Rebeca Raney's childlike illustrations might look like they've stepped out of Moominland, but there's a quirky, unpretentious expressiveness that makes us go back for more. Wonderland talks to the Brooklynite artist.
How would you describe your art?
My art is an exploration of my own imagination. I draw characters from a happy world I intuit and make sculptures with as much love and craftsmanship as I can muster. My art is the thing that I am best at.
Tell us more about your work process for your drawings and the sculptures.
I draw constantly because it is an immediate way to see ideas. I use ink and gouache and colored pencils and am loyal to a particular brand of paper. When I am totally in love with or curious about a character that I have drawn I make it as solidly with wire and resin so that I can touch it.
Your figures often have missing limbs. What's behind that?
I think that sometimes its about the form. It may look simpler, more elegant without them. If the sculpture is doing something that requires its arms or legs I don't omit them. I often don't include mouths in my drawings because my characters are thinking more often than they are speaking.
You have the sculpture “Bathtub” in the exhibition “Champion” at Primary Projects. The sculpture features intricate embroidery. Do you often incorporate embroidery? What do you like about it?
I embroider when I am on the couch watching movies. I love movies and television but don't think its an excuse to just be sponge. I have been doing embroidery since I was 7. I don't map out what I am doing. Instead the embroidery is an elaborate and painstaking doodle. I used to embroidery my clothes but ended up looking folksy and ridiculous. When I figured out that the embroidery should be the skin I use for my characters I felt like I had given myself a tremendous gift. I think that their embroidered faces tell a story.
Your work reminds us of toys – do you draw on childhood experiences and emotions in your work?
I draw on memory for my work but a lot of it is recent memory. I teach art to children and was a nanny when I first moved to New York. The world of children interests me as does my family. I am in love with Barbapapas and Moomins and these I discovered as an adult.
You are preparing for a solo show during Art Basel Miami Beach in December. Can you tell us more about the works we will see?
The show is called RANEYTOWN and that represents the whole of my optimism and imagination. There will be a world of black and white drawings and works on panel throughout the gallery. I am also building several richly textured and colorful sculptures that will cavort and populate the space. It'll be a celebration.
Words: Heike Dempster