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Rachel Mica Weiss

Rachel Mica Weiss on site specificity, the ephemerality & fragility of the natural world, & a deep, broad practice spanning diverse methods & materials.

Rachel Mica Weiss, Draped Arches in Gold. 2017. Dyed nylon rope, powder-coated aluminum. 140

Rachel Mica Weiss, Draped Arches in Gold. 2017. Dyed nylon rope, powder-coated aluminum. 140" x 282" x 183.”

To start, tell us about yourself. What’s your background & how did you get into making art?
I’m a sculptor and installation artist based in both Brooklyn, NY and Pittsburgh, PA. I earned a BA in psychology from Oberlin College, before heading to the San Francisco Art Institute for my MFA in sculpture, and ultimately starting my career in NY. While my interest in art and art-making has always been with me, I consider my time studying abroad in Senegal as a pivotal turning point in which I recognized that a career as a professional artist was a viable reality. There, I was surrounded by adult artists in a community that was designed to function as just that: a creative assembly with the goal of producing work. When I returned from Senegal, I had to finish my degree in psychology, but took as many art classes as I could and began thinking about grad school. I began weaving and when the loom got too small for my ideas, I went so far as to build my own loom out of 2 x 4’s in the studio. Living in Senegal, however, both opened the door and sealed the deal; there was no turning back from that realization–that I could be what was always meant to be.

Rachel Mica Weiss, Fold I, 2017. Cast concrete, pigment, powder-coated steel. 30

Rachel Mica Weiss, Fold I, 2017. Cast concrete, pigment, powder-coated steel. 30" x 68" x 26.”

Rachel Mica Weiss, Fold I, detail, 2017. Cast concrete, pigment, powder-coated steel. 30

Fold I, detail, 2017. Cast concrete, pigment, powder-coated steel. 30" x 68" x 26.”

What are you currently working?
Two public art projects are currently underway: one for Pittsburgh International Airport, and one for the University of Washington, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They’re extraordinarily different suspended installations, each demanding in their own ways. For PIT, I’m drawing inspiration from classical architecture, and employing the Romanesque arch, which features in nearly all of the domed architecture within the airport site. By emulating these curves in gold fibers, my sculpture will contemporize the surrounding architecture and impose an element of (literal) reflection: the light will scatter delicately, but visibly, as it passes through the sculptures’ parallel ropes. For UW, I’m installing “Boundless Topographies,” a suspended three-dimensional contemporary tapestry. To create this work, I’m collaging together sections of topographical maps of the highest mountain ranges in the world, and mathematically converting those measurements into meticulously measured “warps.” When paneled and hung together, these warps unite to depict a sculptural rendering of a merged topographical landscape–like a giant, hovering Pangea. In both of these works, the impact of color and one’s varied experiences from different vantage points, will contrast with the solidity of the surrounding architecture and evoke the feeling of being surrounded by natural forms. The overall sensation will not be unlike standing beneath cloud-like forms, back-lit against the sky. But while I’ve just spent several sentences elaborating on my rope installations, my eyes are set on expanding my “Folds” series, a body of work that anthropomorphizes cast concrete–a seemingly unremarkable material that we otherwise might not appreciate. I envision bringing these natural forms outdoors, on a much grander scale, and pushing their perceived shapes and bounds–or rather, our perceived shapes and bounds of them–even further.

Rachel Mica Weiss, Reflected Topographies (Mount Rainier National Park). 2018. Dyed nylon rope, stainless steel cable, aluminum. Site Specific Installation. 20’ x 36’ x 22’.

Rachel Mica Weiss, Reflected Topographies (Mount Rainier National Park). 2018. Dyed nylon rope, stainless steel cable, aluminum. Site Specific Installation. 20’ x 36’ x 22’.

Reflected Topographies in depth
This 23 panel site-specific hanging installation draws its inspiration from Mount Rainier National Park. After collaging together sections of topographical maps of the Park and mathematically converting those measurements into meticulously measured “warps,” I layered the panels to create a complete image: a three-dimensional contemporary tapestry of the mountain range. By bringing the landscape inside the building and recasting it in diaphanous, draping nylon rope, I highlight the ephemerality and fragility of the natural world and underscores humans’ impact upon it. Despite being composed of 3600 ropes individually tethered to stainless steel cables, and weighing in at 1000 lbs, this installation has the levity of a cloud or mist moving through. Like the glassy, reflected surface of Puget Sound, “Reflected Topographies,” performs a doubling or reflection in the atrium, allowing a view of the Cascades range from above (the 3rd floor wrap-around landing) and below (the 2nd floor), allowing viewers the unique opportunity to gaze through the slices of the mountain range.

