Liz Miller

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"I mostly make it up as I go along, it is all about being inspired by the materials" : A Conversation With Lindsay Rhyner

I'll never forget walking into the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2016 and seeing Lindsay Rhyner's work for the first time. My jaw was on the floor--the work was like nothing I'd seen before. Rhyner is the sort of mixmaster who can make difficult and surprising material juxtapositions at an epic scale seem effortless. I recently asked Rhyner a few questions about her work, which integrates elements of textiles, painting, and collage, all while defying easy categorization. Here's our conversation: 

 Lindsay Rhyner,  Eye of the Needle , fabric, plastic, acrylic, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist

Lindsay Rhyner, Eye of the Needle, fabric, plastic, acrylic, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist

Liz Miller: In your statement on mnartists.org, the importance of travel is discussed in relation to the development of your work. Tell me more about how travel has informed your process.

Lindsay Rhyner: I find many of my materials when I travel and sometimes I base a whole piece around something or some fabric I found while traveling.

 Lindsay Rhyner,  Welcome , fabric, beads, approx. 10' x 6', 2015. Photo courtesy of the artist

Lindsay Rhyner, Welcome, fabric, beads, approx. 10' x 6', 2015. Photo courtesy of the artist

Liz Miller: Your works are epic in scale, challenging ideas about sewing as an intimate act. I think of quilts (for example, The Quilts of Gee's Bend), historic tapestries, and abstract painting. The works seem to nod to tradition, but they feel so innovative and contemporary. How did you arrive at making this type of work?

Lindsay Rhyner: I started with making clothes and costumes. I liked collecting halloween and unusual costume fabrics and vintage clothes. I used to make pictures and scenes in fabric on the back of jackets. I was also into painting and drawing when I was younger so I combined all of the things I liked into my way of making a picture. I use fabric as a collage medium as well as a way to add fields of color like painting. Sometimes I paint on or dye the fabric when I think it is the wrong color.

 Lindsay Rhyner,  Swimmers , fabric, acrylic, 10.3' x 9.3', 2016. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Lindsay Rhyner, Swimmers, fabric, acrylic, 10.3' x 9.3', 2016. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Liz Miller: The materials in your works are wildly varied, providing a rich topography for the viewer. How do you go about selecting materials?

Lindsay Rhyner: I mostly dig at thrift stores, free boxes and garage sales. The number one thing is perusing alleys and dumpsters for the best and weirdest stuff.

 Lindsay Rhyner,  Cinder Cone , fabric, beads, acrylic, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist

Lindsay Rhyner, Cinder Cone, fabric, beads, acrylic, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist

Liz Miller: Maybe it’s because I don’t sew...but I see sewing as an exacting process--there does not seem to be much room for error. But your work makes the act of sewing seem effortless, as if the works magically came into being. There is a life and energy that defies tedium. How do spontaneity and improvisation figure into your process?

Lindsay Rhyner: I mostly make it up as I go along, it is all about being inspired by the materials. When I sew i don’t try to make things perfect, I mostly just want them to stick to the background, but as I progress I am figuring out new techniques which require more sewing skill, which is exciting and inspires me as well.

 Above: Lindsay Rhyner,  City Blocks,  fabric, dye, 2018. Below: Lindsay Rhyner,  Cotton Field , fabric, acrylic, 10' x 12", 2015. Photos courtesy of the artist

Above: Lindsay Rhyner, City Blocks, fabric, dye, 2018. Below: Lindsay Rhyner, Cotton Field, fabric, acrylic, 10' x 12", 2015. Photos courtesy of the artist

Rhyner_Cotton_Field.jpg

Liz Miller: What are you working on now, and where can we see your work in the future?   

Lindsay Rhyner: I am in a show at Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconsin in January, right now you can see some of my larger pieces hanging at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul.

 Lindsay Rhyner,  Candelabra , fabric, sequins, beads, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist

Lindsay Rhyner, Candelabra, fabric, sequins, beads, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist

Liz Miller: When you aren't making art, where can we find you?

Lindsay Rhyner: I’m out there being a garbage weasel on my bike usually.

 Above: Lindsay Rhyner,  Pittsburgh Skyscraper Cloud World , fabric, acrylic, 11' x 4', 2016. Below: Lindsay Rhyner,  Untitled , fabric, sequins, beads, 2018. Photos courtesy of the artist

Above: Lindsay Rhyner, Pittsburgh Skyscraper Cloud World, fabric, acrylic, 11' x 4', 2016. Below: Lindsay Rhyner, Untitled, fabric, sequins, beads, 2018. Photos courtesy of the artist

Rhyner_Untitled.jpg

For more images and information on Lindsay Rhyner's work, visit her mnartists.org page. 

Liz Miller