Rebecca Beachy’s work is striking – the kind that gives you whiplash. It forces you to look at each piece more than once and perhaps more once you learn that this 29-year old artist grew up on a farm – a background that plays a key role in her latest exhibit titled ‘Ground.’ It takes a deft hand to turn ground up animal bones and shells into art but with her subtle touch, Beachy invites us to see beauty in the macabre.
How long have you been an artist and where did you train as an artist?
I think I first recognized myself as an artist at the age of 15. I recently received an MFA from University of Illinois at Chicago.
What made you want to become an artist?
I think it goes back to very basic experiences: fishing, watching animals being born and dying on the farm where I grew up, wanting to process and make meaning of those experiences.
Where did you get the inspiration for ‘Ground’?
I love the versatility of the word ‘Ground’—so much of what I do involves literally grinding up objects (bones, shells, etc.). Nearly everything I work with is gleaned from the ground.
When I came up with this title I was staying in a tent on the floor in my studio. I was literally sleeping on the ground, surrounded by a nest of my work, recently graduated and in-between homes. I thought, the ground is reliable; it’s a good place to start. And it’s where we all end up.
What do you hope audiences will walk away with after viewing your work?
I hope the audience of the work will experience some of the wonder that I experience when I handle these materials—that they might experience some of the physical/emotional sensations that I find interesting, like the intense smell of calcium dust in hundreds of ground-up eggshells.
I’m possessed by thinking about the intimate, everyday relationship we have with animal products—something ‘normal’ like a factory-farmed chicken egg, or the dead goose we forget that we’re sleeping on each and every night in our down pillows. I hope the audience might come away with some feeling of revelation regarding the everyday things surrounding them. This might lead to some unsettling recognitions—I find that discomfort hopeful.
What usually inspires you?
I’m inspired by the relationship of the wild to human culture and ideology. Looking at what happens to animals is one way to think about the damage done from what people build. Birds, for example, are so vulnerable to architecture. I’m blown over that a material as simple as architectural glass can kill millions of birds every year! Likewise, something like an earthquake can level everything we build in just one day.
(Continued in Part 2)