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Interview with Rachel Chae

We sat down with one of our long-time contributors to get a first-hand look into the mind of one of Johns Creek's most talented artists.

TP: When did you first become interested in art?

RC: I came out of the womb with a paintbrush, and the rest was history.

TP: Who are your favorite artists or art styles?

RC: I gravitate towards artists who play with experimentation, yet also maintain a sense of playfulness and humor in their works. My watercolor style is influenced by Conrad Roset’s rich colors and variety of mark-making styles and line qualities; Oliver Jeffers’s playful typography inspired the incorporation of lettering into my phobia fashion illustration series and the embroidered canvas dress. Alexander McQueen shaped my love of the grotesque and macabre and taught me how to find beauty in dark things. His collections bring a terrifying elegance that I try to emulate  in my works. Designers like Comme des Garcons, Viktor & Rolf, and Maison Martin Margiela are also huge inspirations with surrealist elements that surface in their collections.

TP: How would you describe your art style? 

RC: My art style pays a lot of small detail and textures
Rachel Chae is a senior at Johns Creek High School with a passion for visual arts. She is planning on studying Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design in New York City this coming fall.
TP: Could you describe the inspiration for the phobia series?

RC: I was inspired by the deadline for my AP Studio Art concentration. I was in the library, pressed for a concept for my concentration for the year (due that day), and I asked Dale for ideas, and thus the phobia series was born.
​TP: We asked Rachel to talk about the ideas behind her pieces that explored the relationships between fish and humans. Below are some of her thoughts. 

"You are what you breathe. In today’s world, we inhale and exhale the air of commodified lifestyles. Our minds are polluted lakes of extreme media and colorful stories.  The air we breathe pollutes us, leaving our lungs filthy and gasping like fish out of water.
We are constantly surrounded by an atmosphere of capitalist sentiments and plastic personalities—and when we take this kind of air into our lungs, we turn the organs that once spoke life into ones that exhale the stench of rancid fish. The natural and subconscious body process of breathing turns into a mechanism to process and excrete these polluted thoughts.

"There are so many things a human can do with a breath. One can sing, laugh, and speak words of life—a breath has the potential that can change the world.
Through the pure air of conversation, of new thought, and of human interaction, lungs become re-inflated with a new sense of life. Good acts of unadulterated intention give contaminated organs new content to breathe. To give away the contents of our lungs requires time, effort, and thought, but this small sacrifice creates purification in the lives of others.

"As a viewer kisses the sculpture, breath is shared. Sharing air is an act of love as much as it is of conservation of a precious commodity. This communal air is what we need to fill our polluted lungs."

The common fish does not belong to any school of thought; the only school it belongs to is the one making its way into a net. 

"The over-consumption of fish often leads to an unhealthy increase in mercury that is measured in parts of the human body, specifically, in hair strands. These high mercury levels lead to hair loss and disease.

"Yet, it is the community of consumers that is responsible for the poisoned water the fish swim in, and it is this increased industrialization and production lead to mercury contamination in the ocean. Our lifestyles have begun to pollute the very organisms we turn to for food, and in turn, we start to pollute our own bodies.

"Likewise, the sculpture is an allegory for the irony of how we are consumed by the products we have manufactured. The fish is made out of something so human and organic, but is ensnared by synthetic items. This hair was the product of years of growth and care, but it was caught and cut with scissors, crafted into a fish, and then caught by a metal fishing rod—a natural life cut short by mechanical means.

"Like the strands of hair on the sculpture, humans and fish are interwoven. It is difficult to solve one consumer’s problem without addressing the others’. The fish is made out of something so inherently human—hair—showing that the fish and human are, perhaps, not so different. It is the nature of humanity that creates net of self-destruction, and this net is what captures the fish."

"A perch does not have the liberty to become a physician; a salmon cannot become a scientist; a carp cannot become a carpenter. The common fish does not belong to any school of thought; the only school it belongs to is the one making its way into a net. There is no funeral service for a fish that has passed on because we know the only future a supermarket fish has is as dinner—they are bred for consumption.

"Humans believe they know their place on top the food chain, but, like fish, our futures are limited. The guidelines for success are outlined in the social customs and expectations we see in our world, and the ones often celebrated as beacons of industry and production are those who follow this strict standard.

"To not be a part of something productive is to violate one of the standards of a Successful Human. It is almost as if human nature is measured in how much we consume or produce to be consumed. Just like fish, we are bred to be calories that fuel the body of the working world.

"This piece portrays human and fish on the same plane, a proposition that perhaps the two species are on the same trophic level. The facial expression of the portrait is neutral, but the fact that a raw fish is on the model’s face creates a sense of absurdity, forcing the audience to confront and question why it is there in the first place."
​TP: Below are a few of Rachel's fashion design concepts.