While snooping around the SF ARTMrkt fair last month, we stumbled upon a tiny treasure of a painting by Rachell Sumpter. Like a small shiny gem sparkling among dull rocks, the painting called out and drew us in. The colors glowed with mystique and implied shamanism – small natural worlds and native people swirled in colorful ceremony. Rachell’s paintings defy their small size, minute brushstrokes and details capture grand and beautifully universal visions.
Using layered gouache and pastel, these are scenes at once of community and of isolation: figures stand in heavy, embroidered clothing, hidden and yet seen, in procession, in ceremony or in witness to a wonder. There are melting mountain tops and bonfires, ghosts and graves; vast monuments and intimate moments that speak to the legacies a generation leaves, to the promises it makes. Sumpter borrows symbols from religious and political traditions, from dream, from our threatened natural world. And yet amid these artifacts, memories and future relics, there is a human closeness, a physical intimacy. This lends an optimism to what might otherwise seem an elegy. In this bleak and changing landscape there are celebrations as well as lamentations, and with deceptively simple strokes she creates an iconography for the longed-for and the feared: a mythology of mystery, pleasure, and the foreshadowing of loss.
Rachell Sumpter grew up in the suburbs of San Francisco. Swayed and beguiled by nature, she travels the west coast of the US to find relics of inspiration.
- Via Rachell’s website
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