PHOTOS BY Kimberly Meilun
STORY BY HELYN HALEY
When you think of multimedia art, you think of art that blends together an array of paint, magazine and newspaper clippings, wood, ink, and digital media to create an image. Materials are re-contextualized and reworked to complement and juxtapose one another. Rhea, a multimedia artist, recognizes the disorienting, yet meaningful, effect of using familiar materials in unfamiliar ways; similarly, Rhea’s art makes “the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” Her subjects are re-contextualized, deconstructed, and reimagined.
“I did this project last year that explored the idea of what home is. Home, which should seem super familiar to us, has an entirely different feeling when you put it in a different context.” For Rhea, home is in Wisconsin: “Being from the Midwest influences the art I make. There is a lot of down to earthiness and homeliness that I like to capture.”
Rhea plays with places, objects, and moods that are familiar. Her artistic eye is drawn to “private moments.” She captures these moments in her artwork, providing viewers with glimpses into her world. She uses paint, watercolor, silkscreen, and collage, to fixate on themes “particular to [her] worldview.” In addition to the media listed above, Rhea has begun to silkscreen print with wood, bringing a three-dimensional, textural element to her work.
True to her love for fiddleheads, her spirit vegetable, Rhea has “gotten into painting vegetables. It’s been really cathartic for me.” Her paintings are beautifully colorful, and the colors seamlessly blend in and out of one another. “I love working in color. I think some people are great at rendering form in black and white. But color is really important to me.”
In addition to painting oddly shaped vegetables, Rhea also paints “weird bodies”. Rhea elaborates, “I really like making art about the human body. I’ve been exploring the internal and the external of the body. We’re very familiar with our external self and we never think about what’s going on internally. There’s more going on than what meets the eye.” Her attention to form and expression encourages viewers to reimagine their own body, as well as encourages viewers to emotionally engage with her art.
Rhea’s artistic eye comes through her studies at Brown University, where she’s concentrating in Archaeology and International Relations. Rhea states, “Archaeology is like looking at art in the ancient world and mainstream objects.” Beyond studying and experiencing the art of the ancient world, Rhea sees herself as a link in a chain of past and future artists. Her paintings will become part of the ancient tradition of painting: “People are transient but their art is left behind.”
Rhea does not know where her art will take her or what her place in art history will be. But that does not bother Rhea. She prefers to live moment by moment.