Spring Speaking

13 04 2018

I’ve maybe said yes to a few too many invitations this spring, but in each case, I’ve done so because of the opportunity of spending quality time with friends and artists.

A grad school friend and I had agreed to co-chair a roundtable discussion on Experimental Writing and Arts-based Memoirs at the Transcultural Exchange conference in February in Quebec. Although he had to back out at the last minute because of a family emergency, I still attended and presented in the hopes of good discussions, time with friends, learning with and from artists, and engaging with possible new opportunities in artist residencies. And, what a lovely chance to experience the Francophone culture and a fortified old city, all amidst piles of snow.

I said yes to an invitation from the National Art Education Foundation to present about my Activism, Art, and Design class on a featured grantee panel at the National Art Education Association conference in March in Seattle. Because NAEF had supported my curriculum development with a grant that contributed significantly to the success of the class through a series of visiting artist-activists, I felt obliged to attend and to help publicize their grant program. (Good thing, too, because I read that they didn’t award some of their grants in this most recent cycle, due to lack of applications! That’s leaving money on the table and art educators should be applying.) A major draw for attending, though, was the chance to spend time with a college friend – sharing memories, discussing art and literature, cooking and eating together, etc.

And just this month I said yes to attending an accreditation and assessment conference in Chicago on behalf of my school – partly because I felt an obligation, given that we have an accreditation visit next year, and partly because it allowed me to spend time with artist friends in Chicago. Christa Donner, one of my regular correspondents, and I were invited to give a presentation and performative reading of our letters at Compound Yellow, an artist space in Oak Park. It was a lovely time of exchange and discussion, and such a different experience reading the words aloud, to each other, in front of an audience, than reading the words on a page in the privacy of home. The whole experience confirms that the thesis-in-letters I’m currently writing will exist both in writing and as a performative reading – details of that currently in progress.

Many thanks to Mary Sherman at Transcultural Exchange, Kathi Levin at NAEF, and Laura Shaeffer at Compound Yellow for the invitations that yielded such rich conversations and time together!



Some new and old friends at Compound Yellow


Lex: continuing coverage

13 03 2018

When one embarks on a research-recovery project, part of the hope is always that the research might help the subject to become better known. My exhibition and publication on German artist Alice Lex-Nerlinger are now nearly two years old, which in academic circles can feel like very old news, but I’m excited by the bits and pieces that continue to come to the surface from the project.

lex book cover preview

Jay Clarke recently wrote a lovely review of the book for Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Woman’s Art Journal (which unfortunately isn’t viewable online but they kindly sent me a PDF to share with the museum folks in Berlin).

Lynette Roth, the curator of Inventur: Art in Germany 1943-55, currently on view at the Harvard Art Museums, saw the Lex show back in 2016 and subsequently included Lex in her curatorial project. I won’t get to see the show but I hope to see the catalogue soon.

And there’s a lovely tribute to Lex’s work on the site On This Date in Photography, full of images.

Paper / Work Exhibition

12 03 2018

Many thanks to Abigail Yoder of the Saint Louis Art Museum for jurying my tunnel book into this exhibition of art made of / on paper. Although I couldn’t attend the exhibition in person, it was lovely to get the catalogue in the mail and see the wide variety of two- and three-dimensional work, and the many ways that artists are working with paper.

dear julia

Dear Julia, tunnel book with monotype printing and cut paper, 4×6″


Taking Care: a beginning

2 03 2018

07_Buller_Rachel_Taking Care project launch

Dear friends,

I am writing to you with an invitation. As many of you know, I am in the midst of an extended project that explores letter-writing as an act of relational care, a vehicle for listening, a mode of attunement, in past present and future contexts. The correspondences have so far left their traces in a variety of forms – letterpress and monotype prints, audio narratives, artist books – and I am about to embark on an iteration in embroidery.

