Root Out Through Structure: Rachel Even

Root Out Through Structure
Summer Studio Work-in-Progress: Rachel Even 

by Stephanie Cheung, Photos by Stephanie Cheung 

Living at the edge of Second Ward, Rachel sees Third Ward as her own neighbourhood. She bikes here almost every day, does her grocery at Nu-Waters and sips chai tea at Doshi House. She likes this place for the integrity of its traditions, and also for the pride of the residents who stay here.

Her installation, titled Root Out Through Structure, is based on objects found in the neighbourhood. These items – a strikingly colorful crochet blanket, a part from a trashed organ from a Church, a rack of an unknown use, etc. – were discarded and are residues of departure and disownment. “It’s sad,” says Rachel, “for instance the crochet might have been made by a grandmother.”

To give these objects another life, the sculpture senior at the University of Houston is transforming them through textile techniques. Yarns are wrapped around the rack to turn it into a mutant form; the labour of care overlays it with a very different temperature. The crochet blanket is cut into rectangles and lined with sewn fabrics. In yellow, orange and crimson, the latter brings to mind the development of the Emancipation Community Park. This tapestry, put together like a patchwork quilt, meditates on “conflicting or non-conflicting feelings” about the transition from the old to the new. 

Rachel suggests that her touches on the objects and their placement are intuitive, but there seems be a logic of sensitivity in her treatment. The objects are in tactile dialogues with their settings. The yarn-wrapped rack is placed at a corner, whose walls are marked by cracks of time. The double-sided tapestry will be hung at the windows facing the street, an immediate threshold of in-between. 

While Rachel is working on the tapestry, I see a towel at a small window. Light shines through, casts a shadow and highlights traces of use. With patches of yellow and brownish stains, it looks like an abstract painting. “It’s just my own towel,” clarifies Rachel. As she stitches new textures onto the objects, she has also transformed her house into a cognitive space. What her art evokes might very well lead to new discoveries along the way.

About Stephanie Cheung

Stephanie Cheung is a Hong Kong based curator and writer. She is Lead Curator of the non-profit Make a Difference Institute, an Asian platform dedicated to building a creative civil society. With a fellowship grant from the Asian Cultural Council, she is currently researching on socially engaged art in different cities in America.