“There’s Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You”
ACRE is a Chicago-based, non-profit organization that supports and promotes emerging artists. Artists can sign themselves up for ACRE’s projects, and every weekend a new up-and-coming artist gets a chance to showcase their work at ACRE Projects’ gallery, located in Pilsen. Last weekend, Kyla Zoe Rafert had the opportunity to present her mixed media exhibit “Life in the Aviary.” Defining her work as “the truth bent to perfection,” she put on an impressive display, full of intense colors and hypnotizing patterns. Rafert was kind enough to let Art Burst Chicago (A.B.C.) steal a few minutes of her time to talk about her work and inspirations.
A.B.C.: How did you come up with the idea of “Life in the Aviary?”
Kyla Zoe Rafert: All of the work is connected by a variety of concepts: exaggerated romanticism, time spent waiting, the idea of perfectionism. Almost all of the works feature pretty, young, presumably wealthy, Caucasian girls trapped in their perfectly matching, constructed interiors. I have the compositions set up from a very frontal, one-point perspective, so that we have the sense that we are peering into their lives from the viewpoint of an audience looking at a stage. In a sense they are caged by the perfect environments that I’ve made for them. It’s all a little bit tongue-in-cheek.
A.B.C.: What inspires you when creating your works of art?
K.Z.R.: I love looking through hundreds of old Victorian era photographs. I’m fascinated by their hyper-constructed environments, and the stillness and stiffness of their poses. I also draw inspiration from 17th century Dutch genre paintings, and fairy tales are a big inspiration as well. I love how they have a tendency to be extremely particular in some ways, and frustratingly vague in others. All of these are a very carefully constructed reality, where certain things are purposefully presented, and other things are deliberately left out. In my works, I play with that dynamic.
A.B.C.: When you start working on a piece, do you already have in mind where you want to go with it?
K.Z.R.: My works aren’t always started with a specific meaning in mind. They are more like a compilation of fragmented meanings. They are both fragmented and exaggerated. Creatively, the piece evolves as I go. What I choose to add to an image is very intuitive.
A.B.C.: Your pieces from “Life in the Aviary” are incredibly detailed. How do you create your pieces? What is the process like?
K.Z.R.: I usually start by stretching a damp piece of paper to a board. When it dries, it draws tight, like a drum. From there, I sketch out figures in ink first. Often I’ve done a photo shoot with a friend where I’ve had them stand in specific poses that I had in mind for the piece. The pattern on the dresses is all done by hand with a pen and nib. The last step is to put the pattern on the walls and floor. I create those patterns from wallpaper websites, or whatever references I can find, and use photoshop to edit the pattern, separate it, and compose and put it in perspective. Putting the final patterns in is always a very suspenseful moment, because it is difficult to predict how the colors I print will effect everything else in the piece.
A.B.C.: Your works of art range from paintings to drawings to mixed media pieces. What is it about using all these different media that you like?
K.Z.R.: Each medium has something different to offer. I enjoy working with drawings, because they are useful in working out ideas efficiently. The works that take the longest by far are my mixed media works. All of the color and pattern in them is very important to me conceptually, but it takes a long time, so I like doing some drawings on the side as well. I like working in etching, because it allows me to create a limited edition run of imagery that is similar to my mixed media works, but that I can sell to folks who are unable to afford my paintings. Each medium inspires me to approach the work differently and with a different set of “rules”, so to speak, which I like.
Photos courtesy of Kyla Zoe Rafert’s website.