I make monotype landscapes that explore the relationship between memory, truth and storytelling. I’m fascinated by the way we edit our experiences when we commit them to memory, and I’m interested in the problem this poses: if our memories are fictions, and there’s no single reality, is it possible to reach a mutual understanding of the world?
My landscapes are inspired by real places that I edit and abstract to mimic the effects of memory. To make my landscapes, I begin by drawing from life. I reduce each scene to basic shapes and colors, reflecting the way we convert our experiences into memory. Then, in a print studio, I create monotypes from my drawings. With rollers (and sometimes my hands) I “paint” on a sheet of plexiglass, starting at the top and working my way down. I continue to distill the composition until it stops representing a specific place and becomes something abstract, archetypal. I complete the image in a single sitting; then I print the piece in one go and wipe the plexiglass clean, as though the painting never existed. I am left with a new work on paper that, like a memory, replaces everything that led to its creation.
For the past few years I have created large diptych and triptych monotypes that recall the pages of a book or the panels of a screen, a reference to the fictionalization of memory. The finished pieces, though unified, are often misaligned, revealing memory’s flaws. Recently I’ve begun a series of single images, entitled “100 Views of the Piscataqua”. This new body of work examines whether multiple perspectives — in this case, of the Piscataqua River in Maine — can collectively communicate the truth about a place despite being individually edited, inverted, unreal.
Rachel Burgess creates iconic landscapes that explore the connection between memory and storytelling. Her latest series, “100 Views of the Piscataqua”, is the subject of an upcoming solo exhibition at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, NH in July, 2020. Burgess’ work has featured in previous solo and two-person exhibitions at Susan Eley Fine Art (NY), Jonathan Frost Gallery (ME) and the University of Connecticut (CT), as well as group exhibitions at the International Print Center of New York (NY), the Seoul Museum of Art (Korea), the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art (NY), the Monmouth Museum (NJ) and the Katzen Art Center/American University Museum (Washington, D.C.). Burgess has been awarded residencies at Zea Mays Printmaking in North Adams, MA and at the Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park, ME. She received a B.A. from Yale University in 2004 and an M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts in 2007. Born in Boston, MA, she currently divides her time between New York City and Maine.