Rachel Mica Weiss, Reflected Topographies (Mount Rainier National Park). 2018. Dyed nylon rope, stainless steel cable, aluminum. Site Specific Installation. 20’ x 36’ x 22’.

Rachel Mica Weiss, Reflected Topographies (Mount Rainier National Park). 2018. Dyed nylon rope, stainless steel cable, aluminum. Site Specific Installation. 20’ x 36’ x 22’.

Where do you go to discover new work or find inspiration?
Raw materials—slabs of marble, craggy obsidian boulders, the sheen of nylon rope, etc—are often where play begins for me. While my work is concerned with questioning and pushing the limits of materials, much of my inspiration comes from human psychology, and my own personal psychology. I’m interested in those internal limitations, as well as those boundaries present in the world around us. Natural forms are therefore a great inspiration for much of my work. For example, the Topographies pieces I created for Airbnb and for the US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan used topographical maps as source material.

I highlight the
ephemerality
and fragility
of the natural
world.

Rachel Mica Weiss

Is your process project based or do you take a broad approach to your practice?
Site is so critical to every component of my practice, so my work is project-based in that each piece, especially the installations, reflect the specific concerns of their surroundings. But my practice spans a broad breadth and many different materials and ways of working, too. Underpinning all of my work, and what might seem like vastly different series, is the conceptual framework of boundaries, limitations, and barriers. Each work, whether a cast concrete Fold, or a site-specific installation, deals with these concepts.

Rachel Mica Weiss, Unbounded. 2016-2017. Raw obsidian, hand-dyed cotton rope, plywood. Site-specific installation for 1 Hotel. 110

Rachel Mica Weiss, Unbounded. 2016-2017. Raw obsidian, hand-dyed cotton rope, plywood. Site-specific installation for 1 Hotel. 110" x 109" x 107.”

What is a typical studio day like for you?
During my studio days, I do my best to keep things structured. I typically have an hour to myself to set my mise en place before any of my studio assistants arrive. During that time, I’m cleaning and organizing the space, while also preparing my mind to execute the task at hand (which may just involve hammering away at a literal ton of obsidian rock for eight hours). I reserve drawing, ideating and other conceptually-creative work for afternoons to myself, or weekend mornings (read: with coffee on deck, cat in lap). My favorite days are those when I’m not on deadline, and I can play with materials and test out those new ideas.

Rachel Mica Weiss Studio, 2019

Rachel Mica Weiss Studio, 2019

Rachel Mica Weiss, work in progress

Rachel Mica Weiss, work in progress

Rachel Mica Weiss, work in progress

Rachel Mica Weiss, work in progress

What methods do you find most productive in promoting your work?
Personal communications tend to work best for me. I write emails, I send newsletters–and I share here and there on Instagram. I think what works best for me though, in terms of promoting my work, is simply doing my work. If I’m exercising my strength in my studio, then I’m positioning myself to participate in shows, exhibitions, fairs and projects. And that ultimately leads to my work being shared on various platforms. So, my philosophy? Work, show, communicate.

Do you have upcoming shows or events you would like to share?
September 6, 2019. 7pm: opening of “The Supernal Plane,” a two-artist show at Carvalho Park, Brooklyn, NY, featuring a site-specific thread installation and new Woven Screens. On view: 9.6-10.13. Artist talk and panel moderated by Hall Rockefeller on 10.3. September 10, 2019. 7pm: Artist lecture and reception at Carnegie Mellon University celebrating the opening of “Held Together,” a solo exhibition curated by Elizabeth Chodos that’s part of a new partnership between the School of Art, The Miller ICA, and the Tepper School of Business. The exhibition features recent concrete sculptures and a new site-responsive installation–Unbounded. October 26, 2019: Recto Verso debuts at Pittsburgh International Airport. Use your MyPitPass to go see this airside suspended sculpture responding to the domed architecture of the airport. October 28, 2019: I will have work in “In with the New,” a group exhibition at Artual Gallery in Beirut, Lebanon, curated by Art of Choice.

Rachel Mica Weiss is a sculptor and installation artist based in both Brooklyn, NY and Pittsburgh, PA. She was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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