Chicago Sun-Times Interview with Rebecca George

July 10, 2014

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A Show about Rabbits

By Sarah Terez-Rosenblum on July 10, 2014

“Ollie”, 2014, Oil on Cradled Maple Panel by Rebecca George. Catalog cover image for “Have Many Rabbit” Exhibition, 2014.

“Ollie”, 2014, Oil on Cradled Maple Panel by Rebecca George. Catalog cover image for “Have Many Rabbit” Exhibition, 2014.

Artist Rebecca George grew up drawing. But without her father’s early support, she might not have won a scholarship to Maryland Institute, College of Art before later pursuing an MFA in Painting & Drawing at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Now this School of the Art Institute of Chicago faculty member and Founder of The Art House gallery and studio workshop is preparing for a salon-style exhibit featuring hundreds of rabbit-themed work. She spoke with Our Town about her influences, teaching and um rabbits.

Our Town: Who are your influences?

Rebecca George: Käthe Kollwitz --a major influence on me throughout my career--her use of gesture with the most direct and immediate application of materials is astounding. I also frequently return to Paul Gauguin, captivated by the undertone of hue in his earthy neutrals as well as use of intense color to convey emotion.

OT Is training necessary?

RG Great question. It is necessary for an artist to make art as often as they can. That, and suspending self-evaluation while they do it, is what most effectively trains any artist in making work that is uniquely theirs. I don't know about anybody else, but I've never been able to make art in my head. Art is an action, and action takes place in the present. Artists need to pay complete attention to what is happening in the moment. Training in the traditional sense adds exposure through feedback from other artists and so on. Even though that feedback is not always helpful, it is important for artists to open themselves up to being seen. There are, after all, two parts to being an artist: making the work and getting the work in front of people.

OT Tell us about The Art House

RG The Art House is a grassroots studio workshop and gallery space for emerging and professional artists. Courses cover a wide range of materials and are structured to accommodate artists at different levels of experience. We offer opportunities that support both studio and professional development. My work with classes and individual artists include the nuts and bolts about materials and techniques, curating exhibitions and maintaining a sustainable professional practice.

OT How do your teaching and your own art influence each other?

RG My art-making is deeply rooted in surrendering to the present moment. I realized through my own practice that my innermost sense of who I am has nothing to do with the conditioning I've received or whether I 'measure up'. When I began teaching adults, I was able to articulate this dynamic as it manifests in the process of making art. The artists who study with me keep me centered on what is of essential importance- I must continually walk the talk of prolific activity and self-liberation in the studio in order to empower others to do it with my teaching. To quote an ancient Eastern saying: "The teacher and the taught together create the teaching."

OT Tell us about “Have Many Rabbit.”

RG is a culmination of work in response to the gradual adding of more rabbits to my household--a deeper knowing of them as individuals and bonded groups has led to a rapid momentum of similarly themed works. As I began curating the walls of my Logan Square Coach House, the salon-style format (ceiling to floor display) became incredibly appealing to me. Seeing it all this way gradually intensified the need to get it in front of people as a single exhibition.

OT What intrigues you about rabbits?

RG I keep noticing I don’t have an ‘elevator’ speech in response to this frequently posed inquiry! My first encounter with a rabbit marked quite a change in the trajectory of my visual work. She was in the bottom cage under a tall stack of animals for sale at a Mexican dollar store in Chicago. At once she was in my arms and we were on our way home. She, and the ones who've joined my life since, taught me life lessons both straightforward and profound: impermanence, fragility, presence and humor. I've had many different kinds of pets in my lifetime but it is the rabbits that keep getting through to me. Their many poses, including a favorite with stretched out legs, their tiny mouths yawning like mini hippo teeth and the all-too-familiar hard slap of their hind quarters to express displeasure have captivated me for years. Further, rabbits are not hearty creatures, making the time with them more precious. As prey animals they disguise illness and injury. I've had to learn the subtleties of their silent language in order to protect and care for them. They've "stretched" me in more ways than I can name.

The Art House presents Have Many Rabbit, A Bunny-Rabbit Exhibition Party featuring recent work by artist REBECCA GEORGE Opening Reception: Thursday, July 17, 2014 6 PM--10 PM.