Rebecca Ness
JUXTAPOZ|Winter 2020
The Tools of Her Trade
Sasha Bogojev

In a panoply of patterns, textures, brushstrokes and marks done with an array of tools, Rebecca Ness renders the hyper vibrant world before her. Framed exactly the way she perceives them, seemingly unimportant moments in her daily commute and casual snapshots from everyday life are encapsulated in color. With a focus on non-verbal engagement, especially through clothing and attire as a source of communication, she comfortably explores the possibilities of painting while dipping into unconventional technique and concept.

Fresh out of Yale, with an MFA in Painting and Printmaking, and anchored with historical perspective, Ness freely experiments and plays with points of view, format and unique depiction. From extreme angles to oversaturated color, her unusual compositions are a painterly answer to the onslaught served daily on our screens. Imbued with subtle, clever metaphors, her vibrant images tell intimate stories of a young person navigating the current landscape.

Sasha Bogojev: Since you’ve just finished school, doors must be opening and a lot is changing in your professional life. How does it feel?

Rebecca Ness: I guess I’m thinking a lot about pacing right now, because in graduate school, you’re expected to create a lot of things really quickly and just keep pushing out ideas at this really rapid pace. Right now, I’m slowing down a lot more and focusing on just a few ideas rather than the whole gamut, which I think is really fun and nice to do. I feel like I have some time now to breathe.

I really loved my grad school experience because I think the rapidness of working allowed me to work through ideas at a rate that I wouldn’t otherwise. Before, I was in Boston and painting in my bedroom. I was working a nine-to-five and would come home, and then have to go to bed to go to work the next day. I would only get, like, four hours or so to work a day, five if I didn’t want to sleep that much. So, the giftof grad school was, “This is the only thing you have to worry about, but you have to worry about it a lot,” which I liked. Now it’s nice to kind of put everything back together again and figure out what I want to do, make my own schedule and my own demands, which is really nice.

Does it feel it’s been more productive since you’ve been able to work that way?

I think so. Looking back at pre-grad school, I think I’ve definitely figured out my shit out a lot more. And grad school is really productive, too. I just think now I’m able to look back at all my notes and actually have time to think about those things and make a painting about it.

Are you done with formal education or is there something else you would like to pursue academically?

There are no more degrees that I want to get. I taught a few classes at Yale as a teaching assistant, mostly entry-level classes, which I really liked. We taught a bunch of non-art majors who, coming into the class, were really intimidated about art. I think one of my favorite things about teaching, and specifically at that entry-level, is taking away the scariness and showing that it’s not really talent, but mostly a skill that you have to learn. Like drawing is a skill, and you can have a base talent for anything, but if you’re not taught how to hone it, then it’s not going to amount to anything.

It was really nice to have a lot of Economics majors and English majors who came in and they had this base level of talent and were really intimidated, but we stripped that away. We were like, “No, you just look at things this way or you use this technique.” And I saw the intimidation kind of leave them, which I really liked. So, in terms of education, I can definitely see myself teaching those entry-level classes.

How much do you think your education shaped what you’re making?

I was really excited to work with all my professors, and I wouldn’t have expected my work to go this way, but am really glad that it did. When I first came into grad school, I was mostly making these really small gouaches on paper. I mainly applied with works that were eight-by-eight inches. They were small because that’s all I could really make in my bedroom. In my undergrad education, I only really painted with oil, but went away from it because I didn’t think it was serving the language I wanted to make. So, I never expected to go back to it, but when seeing my peers’ work, and through conversations with professors in the studio, I realized that oil could actually aid and develop my language, and maybe some other things that I was using were restricting it.

You’re officially back to oil now?

Yeah. I still make my small studies with gouache and I view that as very much its own separate thing. They’re not really studies to me, they are paintings, just maybe in a slightly different world. They’re like a different way to activate my brain.

What did you notice regarding oils and how did that influence your work?

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