Interview: Rachel Marks | Paris, France
Rachel Marks is a young artist living and working in Paris, France. She earned a BFA from Oklahoma State University where she participated in an artist residency in Siena (2009) and studied abroad at the University of Hertfordshire in London (2010). After a year in Prague (2011 - 2012) teaching art to children, she obtained a Master’s degree at the Higher School of Art and Design in Grenoble, France (2013). Rachel has exhibited her work internationally in the United States, Italy, England and France. Visit her website here.
When and why did you move from the U.S to Paris? How has the experience of growing up in two cultures influenced your work?
My first experience in Europe was in 2009 at an artist residency in a villa close to Siena, Italy called Spannocchia. I was completely blown away by the new sounds and images there. Inspired to discover more, I lived in London where I studied art at the University of Hertfordshire and afterwards in Prague where I taught art and English. After Prague, I decided to take on the challenge of doing my Master of Fine Arts in Grenoble, France. I wanted to learn a new language and experience the European perspective on art. In the United States, I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Oklahoma State University. I received very technical training there in drawing and painting, whereas at the school of art and design (École Supérieure d'Art et Design) in Grenoble, I had a very open and contemporary experience of art. My work transformed tremendously from being exposed to European culture and the Europoean approach to making art. I have opened my practice to include found objects, installation and sound. After I finished my Master's, I moved to Paris. During my studies, I did an internship in Paris at the Bugada et Cargnel gallery in Belleville. I moved to Paris to experience its wonderful imagery and sound while being able to enjoy the art scene as well. This area inspires me because it is really the melting pot of Paris. Walking down the street, you hear a mixture of at least ten languages and the lively sounds of the city. Each time is unique and exciting.
Where is the text in the piece French Identity from? How did the piece come about?
French Identity was spawned from my experience of learning French. Understanding very little of the language, I wrote down words that I heard in my daily life. At night I wrote these words over and over in order to practice and learn them. The new sounds around me, and how to implicate myself inside them, became an obsession. French Identity was a way of documenting my journey of taking on a new identity. The text is from the words I wrote down repetitively in order to integrate myself into the language. This series is a representation of my way of learning French and finding myself within a world of new sounds.
You have a background in music and dance including interests in several dance forms, piano, flute and choir. How are the representations of music, such as sheet music, sound waves, and other explicit references to music in your work related to this background?
I have always been interested in the relationship between sound and image. Ballet is a way to express music and stimulated my interest in the subject. My work is also greatly influenced by my music studies. I like exploring sheet music because it is a visual illustration of sound. Even learning new languages has allowed me to examine sound in new ways. Through creating, I am able to research and explore different types and representations of sound.
Can you describe your series Color Language? How has this project allowed you to reflect on the intersections between sound, language, and their visual representations?
For my Master’s I wrote my thesis about the relationship between color and sound. While researching, I found that not only can the word for color change, but the many words for a specific color and its classifications can change as well. I asked different people in Paris to say the three primary (red, yellow, blue) and secondary (purple, green, orange) colors in their language. I wanted to discover how the perception of color changes through different cultural representations or language. I did paintings of the different sound waves for the colors. I wanted to reveal the visual differences between each of the sounds chosen for the colors in each language.
What’s next? What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on expanding the Color Language series with a silkscreen printed artist book. I am making two different books: Blue and Red. Each book represents the visual representation of the color. The covers are monochrome and the books unfold in an accordion style. When the book is opened, the color expands through the sound waves of the word in different languages. Color Language is a very important series for me and I feel I can continue to take it further.