The Rifrákt artist collective takes the conventional approach to art exhibitions and bends it a bit (the name is a play on the word “refract”). Founded by Carolyn Hulbert and Stephanie Goode, the collective shows work in a variety of spaces, including private homes, galleries, and alternative spaces like coffee houses and libraries. And, with their latest effort, the book 25 Emerging Boston Artists 2010, they aim to advance the featured artists while donating proceeds to causes they support.
We interviewed co-founder Carolyn Hulbert and Stephanie Goode about Rifrákt and the new book, as part of our Art and Philanthropy series, looking at artists who merge creative projects with philanthropic goals.
ArtSake: I was interested in something Carolyn said in an interview with TeaParty Boston, that one of the motives behind forming Rifrákt, along with exhibition opportunities, was helping the members grow as professional artists. How important is community and dialogue to your work, and your careers?
Carolyn: Community and dialogue are very important, especially when you’re trying to create a name for yourself, or for a collective. It helps to start in an environment you consider home, where you know and see people and they start to recognize you and your work. Even though our subjects aren’t directly connected to our community, our work is a product of where we live and the time we are living in.
Stephanie: If one is used to traditional schooling with the benefits of critique groups, Rifrákt and groups like ours make the transition to the art world outside school easier. It helps with self motivation especially.
ArtSake: Can you talk about how the new book came to be? How does the book fit in with Rifrákt’s goals, as a collective?
Stephanie: Carolyn and I talked about doing the book to showcase artists work, hoping that it would help each artist in exhibition and public representation. For some artists, getting their work out there can be very difficult without prior knowledge, contacts, and steady stream of personal strength as potential rejection letters come in. The book was a chance for us to see who else was out there in Boston that we felt everyone should know about. Rifrákt has always been a group aimed to help not only ourselves as we continue our career, but also those in our community.
Carolyn: We just wanted to see more opportunities for emerging artists in Boston. The book was the first larger scale project that we have done, and there are definitely more plans for projects that involve Boston-based artists.
ArtSake: Rifrákt has had four exhibitions since June 2009, and one upcoming in August. Can you talk a little bit about your curatorial process and how you select your venues?
Stephanie: Exhibition and competition is very prevalent in Boston, a city full of art schools. Creating your own alternative space is one way to curate and exhibit your own work within your own means and desires. We started doing one-night house shows with the core members and other guest artists in 2009. Basically, we took in any artist who wanted to exhibit their work and had the same positive and strong energy that we embodied. As time went on, more and more people became interested in joining. We created our website, adding to our member count, and began contemplating exhibiting in spaces other than apartments.
Carolyn: Most of our upcoming shows are through networking with previous and current Rifrákt members. Most of our venues are selected from research and networking. We definitely look at a lot of artist web sites, blogs, venue and gallery web sites, and try to see if it’s a good fit for us.
ArtSake: Carolyn, your own prints and paintings are influenced by ancient cultures, animal imagery, and mysterious symbols. What draws you to the subjects of your work?
Carolyn: The subject of my work is something that is personal or something I am very interested in at the moment. I love the unknown and mysteries. I can’t get enough of ancient cultures. There seems to have been a closer or more spiritual relationship between humanity and the earth. I feel by painting or drawing that, I feel closer to being a human, as well as transferring that feeling into my work. Most of the animal imagery is culture related, or is a current or past pet. I love adding Iceland my cat or Sais my dog into my work, or even using them as inspiration for a piece.
ArtSake: Stephanie, what draws you to the subjects of your work?
Stephanie: Most of my work revolves around psychology, and could be viewed as art therapy. Many projects work within the human psyche, dreams, familial spaces and nostalgia. I am always interested in why things are, how they came to be, analyzing. When I first started taking art seriously in my early teens, I worked a lot with drawing and mixed media. I became heavily involved within traditional photography in college. Now I am bringing back some of the mixed media work, printing photographs on adhesive vinyl, collage works on paper and assemblage projects for the future involving my own and found photographs.
ArtSake: What’s next for Rifrákt?
Carolyn: Rifrákt will be showing at Voltage Coffee and Art in August and at the West End Library branch in September. We will probably do a few small projects and a couple more proposals and submissions. We do have a proposal for a collaboration with another Boston collective! As for me, I have grad school on the mind, so I am taking my time and doing research.
Stephanie: We will continue to show and collaborate. I would like to grow in members and expand our reach beyond current limits. Perhaps collaborate with other Boston collectives, NYC collectives or show in corporate galleries and other venues that we haven’t been able to participate in before. Personally I would like to continue building a body of new work and grow in contacts to exhibit said projects. I may want to collaborate with glass and sculpture artists as well.
25 Emerging Boston Artists 2010 features work by Valerie Arruda, Fiona Boyd, Jessica Brilli, Alexandra Carter, Corey Corcoran, Leah Cunningham, Barbara Geoghegan, Stephanie Goode, Todd Goodman, Luba Grenader, Maggie Hennessy, Amy Hitchcock, Carolyn Hulbert, Vanessa Irzyk, Marco Jimenez, Scott Listfield (Painting Finalist ’10), Rachel Mello (Painting Finalist ’10), Aaron Morris, Nathaniel Price, Jennifer Reich, Nora Richardson, Anna Rochinski, Alec Strickland, Patricia Sarrafian Ward, and Brandy Wolfe.
An opening reception for 25 Emerging Boston Artists 2010 takes place on Friday, August 6, 6-10pm at The Temple in Jamaica Plain. The free event will include musical performances by Huellas and The Organ Beats starting at 7:30pm.
Copies of the book will be sold at cost through the 8/6 event. After that, all proceeds from the regularly-priced book will be generously donated to the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Images: book jacket for 25 EMERGING BOSTON ARTISTS 2010 by Rifrakt Artist Collective; Vanessa Irzyk, UNTITLED (2009), oil on panel, 22×24 in; Marco Jimenez, YOUR DOG WAS AMAZINGLY CUTE, YOU WERE OKAY (2010), Missed Connections, mixed media; Carolyn Hulbert, SAIS AND HIS FRIEND OF GOLD (2010), digital print, silkscreen & gold leaf, 12×16 in; Stephanie Goode, RED, 9 HOURS (2003), light jet print, aluminum/plexiglas mtd. 12×12 in, editioned; Rachel Mello, WHITHER SHALL I WANDER (2009), Oil on hardboard cut to silhouette, 21 1/2 x 31 1/2 in.