|The physical processes and materials used in Rachelle Gardner’s work are not merely a means to an aesthetic end. Material becomes metaphor. Process becomes transformation. Changes of state such as dissolving, revealing, and encapsulating demand inspection and become a reflection of the human state in a subtle form – the relationship with one’s self, our relationship with others, our relationship with our environment and our place in what we perceive as existence. The juxtaposition of opposing symbols in this language of materials and processes presents layered questions to the viewer.
The use and combination of media in Gardner’s current body of lace sculpture is a struggle of ideas and ideals. Textiles nod to re-contextualizing domestic materials, the tangible allure of the feminine and my respect for the passing down of handcraft from one generation to another. Incorporating resins into this foundation alters the language, eradicating some hallmark qualities of textiles while assuming traits that make new forms possible. For example, hardening and encasing the soft lace in a tough skin or shell while maintaining porosity achieves a push/pull effect of contradiction. Fabric frozen into a solid form also loses its tactile freedom, but through hand-stitching, regains partial memory of its previous existence as a sculpture free from a set shape or dimension.
The loss and subsequent gain through a transformative process speaks to many human experiences as we try, sometimes fail, and learn our way through life. It is in this way and through this language of both historic and modern materials and processes that the artist speaks of questions that she cannot answer, but must pose.
Raised in the rural outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri, Gardner wanted to be an artist from an early age, but pursued an education in architecture at Kansas State University. Influenced by the furniture and product design aspect of the program and additional studies in Germany, she initially began her career as a woodworking and design apprentice before being drawn back to the fine arts.
Among other honors, Gardner is the recipient of multiple Inspiration Grants from The Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas CIty, the Presidential Scholarship from the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, an Urban Culture Project Residency through the Charlotte Street Foundation and an Escape to Create Residency through Escape to Create Inc. Her work has been exhibited at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA (2013); Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, PA (2013); Leedy-Voulkos Arts Center, Kansas City, MO (2013); Mulvane Art Museum, Topeka, KS (2012) and The Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, NY (2012), among others. Gardner currently lives and work out of Mission, KS.