What She Does: Rachel Harmeyer specializes in anatomical art centered around the human body. She works in drawing and sculpture, and now has branched out into a line of amazingly detailed anatomy themed embroidered tea towels and napkins... which are as awesome as they are out of our price range. Harmeyer had her first kiss in the sculpture garden at the Museum of Fine Arts, but moved to Chicago to study at the School of the Art Institute.
Since returning to Houston, she has shown works at the Fringe Festival, and had a dual exhibit with her husband, critically acclaimed Houston artist Bret Harmeyer, at Dean's downtown. Her work is held in private collections in Houston, Chicago and the United Kingdom. She is currently pursuing her masters in art history at the University of Houston.
Why She Likes It: "What I enjoy the most is becoming fully engaged in the process of making. The moment where I become so absorbed in the process of creation that I couldn't walk away from the work if I tried is the best part for me. I think that I'm happiest the moment right before I complete a work. Once it's complete, the elation subsides, and I have to move on to the next thing. I feel that my drive to create and the fact that I am never entirely satisfied are crucial characteristics of mine that make me constantly seek to become a better artist."
What Inspires Her: Harmeyer's work focused on the human body is a representation of death and mortality. Looking at the skulls and rib cages she so elegantly crafts, one cannot help but think about the irrefutable fact that these objects are the building blocks of our own lives. Seeing them naked and bare can only be a reminder of the ending of that life.
"The subject of death has a profound existential meaning for me," says Harmeyer.
She is mainly influenced by vanitas genre painting from the 17th century, still life painting from the 17th and 18th centuries and amateur sewing and craft projects from the 19th and 20th centuries. She prefers not to divulge her favorite artists so as to not be compared to them.
If Not This, Then What: Madness, basically. Harmeyer has been on the path to be an artist since she was very young and can't really conceive of a world where she couldn't create. That being said, she enjoys writing a great deal, as well as the history of art. A fan of archives, museums, and libraries, she would feel at home as a librarian or a teacher.
If Not Here, Then Where: Harmeyer romanticizes solitude, working in an abandoned castle or the middle of the forest, that kind of thing. But at heart she's a city girl who enjoys the vibrant life of Houston, Chicago, and New Orleans. She would like to work in Europe, but admits that it's more likely she'd spend her time buried in the great works of art and natural history that are housed there.
What's Next: Harmeyer is in the midst of an ongoing project involving the embroidery of anatomical elements from medical diagrams onto everyday household textiles.
"I feel that they function as a cheerful sort of memento mori," she says. "I think it's a very positive thing, to remind yourself of your own death."
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She is also working on a series of drawings in silverpoint that explores self-identity through the lens of vanitas still-life conventions and the Grimm fairy tale "Fitchers Vogel."
"The great thing about drawing with silverpoint is that the silver will eventually tarnish as the drawing ages, making the silverpoint medium part of the vanitas message," says Harmeyer.
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