Field Moves and Peripheries Bridged
by Brooks Turner
Rachel Collier makes seductive paintings. Entering her exhibition, Field Moves, I am drawn in close to vibrant colors streaking across synthetic paper, atmospheric fog saturating canvas, and the soft allure of wool and yarn—harmonious voices speaking languages of paint, touch, and observation…
In Fig eater, a large textile painting hanging just inside the entrance of Hair+Nails, graphic shapes of color become entangled in a chaos of green, orange, and pink. No colors mix or merge, and yet the hard-edges of these shapes convey an intensity of movement and motion. While I read the work as entirely abstract, the title leads me to find flowers in the bulbous pink shapes, vines in the snaking greens, and a technicolor creature plodding through his habitat. Up close, the tufted yarn becomes like pixels—not of a digital display, but rather of the hexagonal network of retinal rods and cones that interpret the world for our brains. Each piece of yarn has a kind of autonomy, the ability to shift with touch while remaining tethered to a fabric root—not unlike the shifting function of an eye as it responds to changing light.
In the adjacent work, April or may, Collier introduces another visual conceit, which extends the exploration of sight, observation: the frame. In this acrylic painting on linen, the only hard edges are that of two rectangles stenciled into the vibrant palette of oranges, pinks, and greens. Within each of these frames, oblong shapes of speckled fluorescent pink and orange become microscopic organisms, while the surrounding hazy ribbons of air-brushed and hair-brushed color become the saturated clouds of a supernova. As Charles and Ray Eames illustrated decades ago in Powers of Ten, the infinite and infinitesimal collapse onto an expansive nothingness populated by objects—stars, electrons, galaxies, atoms—that are impossible to understand or experience, but nonetheless dictate the reality we perceive. To imagine ourselves into these macro and micro scales is in some way to construct a lens, a frame, onto a new world. Thus, Collier conjures microscopes, telescopes, and eyes through her use of the frame, extending the tradition of painting as a window-onto-the-world to windows-onto-windows-onto-worlds-unseen.
In Floating while flying, ethereal blurs of color span two square canvases hung as one in the basement of Hair+Nails. Three frames disrupt the saturated fog of color, each defining a more imagistic space within. This sharp transition from atmosphere to rendered, albeit abstract, objects gives the impression of a squeegee cutting through steam on a pane of glass. Within one such long rectangular arching shape, repeated crescents in shades of gray emerge from gestural scribbles of psychedelic color. As my eyes enter and follow the flow of color, the space within this frame takes shape as a stream reflecting the light of a vibrant world as it meanders through eroding rocks. Another cut spanning the work’s top edge appears much more nebulous, yet nonetheless solidifies in undulating ribbons of color and airy white clouds—which I read as beams of sunshine refracting through water, dust, and atmosphere, becoming a vertiginous sunset. These windows convey a sense of light and landscape, material and immaterial, at times emotional, at times physical, at times psychological. Without representation, there remains in these marks and colors a sense of reality, a world filtered through perspective.
Back upstairs, a trio of acrylic and gouache paintings on yupo paper continues this play of framed landscapes within atmospheric abstraction. Unlike in the other works employing frames, here the stenciled borders between external and internal compositions are permeable. Line and shape continue from outside to inside, subtly changing color as the frame is passed. New, smaller shapes sculpted in undulating brushstrokes populate these windows, maintaining some distinction between inside and outside. I can feel in these marks the same poetics of minerals, microbes, flora, fauna, and the cosmic expanse, but I can no longer discern scale or space. Inside/outside, macro/micro, the opposites collapse and abstraction takes over. We impulsively categorize the world, restructuring the fluidity of perception into binaries that enable us to objectify and consume our surroundings. Is it not more real to follow the flow of observation? To become subsumed by the world rather than dominate over it? More than any other works in this exhibition, these three paintings feel illuminated, as if backlit. Perhaps it is the light of worldhood, of embedment, of the joyful reverie that is the felt-imagined-experienced landscape.
Brooks Turner is an artist, writer, and educator currently focused on the history of fascism in Minnesota. His work has appeared at the Weisman Art Museum, Soo Visual Art Center, Steve Turner Contemporary, Claremont Graduate University, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Zhou B Art Center, among others. He is Chair of Visual Art at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists and a lecturer at the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State University. He is the author of A Guide to Charles Ray Sleeping Mime, published with Paperleaf Press, as well as numerous essays published by Hair+Nails, TEMP/reviews, and Art Papers. Brooks is currently a Jerome Artist-in-Residence at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and a 21/22 MCAD-Jerome Early Career Artist Fellow.
by Cameron Downey
Rachel Collier’s Field Moves, ushers in prophecies of Spring– like only an artist whose handle on texture and technicolor transcends earthly Winter realities can do. Collier both asserts and promises with an open hand, reached back in invitation, a cradle of nectar and unending horizons. The gallery a geosphere of her own fashioning.
