Rachel Mica Weiss’s Sculptures Bend Architectural Limits

Ladies Choice is an ongoing series highlighting female artists working in New York City and beyond. This series honors the power and ingenuity of women in the arts. Women have traditionally received much less exposure and recognition in the art industry. In their support of one another, these women stand as a testament to furthering the careers of female artists.

Rachel Mica Weiss’s sculptures and installations engage natural materials that have been used since the beginning of time in very contemporary, intricate, and exciting ways. She engages with elements of architecture to create works that divide and question the space in which they exist. The work of Brooklyn-based Weiss is currently on view in Limits at LMAK Gallery.

You are part of a young generation of female artists hustling and gaining recognition in NYC. What does being a part of a strong female community mean for you?

New York is both a supportive and challenging place to be making work right now: the sheer volume of artists clamoring for recognition needs to be molded into one of our greatest assets. At its best, this community of working women artists is one in which we as artists (and gallerists, advisors, etc.) shed light broadly and indiscriminately on those making great work.

Which female artists, living or dead, inspire you most?

Louise Bourgeois: her work spans a broad range of materials and I relate to its intensely personal, psychological nature. Andrea Zittel’s interdisciplinarity is something I strive for, and I really appreciate the way she has built a community through her work. Other inspirations: Diane Simpson, Teresita Fernandez, and Analia Saban.

Have you experienced firsthand the underrepresentation of female artists in the art industry?

It’s hard to point definitively to sexism as a reason for not being granted one opportunity or another, but I’ve certainly felt required to prove myself in ways men don’t have to. My large-scale installations require working closely with architects, structural engineers, and contractors, and knowing a thing or two about construction and rigging logistics. I can’t even count the number of times a male art handler was asked about the logistics of hanging my work instead of me, when I was standing right there. I often feel that women (artists) are assumed ignorant until proven knowledgeable, while men are assumed knowledgeable until proven ignorant.

Have you noticed a change in opportunities available for female artists since you first entered the art world?

I think continuing to talk about the disparities in art world opportunities makes them more visible and thus slowly chips away at them.

If you could change one thing about the current landscape for working female artists, what would it be?

Equal pay to start, but the list is long.

You had an interesting path that led you to become a working artist. Can you discuss the moment you knew this is what you were meant to be doing and how your academic foundation in Psychology influences your work?

I decided to pursue a degree in psychology in college, simply because I didn’t grow up around any working artists; I didn’t really consider it a possibility. But when studying in Senegal in college, I lived in a artists’ community for a month and I realized that’s what I was meant to be doing with my life. The human psychological experience is still at the heart of my work, which I hope evokes relatable psychological states.

Your work spans vastly different scales – from ceiling height, to your own height, and canvas-like sizes. Do you have a preference in what size you work in? Does working in different scales effect your overall practice?

I consider scale in every work—as it relates to the surrounding architecture and the human body. The large-scale works are intended to somehow subsume the viewer or engender feelings of fragility—the mountain ranges in the “Topographies” works could be traversed while the 6,000 lbs of lashed obsidian in “Unbounded” announce their strength and weight. My sculptural works, particularly the Folds and Woven Screens, are scaled to my own body with the intent that the viewer identifies with the human gestures of the draped concrete or feels she can enter the landscape-like portal created by the hand-strung thread. Working at these many scales helps me work through sculptural problems in different and complementary ways.

From where does the inspiration behind your work originate?

My interest and education in psychology is fundamental to my work, which, as a whole, aims to draw attention to boundaries in our world—boundaries imposed by the landscape, by architecture, our own bodies, the various structures that house them. The physical and psychological boundaries or limitations that I’m giving form to are ones I think we can all relate to.

You use ancient materials and reference ancient art making practices in a very contemporary way. Is it important to you to pay homage to historical references?

I think that I’m most interested in what materials signify and the connotations attached to each aesthetic choice. For example, by working with marble and folded concrete that mimics marble, and working at the scale of my own body, I’m pulling on the visuals of sculpted marble figures and draperies, which adds to one’s reading of these abstract Folds as figural beings.

Tell us about your show Limits at LMAK Gallery. What work did you create for the show and what are you exploring in this specific body of work?

I’m very excited about this work! The show continues my series of cast concrete Folds – thin, fabric-like slabs of concrete scaled to my body that pose and lean against the walls. I’m also showing a new series of window-sized sculptures called Bound Landscapes: in each, I’ve shaped a marble slab back into a topographical form, bounding it in a cast concrete frame that also reads as marble. Finally, I’m exhibiting my first foray into photographic wall installation with a photo collage of the obsidian boulders in the show, which I’ve manipulated in Photoshop and scaled into a large format print on vinyl. Together, the works in Limits broadly engage the limits of materials, the human body, and the limits created by architecture and the natural world.

At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?

Trish Tillman – she’s making abstract sculptural work using upholstered and hand-printed fabric; she’s a master of the subtle connotations of forms and materials!