My work has often played with the balance of history, and now of research and personal experience. My artist’s book Campi di blu e stelle, currently on view at the L.C. Bates Museum, was created in response to an experience in Italy and France and the repeating colors and patterns in art and architecture from across the ages. From religious buildings, to civic spaces, to modern art, such as in Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden sculptures, a motif of stars on a field of blue was repeated over and over. Blue and stars became a visual symbolization of that trip, connecting the different places and experiences together and representing the balance between religion, history, art and everyday life in those places.
Another body of work, Cyanotype Impressions of the Atlantic Ocean in Maine represents the balance and imbalance between humans and nature, while recognizing and honoring the work of botanist, illustrator, and photography pioneer Anna Atkins. Atkins created the very first book with photographic illustrations in 1843, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. I followed her same procedure to create this series of cyanotypes, using sea vegetation and plastic trash found on the Maine shoreline today. It highlights the similarities and differences between the natural and man-made elements in our oceans, and the impacts of human activity on our environment.
In my most recent work, I’ve been writing and making artwork around how history, personal and cultural memory, and women’s experience is passed down through recipes and cookbooks to inform our identities and build community today. I’m looking at how recipes and food memories are preserved through manuscript and self-published community cookbooks, and how that documents a community’s history and values, which then informs our current understanding of identity and values as both an individual and community. In Women of Windy Hill, I collaborated with a women’s group in rural Vienna, Maine, after they produced a self-published community cookbook in 2021 to celebrate the food that sustained them through the depths of the pandemic and begin to rebuild a sense of their own community after a year apart. In this project, I wanted to honor the women and the stories behind the dishes, and the value food plays in sharing stories, preserving personal history, and creating community today.
Image at top: Rachel E. Church, Campi di Blu e Stelle, compound accordion artist’s book with watercolor and collage, 6.75 x 9.5 x 0.57 in. (closed), 2021.