The work of artist Rachel Brennecke, also known as Bon Jane, is based primarily in photography and performance, mediums she discussed with great depth and energy as a speaker for New Paltz’s visiting artist lecture series.
Brennecke visited New Paltz on Nov. 8, and brought with her stories of both the trials and rewards of art as a career, as well as a fantastic insight into her creative method. Her art focuses on redefining and breaking the confines of colonialism/Americanism and femininity, as well as identity and finding one’s “true, authentic self” through art and performance art.
Brennecke discusses being an artist as “.[..] contributing to a conversation” and says that “all successful work is in reference to a conversation that has already been started.”
Many different factors brought Brennecke to where she is now as an artist; she went to art school abroad in Amsterdam and recalls her courseload as being incredibly challenging. Her work is informed by many influences, including Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman and Marina Abramovic. Women like these, as well as her experiences with sexism inside and outside of the art world, contribute to the feminist perspective her art takes on.
Brennecke’s art pushes boundaries and begs the question, “Why do women think that we have to be beautiful?” She plays off of cultural roles assigned to women, such as in her piece “Objectify,” during which she allowed strangers on the street in Manhattan to manipulate her appearance and photograph their work. This piece, as well as her other works, is deeply thought provoking, reflecting on womanhood and appearance of the subject or object in popular culture.
Brennecke offered great encouragement for young artists, discussing her methods for feeling secure in one’s own work as well as finding success. Brennecke worked tirelessly, experiencing homelessness and poverty at length before experiencing success and publishing her own book. She encouraged publishing and discussed the importance of artist mapping.
Brennecke encourages artists to always say yes to every opportunity, as well as to create opportunities for one’s self whenever and however possible.
As a creator, she spoke reassuringly and confidently in the ability of young artists to be successful, provided they remain true to themselves. Her speech, as well as her work, was poignant, inspiring and encouraging to all artists and creators in the audience.
Rachel Brennecke’s work can be found on her website, rachelbrennecke.com, as well as on Instagram as @lebonjane.