In college, I studied to be an artist. I thought I’d be a printmaker one day, but instead I found my strengths were in writing about and supporting artists, rather than being one myself. So I have a strong sense of both nostalgia and longing for the materials of everyday artistic life. Fresh drawing paper, sheets of shiny copper for intaglio printing, and even the smell of turpentine can make me feel a pang for those last days in the studio.
But for me, nothing is as romantic as used paintbrushes. Loaded with layers of old paint and warped with use, there is something both beautiful and wonderfully utilitarian about these bristled tools. I didn’t think it was possible to make these materials any more graceful than they already are (even in their most worn stages), but artist Rebecca Szeto has found a way to do that with her incredible Paintbrush Portraits.
Focusing on the idiosyncrasies of each brush, Rebecca uses the weathered forms to depict, “lost, obscure and powerful stories of women across history and geography.” Moving beyond playful portraiture, she also uses details and overlooked aspects of the brushes to explain historical aspects of these women’s lives and roles in their artistic communities. I hope I can see these remarkable pieces in person one day, but until then, I will spend my days refreshing and zooming in on their amazing details online.
Rebecca’s work is, of course, not limited to this particular series — she also creates fabric sculptures, videos and performance pieces, carvings, paintings and site-specific installations using a range of materials. She also keeps an incredible blog (called “the lab”) about her thoughts on the art world and the way in which larger social and cultural issues intersect. xo, grace
Artist: Rebecca Szeto
About: Rebecca lives and works in San Francisco, California. She received her B.A. from UC Berkeley in 1992 and has studied with artists like Rose Shakinovsky and Claire Gavronsky and alongside master wood carvers such as Paul Thavanha and Thomas Kubayi. She was awarded the Banff Merit Scholarship and the Pamela Joseph Merit Fellowship for Minority Artists.
Work: Rebecca’s work uses everyday materials (like paintbrushes, steel wool and even rust) to create stunning installations, drawings, paintings and small sculptures that often explore the juxtaposition of two very different ideas, objects or meanings.
More: You can find more about Rebecca online here, here, here and here.
All artwork (c) Rebecca Szeto. Images of artwork from rebeccaszeto.com