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surface design inspired by museum collections
Becka Rahn, artist
Art often shows up in unexpected places. A brass doorknob, a painted feather, or a pacemaker can become an evening dress — if you know how to look at them. Artist Becka Rahn dug deep into the collections at The Museum of Russian Art, The Bakken Museum, and Hennepin History Museum to find items that have been hidden away, unnoticed, or overlooked. Drawing inspiration from these forgotten objects, Becka created new surface designs which were digitally printed onto fabric and paper, transforming unexpected items into new pieces of art.
About this project
Several years ago, I was approached by the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum for a project that they were working on in an effort to bring some new life and relevance to their collection. They asked artists to respond to a piece in their collection, and these pieces and corresponding artistic responses (poems, essays, art) became an online exhibition with an objective of presenting a new way to look at old objects. Several years later, inspired by the same idea of an artistic response to a museum piece, I created two more designs, drawing from a woodwork detail and a feather fan from the collection at Hennepin History Museum. I loved the idea of looking for museum pieces that were overlooked, forgotten, ignored, or just too odd to be on display in a typical exhibition and finding a way to put them in a spotlight.
My work for this exhibition continues the idea of an artistic response to an item from a museum collection. I worked with curators and staff at each of my museum partners — The Museum of Russian Art, The Bakken Museum, and Hennepin History Museum — to choose quirky pieces from their collections. In response to these pieces, I created original surface designs that were digitally printed on a variety of fabrics. The designs were created from a variety of sources: photographs, hand cut paper, and original illustrations. I designed and sewed a garment from each original fabric design, choosing a silhouette or style to compliment the inspiration piece.
In 2016, I received an Artist Initiative Grant from the MN State Arts Board and that is what has made this project possible. An important component of that grant was doing hands-on art activities with members of the community. With the grant funding, I was able to purchase six laptop computers, giving me a mobile computer lab to use for workshops. Grant funding covered the materials costs so that we could make these workshops affordable for both the participants and the partner organizations that I was privileged to work with. I also had the support to create a body of work and put together a solo exhibition of that work. As an artist, I can’t put a value on that kind of opportunity. Many thanks to the MN State Arts Board and the voters of Minnesota, who make this Legacy funding possible. We live in an amazing community.
See a video of the installation of “Well Dressed“, 144 origami dresses with papers designed by community workshop participants.
Becka Rahn is a fiscal year 2016 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.