Rachel Zollinger at PLAYA Summer Lake Artist Residency

Rachel Zollinger explores the high desert riparian ecosystem at PLAYA Summer Lake, an artist residency in south-central Oregon.
Searching for blue rocks (none yet!) and finding jade colored rocks in the hills above PLAYA.

Excerpted from conversation with other artists in residence at PLAYA: Renee Couture, Sue Landers, Donna Henderson.

I arrived at PLAYA without a specific project in mind—no previously started works or series to complete. I wanted to be free to explore this place without expectations looming or risk of incompletion. I find my best work comes when I’m operating at the edge of what I don’t know, past the safe territory and teetering on “I have no idea what I’m doing!” So I try to find ways to push myself to that edge. Wandering by foot is a good way, because it leads to wandering by imagination. It’s true that meandering, often by my own locomotion, leads to new connections and insights, as does careless play.

I had never been to this corner of Oregon before and I was interested in PLAYA’s location in a high desert riparian ecosystem. The volcanic activity of the area has endowed this land with a spectrum of colors. Human activity, too, has brought new colors to this place, but it’s hard to know which colors originated here and which have been introduced. I began a project to describe the colors I found at PLAYA and the surrounding area.

The accumulated excess material from my project.

After I shared my in-process project with the other residents, people began bringing me rocks they found—specific colors, interesting formations, etc.

Photo credit: Daniel Zollinger

New Mexico

This photo was taken near my home in New Mexico. I was collecting dirt for both an art project I was beginning and for a class I was teaching on soil ecology. There’s usually an element of mucking around and getting dirty in my practice, and I encourage my students to not be afraid getting their hands dirty. My brother, Daniel, also a visual artist, took the picture. He often accompanies me on creative expeditions, and sometimes we collaborate.

Terra Nullius 1
Rachel Zollinger, Daniel Zollinger,  2017
biodegradable paint, digital image; dimensions variable
Photo credit: Daniel Zollinger

Rachel Zollinger is an interdisciplinary artist and STEAM childhood educator living and working in Albuquerque, NM. Immersive site experience and deep research informs her practice as both artist and educator; her work recognizes human and non human communities alike. Visit her work at www.rachelzollinger.com.

Color Chart
Rachel Zollinger, 2018
crushed rock, dirt, found materials, paper, digital image; dimensions variable
Photo credit: Rachel Zollinger

 Radical Intervention
Rachel Zollinger 2017-2018
dirt, native grass seeds; dimensions variable
Photo credit: Rachel Zollinger



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