Team Love RavenHouse Gallery, located in downtown New Paltz, doesn’t just show art; it also presents musical performances and sponsors community forums. For example, in conjunction with its last exhibit, Andrea Frank’s “Systems: Trees,” the gallery hosted two experimental mapping sessions enabling participants to gain a deeper understanding of the local forest’s ecosystem.
It’s therefore not surprising that the featured artist in its upcoming show, Rachel Blumberg, is not only a compelling artist but also an accomplished musician, who has toured the world with the Decemberists, M. Ward, Bright Eyes, Tara Jane O’Neil and other noteworthy bands. (Gallery co-owner Cornelia Calder said that she met Blumberg on tour with the band Bright Eyes, which her husband manages through his company, Ravenhouse Ltd.)
Titled “I Dreamt You Were a Horseshoe Crab,” the exhibition, which opens October 10 and closes November 2, features Blumberg’s works-on-paper and dioramas. Inspired by the Jewish folk world of Fiddler on the Roof as well as fairy tales, the New England coast and her European travels, Blumberg’s paintings also incorporate moments from her life, such as the daily visit from the red-crested woodpecker in her backyard. Her latest work reflects a shift from acrylic to line drawings in pen-and-ink combined with watercolor, gouache and acrylic. Also on display are her collages and assemblages of found objects and painted paper dioramas, displayed in tiny boxes.
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Blumberg moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island two years ago. Besides touring with the bands Death Vessel and Califone and making art, she also creates short stop-motion experimental films, teaches drumming and composes and records her own music as Arch Cape. In the mid-Hudson Valley, Blumberg has previously shown her work at the One Mile Gallery in Kingston. Almanac Weekly’s Lynn Woods recently interviewed Blumberg, who was in Portland visiting friends and family, by phone:
What has inspired your folk imagery?
It has a lot to do with the imagery I saw as a kid. My whole family is second- and first-generation Eastern European, and there was a big Marc Chagall book in our living room. There was also a lot of artwork on the walls, which must have seeped into my aesthetic choices. I was always interested in my ancestry, the shtetl and that imagery of darkness and lightness.
I also love and adore American folk art – in particular the work of Howard Finster and other untrained artists. You see the subconscious coming through their work. I’m interested in fairy tales and illustrated art for kids. Human stories and fairy tales are always scratching at trying to get to what it means to be a person, collectively and through individual stories.
How did art fit into your education?
I ran with an artsy crowd in high school. I studied music and got a degree in Anthropology and Archaeology. I was always interested in studying other cultures’ music, religion and art. I started making some art in college, when I took one art class.
When I was in my late 20s I was working at Reed College, and we were allowed to take classes for free. I decided to take a painting class, and a door opened up for me. The teacher was really supportive. He pulled something out of me, and I was impressed and he was impressed. I thought about going to grad school for art, and everyone said don’t do it. I was also doing music full-time and trying to figure out the art and the music.
What made you decide not to attend art school?
I loved the idea of being surrounded by people doing the same thing and having those dialogues, but so many friends who went to grad school said, “Don’t spend the money; spend time with other artists.” I have taken some classes with an art college in Portland, and now that I’m in Providence I want to take classes at the Rhode Island School of Design. I attend drawing salons and meet with other artists.