Rachel Mulder earned her BFA in Printmaking from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and has since adapted those printmaking techniques and processes into other art forms, namely drawing. She has been an art-assistant with a passion for working with people all along the ability spectrum, focusing on facilitating art-making for people based on their individual desires as well as in workshop settings. She currently works with local nonprofit Public Annex where she assists with their daily inclusive workshops and serves on the founding board as Social Media Director. She is a Midwestern native and lives and works in Portland, Oregon.
As I ricochet between what I make and how I make it, my life similarly darts back and forth between feeling huge and feeling small, followed by the aftermath of taking up too much or too little space, and vacillates between trusting myself, and allowing myself to disappear for the sake of others.
I spent a long time hiding behind meticulous process because I was too afraid or lazy or something to dig back into my inner narrative.
Physically and artistically, these drawings are a return to an expression and exploration of my inner psyche and a departure from the process and control I indulged in until now. It feels more honest to allow the ink to do what it does, and respond accordingly with stories I wasn’t ready to admit, or that I was in denial of, or that I didn’t feel were valid enough.
Many of these works were created in a methodical manner by reconstructing a photograph with a grid, square-by-square, bottom to top, in a variety of media. This was accomplished with a tool, such as a uniform rubber stamp, or actively drawn, such as repeating hand-drawn triangles. I may not have discovered these methods had I not begun drawing with my typewriter in 2013. That year, when fate delivered to me a Sears Citation II manual italic typewriter, I began using it to create a variety of portraits and illustrations.
The daughter of two lifelong factory workers, I was born to appreciate systematic process. My childhood interests in latch-hook and crochet urged me to continually seek obsessive ways of making. I earned a BFA in Printmaking at MIAD in 2007. My background in printmaking, namely etching, unearthed a compulsion to work in a way that precipitates irrevocable mistakes. A line etched in steel cannot be erased. I treasure the error of the human hand while, conversely, I fretfully attempt to attain perfection.
It was exciting to work within a grid, and satisfying to slowly chip away at something. The typewriter, as a cumbersome yet delicate drawing tool, compelled me to work in an impressionistic style, as opposed to my tendency towards contour within etching and traditional drawing materials. Abandoning the grid, but still using repetitive processes, I could scatter my focus. By working in one compartment at a time, the images formed like sediment collecting—a slow build of overlapping marks until each was complete.
Inspired by the ochres and sea foam greens of yellowing family albums, I was compelled to navigate the colors of these photos by using the four-color method used in commercial printing: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (cmyk). Due to my suspicion of color, with its endless choices, and my years of devotion to grayscale, this factory-method offered an anchor of security. It allowed me to replicate these hues one square at a time, considering color in percentages rather than active choices.
As every ending yields the sprouts of the new, I have begun to let go of the process and obsession I had devoted myself to for the past three years. Always a printmaker, between the “happy accidents” of breaking my typewriter and hurting my paw, combined with an overwhelming wariness in the new year and endless challenges facing this world, I find myself enabled and obliged to reach back into my imagination. While these recent works may appear out of place or lacking the aforementioned systems I continually circle back to, the uncertainty of printmaking is the common denominator. I am in an exciting state of oversteering away from these orderly processes, allowing my hand to lead me towards imagery and narrative. I will no longer be an automaton for my art.