Taking Care will be a letter- and thread-based project of listening. I’ve seen so clearly these last many months that letters are not only a way of exchanging thoughts and ideas but also a form of active listening. As I wrote to a friend recently, I now see letters as an invitation to listen, almost a contractual agreement of care – a promise that I will listen to you if you take the time, take the risk, to share your thoughts with me. I have also experienced a clear connection between processes of handwork and labors of listening. During this last year I’ve been spending time with elders at an assisted living facility, in a weekly gathering whose attendees crochet, embroider, knit, color, and simultaneously offer care to each other through the generous act of listening, in much the style of sewing circles or quilting bees. In both letters and handwork, the invitation to listen is, I believe, directly connected to a slowing down, a taking time to take care, and this is precisely what I want to reflect in this next stage of my work.

Taking Care will focus on how we receive and remember acts of care, large and small. I invite you to remember a time when you felt genuinely cared for by another person, and I offer to listen to you. If you choose to share this experience with me, I invite you to write me a letter (or an email, if that seems more feasible to you), recounting in as much detail as you wish how you experienced this gesture of care. As part of my listening, I will embroider some of your words, selecting particular phrases that evoke the giving and receiving of care. I feel it important, along with the intimate act of listening, to make these words publicly visible in a concrete way – for we all know how often such caring labors remain unseen and undervalued. If you choose to write a letter by hand (mailing address below), I will embroider your words in a replication of your handwritten script. And if you choose to share an experience with me but prefer not to have any of the words made visible, I will honor that.

As I receive your stories of care from the past, I will also offer you, in exchange, some words of care for the future (so please include your mailing address if you wish to receive these by post).

Thank you in advance for considering this, for your time in listening to me and caring for me across time and space. I hope to reciprocate the labors.

Take care,


Mexico City Residency and Symposium

22 01 2018

2018 has begun with adventure – a 10-day residency in Mexico City where I shared my work with various groups of artists for feedback and critique, visited studios to meet with Mexican artists and collectives, saw some of the sights and exhibitions of this enormous city, learned how to prepare nopales for handmade corn tortillas, etc., etc. And one of the real highlights – collaborating with artists from other countries to perform my words at a symposium put on by the ELSE Foundation entitled On Limits, Borders, Edges, and Boundaries. I’m so thankful for artist friends who didn’t hesitate to collaborate and who invited me to try new things with my words. (Photo credits to JoMichelle Piper; photo and video credits and Malvina Sammarone)


Short excerpt from “Messaging Across Time: Communicating Care through Epistolary Praxis.”

Letterpress Residency

22 01 2018

Thanks to the invitation of a dear friend, who also happens to be a printmaker extraordinaire, I spent a short residency at a studio in Colorado learning how to hand-set lead type and make letterpress prints. The out-of-date, “inefficient” processes of setting type by hand, the wooden “furniture” that felt like playing with blocks, the puzzle piece process of fitting everything together in the frame, the satisfaction of embossed paper – I loved it. The texts encapsulate the conversations happening between the historimaginary sisters from the first year of the MFA explorations, and the prints will be editioned as a portfolio this spring, once I make the enclosures. (And, I expect that some of the other prints will be combined with drawing and stitching in separate works.)


What We Leave Behind

24 10 2017

(Belatedly, a few installation shots of the show in Denver last month. I was particularly pleased with the large translucent fabric panels, both for the lighting possibilities and for the altered scale where small, intimate objects are enlarged dramatically to demand presence in the space.)




Statement from the show:

I am a time traveler, listening to the past for messages sent across the waves. Beginning from a set of now-anonymous historic photographs of women, I conjure transtemporal relationships and seek to transfer memories between generations. The women of the photographs – women who have become sisters – are ancestors speaking to me across time. They have left things behind for me, passing on to the future. Handcrafted objects evoke intimacy, memory, and historimaginary narratives. Through a series of photographs and handmade books, I invite viewers to travel through time with me and to channel the shared memories of imaginary ancestors long gone.