Molly Rausch is an artist of the everyday. She paints mundane things—chairs, radios, step ladders, garage-door openers—elevating their status above their normal station in the hierarchy of objects. A lamp’s craning neck takes on the tristesse following a break-up. A bathtub evokes pleasurable solitude, misunderstood by others as loneliness.
Rasuch’s paintings are often more about what’s left out than what’s included, whether it’s the absence of figures or the enigmatic snippets of text that reference larger conversations. Her paintings at once express concerns about the limits of communication—your thoughts on an empty chalkboard, Dr. Freud?—as well as the inability to effectively use the tools available to relate to others. The personal gravity of Rausch’s work prevents it from escaping the orbit of its self-reference, while looking wistfully toward a genuine connection it might be incapable of.
A new, whimsical direction in Rausch’s work is her altered typewriters, in which the keys are rearranged to encode a message. (Note the keys on Royal Lark on page 33.)
Recent paintings by Rausch are being exhibited as part of a group show at Carl Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon through January 5. www.vanbruntgallery.com.
I don’t put figures in my paintings. I paint inanimate objects. It’s just worked that way over the last 15 years. If you go back through the chunks of work I do, I used to paint these tiny pieces, and they’d have figures, and they were interiors. The figure weren’t the most evocative parts, though; they always looked flattened and dead to me. When I draw inanimate objects, they have more life to them than when I draw living things, which seem to look kind of killed. I moved from architectural interiors to landscapes to maps to these everyday objects. I’ve been on the everyday object kick for about five years now, just cataloging stuff that’s around me, things I grew up with, things I collect at yard sales or from places I visit. I’m a huge yard sailor. I collect a lot of junk. I’m attracted to old papers, office supplies, typewriters, chairs and lately, chalkboards. Yard sales can make the best art supply stores.
All the quotes in my paintings are personal and self-referential. They’re culled from my sketchbooks or what other people have said to me. Sometimes the quotes are connected between the person that said it and the place/object that’s depicted; sometimes they’re connected just by my gut feeling. There’s a painting of a bathtub that says, “Just because I don’t say anything doesn’t mean I’m quiet.” The bathtub just seemed to suit the quote. The trick to those paintings was finding an image and some text that balanced each other and made sense, had equal weight, both content-wise and layout on the painting-wise.
I included text in my paintings for a while. I also had pairs of paintings without text, working off this idea that there was a conversation going on between them. Now that I’m losing the text again, it’s as if the chalkboard pieces are really just inviting the viewer to actually write on them. I don’t put chalk on them in a gallery because I don’t want it to turn into a big mess, but it’s a chalkboard, and that’s what it’s there for—you’re supposed to write on it. People, if they buy one of these [chalkboard paintings], are not going to use it for their grocery list—but they could. By not having text on the paintings, and by painting on a chalkboard, I’m not really talking with the viewer anymore, I’m providing them with this tool to talk back to me, even though I know they’re not going to use it because they think it’s a painting.
I have thing for chairs. I have a problem with chairs. I have too many chairs. Chairs are very personal. They definitely have different personalities. For me, I’m interested in the implied presence of a person, or the just-left absence of a person. Chairs are stand-ins for people in my paintings. They’re also just beautiful.
The typewriter project started with a joke. I was trying to e-mail somebody, and I said, “I can’t find the Sarcasm Key on this computer.” So I wanted to make a typewriter with a Sarcasm Key. The typewriter will be fully functional, but instead of having a Shift Key it’ll have a Sarcasm Key.
Chalkboards and typewriters are weird, childish, school-type things that nobody uses anymore. Most of what I depict are obsolete things that no one uses anymore. I’m not drawing iMacs.
The only times I’ve edited or revised my work after I’ve finished it has been with a table saw. Sometimes an aspect of a painting will really bug me and I’ll have to trim three inches down one side. I’ve done that on several occasions. It’s an advantage of plywood—you can’t do that with canvas.
My strategy is to play around until and I hit something and then I’m like, “Oh, I want to make 20 more like that.” I work in chunks. I do that until eventually I get to that point where it feels very stagnant and I start to know I’m done. When I’m in the middle of a body of work, in can sometimes feel like, well, work. But then it circles back around. There’s usually the freshness and the urgency at the very beginning—I’m like boom, boom, boom—I get all these ideas and it just takes a while to get through them all. I usually have a list, which I’ll constantly go through and edit and change as I work on drawings. But I usually have a set in mind. Then I say to myself, “Alright, this is going to be the last one.” And then sometimes it opens me up in some way and I’ll think, “Oh, I’ll do just one more.” That painting can end of being a really, really good one. Generally the less that you try, the better it is.
- I did everything I could, oil and chalkboard pint on panel, 35" x 29", 2008
- Penthouse, oil on plywood, 60" x 48", 2007