The whole time I'm working I’m figuring out how I feel

Tuesday Night Painting #35

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Rachel Comminos

Hello painters,

Last week we had a wonderful conversation with the skillful Stella Alesi, and this week we are talking to another talent named Rachel Comminos. Located in Harlingen, TX, Comminos was previously mentioned in this newsletter when we made our visit to Grayduck Gallery back in October. 

There was a lot to like at that Grayduck exhibit, but Comminos work stood out to me. The bright colors, eye catching patterns, and soft textures jumped off the wall. I got in touch with Comminos over email to exchange a few questions, so read on below to find out more about these fiber art fancies.

Three of Comminos's works at Grayduck Gallery
Growing Together, featured at Grayduck
2020, hand tufted original design, yarn on Monks cloth, 38 x 26 inches.
Color choices and color selection have been an ongoing interest of mine -- (actually, hold on a sec -- did you hear about the guy Sherwin Williams fired for making paint mixing too popular?) -- and I'm curious about the ways I react to certain colors. I think there's some value to exploring why you have a reaction to a certain artwork or a certain element within the artwork, instead of just accepting that reaction at face value.

Comminos works with some bright, flashy colors, but also plays around with some of my favorite combinations, like pinks and blues. The soft, pastel, rose colored yarn that surrounds her piece Growing Together and also weaves its way into some of her other works is really appealing to me. I'm used to describing certain colors as loud, or energetic, or subtle, or soft, but it's not every day that the colors are literally soft to the touch as well, as they are with these yarn pieces.
I asked Comminos what led her to select certain colors for her work, and how she planned out her color palettes. She told me that her color selection is more intuitive than rigorously planned out. One specific color is chosen, and then the palette is built up around that selection. Comminos gathers up her colors at the beginning of a piece and just sits with them for a while, considering her options. Then when the first "mark" is made, the other color selections flow from that initial choice.

Comminos keeps her yarn organized in bins, bags, and a now-defunct refrigerator. I love the image of getting hungry for a certain color and having to root around in the fridge to satisfy that artistic craving.
A recently completed large piece, made out of wool, mohair, cotton, acrylic, and silk.
42 x 66 inches
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Similar to the color selection process, I was curious as to how Comminos went about designing her pieces. Asked if she made sketches and plans ahead of time, the artist replied that she has "kept sketchbooks for about half of my life now, and of course make plans for shapes and line work in there, but I prefer to see where my days and energy take me."
A peek into a corner of the studio
Comminos makes studio time a regular part of her daily ritual, along with her partner and their three year old son. The trio reside in an old, defunct hotel in Harlingen, a town located at the southern tip of Texas, population 65,000. Their hotel habitation has been reconfigured into a multi-purpose space that includes a gallery, studios for both artists, and a living area.

Comminos finds it easy to work with her son in the studio, as he is also "obsessed with making." Comminos also mentions that she normally focuses in on one piece "pretty obsessively from start to finish" before starting off on another project. Although, if the feeling isn't there, Comminos isn't afraid of shelving it for a while and turning her attention to another project.
The colors have to "sing together" for a work to feel complete. "I want the textures to be inviting, the details interesting, the lines clean and defined (or intentionally messy)," says Comminos. There is something of a paradox involved in making the work the way that she does. The entire time she is working, the artist is trying to figure out how she feels about the piece. But at the same time, Comminos says, "the work is normally based on how I’m feeling."

This focus on feeling makes sense to me, looking at the work Comminos makes. Most if not all artists work with their hands in some way, but the fiber artist has a much more tactile experience in making the work. It's really all about the feeling, and being in touch with your artwork.
In progress works
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I asked Comminos how our current situation has affected her or the way that she works. She responded that being confined to the home isn't anything new to her. "I am a city girl living in a small town that I have never felt very comfortable in or accepted by," Commins says. "There isn’t much for me to do here besides make art and take care of my family."

Comminos told me that she takes her anxieties directed toward the world and herself, and shifts that relationship, redirecting them toward the work. The work is powered by those heavier feelings and generates something beautiful that can be shared and appreciated by the world.
What's always a debate for abstract artists is how much to let on about their work, how much to divulge to the viewer about what provided the seed of the artwork's creation. Comminos tells me that she normally keeps "the narratives of my work to myself and allow the audience to interpret the abstractions that I put out there."

However, other pieces get more quickly to the point, such as the large text piece she made during quarantine (pictured directly above), "which feels both ambiguous and fitting for the moment."
Whether scrolling past Comminos work online or up close in person, it's difficult to deny that every inch, every fiber, is packed full of feeling and energy. The colors and patterns are in a constant state of agitation and vibration. But every piece has a vibrancy to it, and with her inclination toward the bright and saturated, there's an uplifting sensation in every piece.

I want to thank Rachel Comminos for taking some time to participate in this interview. I hope you enjoyed reading about and seeing more of her work, and if you want to see EVEN more then you can check out her Instagram here.
That's all for this week, painters. I will leave you with a grab bag of assorted tunes. Hope you enjoyed this week's interview, have a safe and healthy and happy Thanksgiving. See you next time.

Father John Misty - True Affection
Myd - Together We Stand
Turma do Pagode - Sua Mae Vai Me Amar

See you next time, and happy painting.
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
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