Issue No 17

Right Before Our Eyes

BY Tom Koehler

Rachel Roze knows what she is doing. The myths her works create feel nostalgic, with a fleeting timelessness. It’s both refreshing and sincere. Choices of bold pop enthused clippings and saturated colors that bend compositions to their will with a Godardian sensibility, acknowledging awareness and control of the medium. Similarities and narratives are drawn by the viewer, seemingly unprovoked. In her black and white series "Right Place,” a dark, misty forest follows what looks to be a solo standing three story home, both sharing a similar eventless grey sky and a personal conversion of a loneliness both natural & manmade.

Her nudes strike careless poses with a passive bravado, non-shocking and calm, in a state of absolute comfort in each of their skins. A sensual map of the human form is captured with absolute intent, and no fear of beauty, liberated from preexisting ideals. In the face of such stark human beauty, the questionably opposing images of street people and civilians do not appear out of place, but rather as coexisting informers that mirror the reality that a city provides, when lead there by such a clever trail of breadcrumbs.

Tom Koehler spoke to Ms. Roze for 1985, long-distance to Detroit, MI.

Tom Koehler: So, first question- where are you from?

Rachel Roze: I’m from Long Island, New York and grew up there my whole life. At 19 I moved to Ojai California and moved around LA a bit and then came back to NY. So LA, NY, and now I’m living in Detroit.

TK: Nice. What brought you to Detroit?

RR: My boyfriend is from Detroit. I absolutely love it here, it’s been great. I still jump back and forth a little bit.  

TK:  And what area is it in Detroit?

RR: I live in Southwest Detroit. We’re really in a great area, right near downtown. It’s in the mix of everything. It’s nice. I love it.

TK: How old were you when you started producing work?

RR: I think I didn’t really, until... well, I always say 19. When I moved to California is when it became much more serious. I went to a photography school out there & got a bachelors in visual communication --- which was graphic design and photography and video and everything visual. That’s how I came about really. First the move.

TK: What kind of stuff were you producing as a kid?

RR: The most creative thing that I look back now and think about that I was doing was that I would rearrange my room, and decorate my room, and use these insane themes all the time and that’s something I was doing since I was little kid. I was painting my furniture and picking a theme for the colors and everything else --- I would see a movie or something, and then everything would have to be those colors, and that to me was the only thing in the very beginning that I did, all the time, that was creative. And then taking photos, I would just use throwaway cameras all the time and that kind of stuff.

TK: I notice the color in your work. That’s something that spoke to me a lot, your use of colors…

RR: I love primary colors, they’re my favorite. As a child, my mom painted my bedroom the brightest red. It was the reddest room with white furniture, and now people point out that I always use those colors. 

TK: Why do people make masks?

RR: In what sense?

TK: Like humans. Throughout history.

RR: I was at The Met recently looking at ancient masks, and that was my favorite part of going there. I think that to disguise yourself, to alter your identity, is such a strong choice --- it’s changing your identity – it allows you to reach other parts of yourself. I think for many different reasons people have made masks to either hide something or because they want to…bring out another side of them that they feel like they couldn’t if they had their flesh showing. I don’t know. I love when…when you put on a mask, I feel like when you hide your face, you allow yourself to be really who you want to be. Its like no one can look through you, I mean people can look at your eyes, maybe, but when you hide your face there is something so, it’s just like the ultimate hidden way to still be around people. It’s just the best way to alter yourself and hide yourself and become something else.

TK: What human emotions do you find interesting?

RR: Most interesting?

TK: Or just one that comes to mind maybe.

RR: I mean... Happiness? That comes to mind.

TK: What do people find important in today’s world?

RR: and sometimes I wonder whether that is really the most important thing to achieve. What makes happiness the ultimate emotion? I think people are all searching for happiness. People are always talking about happiness and how important that is and sometimes I wonder if that is the most important thing to achieve. So many people--- I think it’s interesting that so many people will answer any question with “oh well does it make you happy” or “at the end of the day if it makes you happy” or “when I die I want to be happy” but really, you know, I don’t know if that is what we should be striving for -- You know, what makes happiness the ultimate emotion to achieve? And why is it so? Why is that the ultimate emotion?

TK: What do you believe in?

RR: As far as? Emotions? Or... Religion?

