SD Voyager Interview

Rachael, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I spent most of my youth in Southern California where I moved around frequently. I attended 15 schools and lived in 33 homes (a trailer in the wilderness, a three-story mansion in Laguna Hills, and everything in between). As an adult, I’ve also lived in Latin America and Spain. It’s been colorful, and I’m lucky to have seen a lot.

When I was a kid, I was alone often and had a lot of time to create. The people around me labeled me ‘artistic’ which I came to like. I thought it meant that I was skilled and expressed myself freely. You can do whatever you want when you identify as an artist. It’s a great excuse! People just say “Oh, it’s ok; she’s an artist.” I think everyone should do that. Maybe we’d lay off the self-editing and quiet our inner critics.

My interest in light and art started in the second grade when my teacher explained how the French impressionists played. Monet was my favorite, and I dreamt of visiting his gardens. I just completed that pilgrimage to his home in France last October.

I studied Fine Art with an Emphasis in Education at San Diego State University. It was the time of my life. Around 19 I was introduced to the work of James Turrell, a light and space artist who is building a monumental piece that is part of land art and part naked eye observatory in the Arizona desert. I recommend everyone look it up. It’s called the Roden Crater. I truly revere Turrell and had the honor of interning for him. I’ve traveled all over the world to enter the spaces he creates with light.

We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I’ve worked with all sorts of mediums, but light is my favorite. I use it to represent the ethereal. From there I choose which material it will penetrate whether it be water, paper, plants or xrays. The art process I enjoy most involves repetitive movement, like the rotation of a pottery wheel or poking thousands of tiny holes into something. I feel the most content when I’m enveloped in the zen of repetitive motion. Listening to music while I work is a vital element to that state of bliss as well.

My last solo show was in Lima, Peru. It was about the ability of the human spirit to overcome devastating experiences through mind-body practices. I perforated designs into X-rays, hung them from the ceiling and illuminated them with candlelight. The x-rays were clear records of trauma that I pierced through to let in the firelight which represents the human soul and universal life force.

The work is a reminder that one can get through any physical or emotional challenge. I physically pushed through each x-ray thinking of them as dark memories of pain, and I worked to let the light out. This practice of unifying the spiritual, mental and corporeal to transform a state of being was not only the concept behind this installation but was also the way of its formation.

I enjoy making art that facilitates healing for myself as well as others. I share profits with humanitarian groups. A large portion of my work has been influenced by a kidnapping a friend, and I survived. Expressive Art Therapy plays a vital role in integrating traumas like that one. I just completed several intense trainings on trauma and neuroscience in relation to art making with UCLArts and Healing. I’m employing those concepts by offering refugees served by Victims of Torture International special access to, and services in, the show I’m designing right now.

What do you know now that you wished you had learned earlier?
My only advice to other artists is to honor, harness and share their weird.

Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
People can see some of my work (mostly photography) on my Instagram page rachaelmariemcdaniel, and there’s more at rachaelmcdaniel.com where collectors purchase prints and commission custom pieces. Both are updated regularly with exhibition info.