I’m from the Washington DC area originally and now live and work in Brooklyn, NY. In between, I’ve lived in about a million other places including Ohio, Senegal, France, and San Francisco.
From the materials you incorporate to your approach, your sculptures have evolved over the last few years. What inspired this change?
I think my work has become more precision-oriented and more vibrant over the last few years. I used to work with thick heavy rope and rock as a way to work against the feminine and domestic associations with fibers, but I’ve now realized that my work can be both delicate and imposing. I also used to work in pale colors and earth tones because I was afraid of all of the associations colors have. I’m now working almost exclusively with a really saturated palette; I think it gives strength to my sculptures and installations.
When conceiving my installations, I’m guided first and foremost by the architecture of a space, its symmetry, and how to upset that symmetry.
— Rachel Mica Weiss
In your most recent body of work you create thread sculptures that are architecturally complex, taut with tension, geometric in form, and bold in color. How has this new process challenged your existing practice? Do you follow a set of boundaries during the building process?
When conceiving my installations, I’m guided first and foremost by the architecture of a space, its symmetry, and how to upset that symmetry. All of my work is somehow related to an interest in boundaries, so when I create an installation, I think about the boundaries or passageways that exist in a space, how people are guided to move about in that space, and ways that I can interrupt or highlight that. Each installation is created by relying on the mathematical principles of permutations that determine the amount of thread I’ll need and how many passes I’ll make with each color. The amount of time involved in creating these is certainly a challenge!
Where do you draw inspiration? Are there specific books or sources that you are drawn to for visual, factual, or cultural reference?
A lot of my content inspiration is psychological - I’m interested in boundaries that contain us physically (architecture) or personal boundaries or limitations we set for ourselves. Woven cloth is a great metaphor for those restrictions, so the forms I use come from images of old backstrap looms, marlinspike sailors’ knotwork, and the dense, opaque surfaces of rocks and other geological structures. Sometimes ideas for pieces just pop into my head fully formed, though - those are nice moments.
How much risk and acceptance of chance is involved in starting a new piece?
A lot! I can’t tell you how many discarded attempts are made before the “final” work is completed. But often the happy accidents or uncontrolled parts of the process are the best part and open up doors to whole new bodies of work.
The dimensionality within your work is something that creates a powerful experience for the viewer. To what level do you intend for your work to be an interactive experience?
I fully intend for the work to guide viewers’ movement and interactions; scale is a big part of that. In the Portrait series, for example, I really wanted viewers to be able to imagine themselves in the rock-like busts I created so I hung the sculptures at head height and cast the rock forms at the size I did for that reason. I often situate my installations in a natural passage-way to interrupt the way people move in a space and guide them around the installation. The thousands of threads seem to vibrate or move as viewers move around the piece and I really love that illusion.