April 3, 2023
By: Jeffrey Roedel
Link to Article: https://www.inregister.com/features/the-creatives-abstract-artist-rachel-rice-baham
The cool, overcast grays and deep, dark wood grains coloring Rachel Rice-Baham’s den obscure the fact that this relaxing space is the result of countless hours of sweat and expert handiwork. From the thick wooden picture frames and curvy end tables to the wall-mounted Zen statues, everything was found secondhand and painted or refinished by the artist herself.
“I’m a thrifter like nobody’s business,” says the 41-year-old Air Force veteran who calls creating, be it a home DIY project or a large-scale abstract painting, an essential form of therapy. “Everything in this house was bought at Goodwill or on Facebook Marketplace. Before I started creating digitally, I had more projects in different stages all over the house.”
After working for years refinishing furniture, COVID-19 shifted Rice-Baham’s focus to what she could create without visiting her old hunting grounds of antiques stores, vintage shops and estate sales—all of which closed in the early days of the pandemic.
“I have a need to be creative all the time. It’s not really an option,” she says. “It’s hard to express things verbally, so I paint my feelings.”
Growing up in a military family, Rice-Baham bounced from state to state. Early on, painting became her foundation and safe space.
“I could always go to the canvas or paper with paint, and not worry about anything else,” she recalls.
As the pandemic halted her furniture work, she began scrolling through her phone at home, looking longingly at thousands of old vacation photos, textures and landscapes collected over the years. Soon, she was layering the images with her own paintings and whimsical digital experiments.
Like the aesthetics of her home, her digital art is made for relaxation.
“I call it digital collaging, but it’s really all play,” Rice-Baham says. “Play and therapy.”
Even when cooking or watching TV with her husband, Rice-Baham’s phone, her creative tool, is never far from her hand. She’s always tinkering with her images, which now emblazon a variety of products—from prints and pillow covers to phone cases and drinkware. That variety is due to her use of print-on-demand services, and her biggest advice to creatives: “If you can get away with it, don’t keep inventory.”
Though she feels some pressure to better define her style to be a sustainable and more recognizable artist, she believes creativity should be deeply emotional, an out-of-body experience, so a lot of control is not in the plan.
“Right now, it’s all exploration,” Rice-Baham says. “It can be difficult to do, but you literally have to let yourself go.”