TK:  Maybe just something that you strongly believe in…

RR:  I believe in…(silence)… I believe in passion. You have to have passion or you’re dead. That’s what I believe in. People that have an interest in something. The killers in life are depression, and failure, and giving up, and losing your childhood imagination. That really all comes down to passion. The most important things in life are passion and imagination –- without those you are dead, you disappear. Existing but not existing. I know people that have no passion and no passion in anything and are just sort of living day by day never knowing what they’re really interested in. Their whole lives are just kind of – I know older people that never really had anything that they felt really strongly about. And you know, most artists, or most creative people are really passionate about something -- and it can be something that I’m completely not interested in -- but to just see somebody have something that they are so…that they’re driven by… That’s it. That’s what’s really important.

TK: Do you think this lack of passion is something that always has been, or a product of the Internet age?

RR: We’re being visually desensitized. Our generation has witnessed a massive transitional period in time in the short time it has taken for the Internet to span the earth. What comes along is the crumbling of natural, innate human emotions and experiences. We’re seeing it right before our eyes and we’re feeling it taking us over .

TK: Much of the Internet is people creating personas outside of the physical world.

RR: I look at stay at home mothers who take perfect pictures of their family life – everyone has it, it’s not just ‘creative’ people. Every single person in the world has some kind of persona that they give off. People want to make things look better than they are, and tell people everything’s fine. Rarely do people say ‘Oh, I’m fucking depressed, I hate my life, and I jerk off all day.’ No ones gonna say that shit. It’s always ‘Oh, things are great, I’m doing this and this, and got another baby on the way.’ The difference now is the internet provides a much larger platform. And the access children have to online pornography means a boy’s first sexual experiences today are going to be much different than a boy of the past, who might actually see and touch a vibrant naked human body.  Interactions are changing. Technology is replacing humanity.

TK: What would your advice be – have your kids grow up playing in the mud, somewhere without this?

RR: Part of me feels like I would die if my kids saw have the stuff that’s out there right now – this is the part of me that feels like I shouldn’t even have kids. The best thing to do for kids is to love them, let them see the world how it is, if you try to hide things from them it’s only going to be harder on them, in this world.

TK: If I asked you to think of one symbol, what is it?

RR: Yin- Yang.

TK: What’s your favorite color?

RR: Red.

TK: What kind of car do you favor?

RR: Right now, 80’s Corvettes.

TK: Do you find inspiration in music?

RR: I definitely am always listening to music while I’m creating and working on stuff. I have so many genres of music that I listen to. It’s hard to say. My mom playing the piano is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world to me. I grew up with fifteen pianos in my house. So maybe…Piano? That’s instantly the most beautiful sound in the world to me.

TK: How about visual inspirations?

RR: Movies. I definitely think they are the biggest visual inspiration by far. Movies.

TK: Do you think film is the most progressive form of art today?

RR: Really I think that movies and film are the most important to me. That combination of music and color , photography and art direction …It’s everything in one and when people go into a movie theatre and you’re in a dark room and the lights turn off and you’re prepared to have an experience and then you’re in somebody else’s world for an hour or two. When I go to art show with paintings on the wall and there are a million people in the gallery and everyone’s saying ‘hi’ and you have to deal with the social bullshit  -- I feel like that takes away from the experience. I know you shouldn’t be thinking like that, but when you go to an art show people are there for the social aspect and who’s there and who you’re going to run into and I just feel like that experience isn’t artistic at all. And it takes away from what’s hanging on the wall. 

TK: What is the purest form of art?

RR: For me – the best experience of art, is to see a movie. And sometimes, I definitely feel pure in the sense that if it’s really coming from a place of expressing yourself and something that is honest with someone, whoever is creating it, then that’s pure, but as far as to say how “pure,” I’m not sure. I just feel there’s a lot that isn’t. I feel like a lot of people make art for reasons other than I think that are true to themselves, so…I don’t know. But I guess everything is an expression at the end of the day, which is, or could be, pure.


TK: So what’s next?

RR: I feel like things go in waves. We had a sexual revolution in the 1920s, and then went into the conservative 50s.  I don’t know what’s to come, but I think that people are going to need more; I think people need more love, more substance. I think people are going to get tired of a lot shit that’s happening. People are going to gain a lot of knowledge from this time, and learn from it.

At the end of our conversation, I wondered what this seemingly pointless search meant to her, and/or if she ever meant to imply that the opposite can be tragically enjoyable. If the ones of whom she spoke lacking passion were subconscious symbols of her own spirit, guilting her to continue to tear through reality in search of her own meanings, of being and being happy.

All images courtesy & Ⓒ the Artist