I recently spoke with Chicago-based artist Rine Boyer about her work and her upcoming exhibition opening September 9th entitled “People Watching”….
Let’s start by learning a bit more about how you got started as an artist. What were some of your early projects like?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist – apparently since before I could read. I remember as a kid one of my favorite toys was an easel and my mom was always mad at me for getting paint all over everything. But I have been painting in this general style since 2003. At the time I was looking at Seurat and wanted to play with how he used pointillism to pull apart the different hues that make up a color. I started experimenting with it on a large-scale canvas and almost as soon as I started putting dots of paint on the canvas I wanted to turn them into symbolic shapes. The idea turned into a series where I asked friends what their favorite object was and then put that on the surface of their portrait as a commentary on how we use objects to define ourselves. I saw potential in the technique and continued creating different series using the style and exploring a different idea with each series.
How would you compare what you are doing now to what you were doing as a brand new artist?
I would say I’m less afraid to experiment now. I have gotten more comfortable with making things and knowing what I want to say, which lets me be more flexible about the materials and subjects I tackle. When I was younger I was really tied to canvas and always used the same materials and process. Now that I’m more comfortable I try new processes pretty regularly to see how I can improve what I’m doing. I also think each medium can bring a new perspective to an idea, even if it is subtle, so I try to keep experimenting to add new dimensions to my work. And as I hone my ability to communicate visually I can open up to new topics and let my work evolve naturally from series to series.
What inspires you about people and more specifically, strangers?
I believe that people are the most important thing to us and that any work of art is ultimately about people. For example, if it’s a landscape, than it’s about how people think of land. So people have remained my subject matter since 2003 because I think they are so central. In this series I decided to focus on strangers because I realized how much I enjoy living in the city and seeing people from different backgrounds as I go about my daily business. It is also a bit of a reaction to the current sentiment that our nation is becoming divided. I think if we really considered those around us we would realize things aren’t black and white enough to be divided in a way we are frequently presented – that division is between groups who don’t have to represent the majority of people.
Are you conscious about the diversity of your subjects and making sure that is reflected in your final pieces or is that something you do not really think about?
Capturing diversity is something I think a lot about, not only because of the current political climate, but as I spend more time in Chicago I meet people from a variety of backgrounds and want to capture that. I enjoy meeting people who have different backgrounds and perspectives then I do, and often think of someone I have met when painting each character. As I’m painting I try to be aware of my perspective and how that influences my understanding of people. Since I am capturing strangers from diverse backgrounds I chose the title “People Watching” to convey that everyone is painted from a specific perspective.
What are some of the things you have learned about people through both your research and your process?
That some people are more visible than others. When I initially started painting strangers I focused on those who drew my attention – usually people I thought were beautiful or dressed in a way I found interesting. As I kept looking I noticed that there are quite a few people that I was just glossing over. It made me think about how my values and sense of beauty not only influence who I think is interesting, but who I see at all. While my work has always been about how our thoughts influence how we see each other, I’ve come to realize it could also influence if we notice each other.
Your subjects always have a pattern and a color. How do you go about deciding these details?
The patterns always link back to the overall theme of the series, and with this series I am celebrating the variety of personalities in close proximity in an urban environment. To capture the different personalities I created a symbol for what I imagine each person is thinking and put a pattern of it on the surface of the piece. In creating the patterns I put my interpretation on the surface as an example of how we all see through a layer of our preconceptions. I chose to paint each person using different tones of the same color so that all the figures together would have a rainbow effect.
What is it that you want viewers to take away after experiencing your work?
I hope my work makes viewers appreciate the people around them a bit more and think about how much our assumptions influence the way we see people.
Do you feel this project will evolve and if yes, do you have any ideas for the future?
Yes, my work is constantly evolving from series to series. I have been very focused on this current series for a large part of this year so haven’t spent much time thinking about what is next. However, my area of Bridgeport has been changing quite a bit over the past few months which has caused me to think a lot about gentrification. Perhaps that will be the concept for my next series, but I haven’t started to think about what that would look like yet.
Finally, who are some of your favorite artists that you are inspired by?
Alex Katz and Manet have been favorites since I was in college – I really like how they convey culture and feeling through the figure. Other artists I really enjoy looking at are Kaws and Hebru Brantley for their colors and how they manifest an idea with both paintings and sculptures. And for not taking the figure too seriously I love Barry McGee and Pieter Bruegel.
Check out Rine’s solo exhibition “People Watching” at Elephant Room Gallery September 9th – October 21st, 2017. Check the website
for hours or to make an appointment.