Artist of the Week

Rebecca Denise Tanda

June 18, 2019

Rebecca Denise Tanda (b. 1994) is a visual artist based in Chicago. A graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she has exhibited regionally and internationally. She was an artist in residence at Franconia Sculpture Park, MN in 2018. Other seminal achievements include participating in Art + Literature Lab OFF THE WALL film screening in 2018, co-curating a group show at Carroll University, WI in January 2019 and an exhibition at the Hong Kong Visual Art Center in 2016. Rebecca is the recipient of the Penland School of Crafts Dana Foundation Glass Scholarship in 2019.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I am a visual artist that investigates territory, place and home through sculpture, mapping and sometimes video. When I am not in the studio I am probably reading or picking up birds. My schooling is in urban planning & design and my niche is Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I am drawn to the speculative and the surreal.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?

Recently I’ve been going back and revisiting an older body of work that looks at the geometries of national borders and abstracts them through a digital and material process that I will be showing in November at EXTRA Projects in Logan Square. It’s been nice to take a chance to reevaluate what that works mean to me and what it can give to others in the context of an artist run space. I’ve also been thinking a lot about curriculum development and working on building a public workshop on experimental mold making for that show in particular, and at large of things I would like to teach and invite conversation about. I am also starting a new body of sculptural work that looks at luggage bags and handles.  

Can you explain your process? Where does it usually start?

A lot of my work is project based, but it usually starts by experimenting materially and superimposing forms to find new spatial relationships. This could be from archival maps, passports, iconography or something I find that I simply cannot stop thinking about. There is also a lot of intuitive work and sketching at play. There is usually deep research as a point of entry that goes into the work, but that ends up being transformed somewhere along the way.

When working in sculpture, what inspires your material choices?

I am deeply drawn to texture, and how that can be used to extend the emotional and visual investment in an object or space. I shy away from surface treatments that involve coloring or patination, so when I gravitate towards a material in many ways I am also choosing the color palette that I will work with. Glass holds a very special place in my practice. With it I strive to communicate a resilience and precarity. Although I make it a point to find access to hot glass for some things, I have developed strategies for working with the material in my studio outside of traditional techniques and means. The labor histories and ecologies of materials and topologies at large is something I constantly think about and how to break and play with those rules in productive ways, I think, is where the magic is for me.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you?

Steve Reber’s  ‘Anemic Compass’ at Hyde Park art center was breathtaking to experience. Formally, they looked like theater props or playhouse facades that are half finished but imbued with really tender moments, and a lot of interior-exterior play, and cars, obviously.

What artists are you currently interested in?

Currently, I am obsessed with Cristian Răduță and Shari Mendelson. Mendelson’s command of mundane material and recycled plastic to create what look like ancient vessels is otherworldly. She is an artist in residence at Pilchuck Glass School in Washington state this summer so I might try to fan girl say ‘hi’ to her when I am there this August.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Put in the hours and do the work, don’t just perform the “creative lifestyle.”

What is it like living and working in Chicago?

Chicago is simultaneously the biggest and smallest place I have ever lived. Right before moving here I lived in Shanghai, a city of 26 million on a footprint one-forth the size of Chicagoland, for 6 months and before that, in Hong Kong for 5 years. But Chicago feels so large horizontally, with its chunky city blocks and suburbs. Moving here, I lost a lot of the visual stimuli and habits of urban life that grounded me. It was incredibly unsettling at first. It has however pushed me to focus in a really considered way on what is important and vital to me as a creative person.

What is something you always consider when installing work?

Sightlines and considering the approach towards the work is very important to me, and creating a spatial-relational experience between the works. I like there to be a process of figuring the space out through walking and having an embodied experience with it.

Where do you see your practice going next? Any major changes happening in the studio?

I am currently finishing my degree, which secures me a studio until December 2019. Thereafter I will be in residence at the Nelimarkka Museum in Finland. There is a series of speculative maps that I have been having a hard time completing because of other projects and priorities. Just having a table and a print studio, and not having all the toys and facilities that an institution has for a while will be a good opportunity to execute them. It will also be nice to be closer to relatives for a bit.