Artist Elevates Everyday Lists, Waste At DeCordova

By Jared Bowen


Feb. 17, 2011

Rachel Perry Welty, Lost in my Life (twist ties), 2009, Pigmented ink print, Edition of 1/3, 90 x 60 inches, Courtesy of the Artist, Barbara Krakow Gallery (Boston), Gallery Joe (Philadelphia), and Yancey Richardson Gallery (New York)

LINCOLN, Mass. — As a conceptual artist, Rachel Perry Welty’s art and the notions fueling it know no bounds.

“She’s not tied to one medium. She’s not a painter, she’s not a video artist, she’s not a photographer. She’ll work with whatever medium she feels will best get the idea across,” said Nick Capasso, the senior curator at the deCordova Scupture Park and Museum.
The deCordova's newest show is the first solo exhibition for the Boston conceptual artist. From very personal medical records to wrong numbers to fruit stickers, her canvas is broad, but the ideas sharp.
Welty says she wants to see the ignored -- things lost to their ubiquity or their junk status.
“I’m very much drawn to things that maybe other people don’t pay so much attention to,” Welty said.
In her Lost In My Life series, Welty assesses our society’s remarkable consumerism by inserting herself in landscapes of price tags, colorful food packaging and fruit stickers.
“I’m combining them into these built environments and then stepping in. And essentially camouflaging, losing myself in the work which is my life,” Welty said.

The show takes viewers through a decade of Perry’s life and artistic temperament.

Rachel Perry Welty, Lost in my Life (wrapped books), 2010, Pigminted ink print, edition of 3, 91.25 x 60 inches, Courtesy of the Artist, Barbara Krakow Gallery (Boston), Gallery Joe (Philadelphia), and Yancey Richardson Gallery (New York)

“Rachel is dealing with some pretty important ideas but they’re not that far removed from our everyday experience. So it’s a kind of conceptual art that can hit all of us where we live as 21st century Americans,” Capasso said.
In Karaoke Wrong Number, Welty lip-synchs actual wrong messages she’s received on her answering machine.
“The more I listened to (the messages), the more poignant it became and made me think about these missed connections and how technology can really connects us, but it can impede our communication,” Welty said.
Capasso said it’s a piece with which viewers can empathize.  “A lot of artists use humor as a strategy to engage in the viewer. I think that’s what Rachel is doing fairly consistently here. Not all the works are humorous and in fact a couple are rather grim.”

One of Welty’s earliest pieces is Transcription/Medical Record, where the artist painstakingly recorded every letter and number of her son’s hospital record from a grave illness on 23 sheets.
“It came to me that if I were to transcribe it, it’s almost like reliving the experience and it was giving me a sense of control over this chaos and it was a way of organizing the pain of that experience. Going through having a sick child and not knowing the outcome and not having any answers,” Welty said.

In a similar vein, another piece, Altered Receipt, up-ends the construct of the chaos wrought by her son’s illness — this time using his medical bill.  

Rachel Perry Welty, Altered Receipt: Children’s Hospital Bill for Inpatient Services, 2001–2002, Opaque watercolor on paper, Courtesy of the Artist, Barbara Krakow Gallery (Boston), Gallery Joe (Philadelphia), and Yancey Richardson Gallery (New York)

“I think of one as a drawing and one is a painting. With the bill, it’s 37 pages long. It was obviously a long hospital stay and a lot of money and  I was, I was sort of painting out in these colors, in these beautiful vibrant colors, who knows what horror is underneath,” Welty said.
Welty’s work, Capasso says, combines obsessive technique with dark humor. “And the whole overarching idea that the stuff of your life can be the stuff of your art and they can reflect back on each other. I think for R there’s no separation at all.”
That's clearly the case in 24/7’s most monumental piece: Deaccession Project, in which Welty has meticulously documented one object she has discarded every day since October 5, 2005.
“There’s almost 2,000 of these things on the wall. And as you go through and read them over and over and over you begin to—at first it’s kind of funny, at first its kind of nuts. You know, who would do this. Well it’s art.” Welty said. To her, it tells a story, a narrative she can’t stop reading. Like a good book.
“This was my way of acknowledging that it’s hard to get rid of it. Of course I haven’t really gotten rid of it. It’s all still here,” Welty said.

Sign Up

Sign-up for WGBH News updates, WGBH promotions, and previews of what's coming up on WGBH TV.




Support for WGBH is provided by:
Become a WGBH sponsor