiding from their own anxieties.
Similar to Melancholy Dreamland, Settling In is about enjoying the romance and dramatic intensity of sadness. The way I feel emotion is very deep and very strong, which can at times be hard to manage. A habit of mine, be it good or a bad, is to fully lean into my feelings. This means when I’m sad, I allow the sadness to take over. I listen to heart wrenching music, paint dark subject matter, and let the tears flow. Settling In illustrates this habit by placing a luxurious interior within a bleak graveyard setting. The warmth, comfort, and bold color palette of the interior express the extent to which I accept and settle into what I’m feeling, allowing it to become an oddly comforting environment. The graveyard, a not-so-subtle symbol of sorrow, death, and tragedy serves as an acknowledgement of the fact that my intensity can swerve into the mellow-dramatic. However, the contrast between the dreary graveyard and the appealing interior also emphasizes the strangeness of the fact that to some degree, cozying up in my darker emotions seems to work for me.
In this selection of works, I’ve focused on expressing various ways that mental illness can manifest and impact the tone of life. Interior Space delves into this from a more positive perspective. Having personally dealt with anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphia for significant portions of my life, finding comfort within myself and my body has been quite a challenge. This print represents the surreal peace that arises (on a good day) when significant work in learning to accept yourself finally pays off. For me, learning to see my interior world as a sanctuary that I carry with me has helped me be less afraid of the outside world and my place within it. The use of sparkly stickers and cutesy motifs in concert with sharp black shadows and contours serves as a metaphor for the intensity with which many of our dreamy and playful hearts have to push against dysfunction.
While the benefits of healing can be immense and profound, A Thousand Sordid Images was conceived out of frustration over the problems that persist. Despite the endless other characteristics that define me as a person, it often feels as if the messy parts of me are the only aspects I present to the world. The woman portrayed in this image appears interesting and confident, with her tattoos and unique interior design choices. The metal leafing on her underwear emphasizes the brazenness with which she presents her whole self, and brings a vivacious energy to the statement she is making about her identity. The woman’s bold presentation of herself makes the sink, overflowing with black liquid, even more noticeable and strange. It could be argued that the eerie mess makes the whole image more interesting or compelling, or that it distracts from the positive aspects of the character the image represents, leading her to appear messy, dysfunctional, or irresponsible.
The two Dollhouse paintings were made by printing the same linoleum plates onto two separate canvases. I then experimented with altering the color palette from one to the other in order to impact the mood of the image. Both were painted in sweet, cheerful color schemes and the overall style and size of the house is one of luxury, comfort, and elegance. When looking closer however, many of the details in the home seem off in some way. The abundance of untouched desserts piled on the kitchen counter, floor, and table, the wasp’s nest hanging like a chandelier in the living room, the gaping hole in the floor of the upper right bedroom- all of these elements contribute to an unease in the otherwise pleasant environment. This house illustrates the complexity of being raised in a family that holds a significant amount of privilege, appearing functional and content, yet is plagued by mental illness. The sweet color palette and youthful imagery (stuffed animals, cartoon hearts, frosted desserts) paired with dark and nonsensical narrative elements are key to the purpose of these paintings. They reflect the mind of a child as they gain slow awareness of the deep problems within what was once thought of as a perfect dollhouse life.