Lemons and plastic bags: UO art students wax nostalgia in new exhibit

It’s amazing what stories the objects that surround us carry with them. Some things like letters and photographs have meanings that are simple to grasp and understand. Others like subway ticket stubs floating around a desk or a rock perched on a window sill are arbitrary, yet powerful reminders of the past.

UO art students Rachel Lemme and  Will Hart’s recent exhibit “Save for Later” at the LaVerne Krause Gallery is a nod to those everyday objects that pack more emotional punch than one would think. While the meaning isn’t blatantly stated, viewing the collection reminds one of their own long lost memories, people and places.

The exhibit is open until Feb. 23, and there is a reception on the closing night. Dressed Up Ducks Managing Editor Melissa Epifano interviewed Rachel about “Save for Later” and Lindsey Epifano photographed.

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How did you get the opportunity to show your work at the LaVerne Krause Gallery?
Rachel: 
You just have to apply on the LVK Gallery. There’s an application online, and usually it’s not undergrads who do it. It tends to be BFAs and grad students, so it can be really hard to get a show.

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What is the meaning or inspiration behind “Save for Later?”
Rachel:
Basically, the whole idea with the lemons is a person in my past used to call me Lemon and that was my nickname. And I kind of went through a lot of stuff, so using lemons as the subject was kind of like a self portrait of my past.  I was translating things through the “Thank You” bags as my way of dealing with stuff. But it’s mainly for the viewer to interpret, because it’s pretty obscure. And not everyone is going to understand the meaning behind it, which is what I wanted because it’s mainly a self portrait for me to dig deep into myself.

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While everyone does interpret art differently, is there something you still want the viewer to get from it no matter what?
Rachel: 
No, not really. I’ve gotten a lot of interpretations already about it. A lot of people have been pretty spot on about it, and a lot of it has been about waiting. We went with my class to go look at it, and my professor was like, “It looks like you’re pining,” which I learned today means you’re waiting for something.  I kind of like that interpretation and the whole vibe of it and the quietness of me waiting for something to happen or waiting around for somebody or something.

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Why did you choose the mediums that you did: the embroidery hoops, photographs and screen prints?
Rachel: 
Photography is something I’ve connected with for a long time. It’s not my focus in school – fibers and screen printing are – so it’s nice to have something that’s familiar and comfortable, and I’m not focused on it in a school sense. The embroidery hoop has meaning to my past and memories specific to the show and a specific person. The screen printing is just something I work with, so I wanted to incorporate it in a way. And the medium is a plastic material, not really a textile or fabric. I wanted to tie that in with the bags.

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What about the location of the photographs? Did that have a certain meaning to you?
Rachel: Yeah. The ones with the sand and snow are in Newport, Oregon, so there’s definitely a specific meaning to it, and I feel like people can get the idea that it’s pretty sentimental in that kind of way. I took a drive out there for reasons, and it gave me time to process and think. It was my way of dealing with certain stuff, and the process of taking pictures of the bag was very meditative because I spent the whole day at the coast. And the way that the bag interacted with everything was really interesting and made me think a lot, which is so weird because it’s a plastic bag.

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How is your work and Will’s work connected in the exhibit?
Rachel: They are obviously very different. They have different meanings, but both are referencing things from our past in different ways. I feel like with the title “Save for Later.” It’s like what are you saving for later? Or what are you dealing with now? And for me, it’s a past situation or person or memory that I’ve saved for later, and now it’s later. And that’s how his work is too. A lot of it is based on memories.

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What does art do for you personally?
Rachel: 
I feel like it’s a way for me to get out a lot of what I’m feeling with different situations, and this is how I can deal with it without talking about it or keeping it internalized. I really want to do it professionally too, but I don’t want to just be a fine artist. I want to create for other companies and get my voice out that way too.

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Which other artists inspire you?
Rachel: There are a lot, but right now Samantha Bittman is one I’m really interested in. She’s a textile designer and fine artist, but she does a lot of graphic weaving. It’s kind of where I’m trying to go with my work. A lot of textile artists and screen printers really inspire me, but not really for this show. This show was more focused on my memories and not so much inspiration from other people.

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How do you want people to remember or recognize you and your art?
Rachel: That’s a really good question, and that’s something I’m really trying to hone in on this year: What I want my art to mean. I want all of my projects to be connected. I want to be known for screen printing and working with different shapes and mediums. And I guess nostalgia. It’s kind of what I’ve been working with this past year, especially in this show there is a lot of nostalgia in different senses.

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Words by Melissa Epifano, @melissaepifano

Photos by Lindsey Epifano, @lindseyepifano

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