The immaculate welcome that Big sky heralds takes place in an aesthetic realm that, like its name, seems to be completely above ground. Wool is tufted in the form of carpetry, facing the viewer head on. The floor is the wall, the wall is the sky. Collier’s dye patterns tow their respective lines between luscious and punchy, the result is nearly edible. The first room, much like the piece of Big sky itself, oscillates between paint and floccus. The smooth air coming from April or may mingles with the soil adjacent hues of and anthropomorphic shadows and vines of Fig eater. Thus at any given time within Field Moves our placement is both in the ground and in the world that holds it.
While both April or may and Fig eater read like heaven’s version of a Petri dish, the deep and even discordant color moments within Fig eater beckon in the essence of something that lives and breathes. Mustard and deep blue-black spill into the scene of the work. Veins of green and effervescent orange-pinks snake across bubbling flower-like bulbs and two headed creatures. As abstract as most of Collier’s images manage to be, Fig eater comes closest to unearthing a reality of lore and epic within forms that have yet to take full or legible shape. Everything is burgeoning, always. And everything here is Spring.
Moving into the depths of Field Moves, the ever-pulsating imagery of myth and epic change shape. Truer than true more than ever suggests the viewer to be aerial, fog and mist feel indicated by dusty sea hues and brush strokes. They’re called in to cradle a form that alternates between char and rose within them. I see a cavern as large as a mountain top. Constant static conducts the yellow-black axis of Fig eater back into our orbit. Though this time, the peppery duo is all there is for a background and thus a foundation. All that is before the binary of hues, both in the piece and in the gallery whole, is made to feel more like a cloud. The air of the room hangs the way it does if only because of Collier’s conjured static. Tails and splatters and spills trail out of it, onto the walls and into the climate. The equally frame-irreverent neighboring pieces of Magic ladder and Our finest day is yet unknown follow suit, like deviating evolutions of Constant static.
Field Moves stations us in life itself. Creeping things, dripping roots and beaming winds coalesce and grow and shapeshift. It’s just the regrowth we might all hope to inhabit.
Cameron Downey (b. 1998) is an anti-disciplinary artist born and raised in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their work oscillates between photography, film, body, sculpture, curation and otherwise in order to mediate the concepts and bounds of world-building and survival artistry through Black, fantastical and precarious spaces and forms.
Downey graduated from Columbia University in 2021 with a double concentration in visual art and environmental science. Downey’s art has been exhibited by HAIR+NAILS in: HAIR+NAILS at 9 Herkimer (Brooklyn, 2019), FUTURE FUTURE (2020), “The Human Scale” at Rochester Art Center (2021), and in their first solo show “Three Things Last Forever” (2020). Cameron will present their next solo show of new work at HAIR+NAILS in spring 2023. Downey guest curated HOLDING SPACE, an exhibition of video, image, light and sound, in the H+N front yard (summer 2020). Cameron’s recent exhibitions have included “Wild Frictions” at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien in Berlin (2021), “Intersections” at Engage Projects in Chicago (2021-2) and “In The River” as part of Midway Contemporary Art’s Off-Site program (2022).
RACHEL COLLIER FIELD MOVES
“My paintings and textile works are ecstatic visual analogues of spaces that I believe populate our shared consciousness. The forms I repeat are familiar in a way that anchors my psyche to a sense of place. In creating space via non-representation, I hint at worlds that are unknowable and indefinite. In creating models of these worlds, I turn to the visual language of maps, topography, insets, picture-in-picture, scale and materiality, and radiant color to stir the spirit in preparation for advancement or departure.”
– Rachel Collier
Rachel Collier is an interdisciplinary artist living in Minneapolis. She has her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has exhibited throughout the United States. Recent solo shows include the Nemeth Art Center (Park Rapids, MN) and Waiting Room Gallery (St. Paul, MN). Residencies: Wassaic Project in New York (winter 2021-2), Nido residency in Umbria, Italy (summer 2022) and the Jerome Emerging Artist Residency at Anderson Center, MN (fall 2022). She has exhibited in group shows with HAIR+NAILS Gallery: “Relief: Three Approaches to Building Surface” (2018), “FUTURE FUTURE” (2020), “RIGHT NOW” (2020/1), and “The Human Scale” at Rochester Art Center.