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Artist Rachel Rotenberg ‘Thinks With A Pencil, Speaks With Wood’

Rachel Rotenberg thinks with a pencil and speaks with wood. She draws and draws and keeps drawing until the forms begin to take shape on the paper and in her mind. Each is a “prevision” not a reiteration of the past. Each is a new expression—a complete feeling.  And there is no title until it is finished—the complete work tells her what it means.

Rachael says that drawing can lead to something not previously imagined…a delight to her and others. There are no limits in her drawings, and very few limits within her sculptures.  They are about space as well as form. The spaces, within and around encompass and create the visuals character. They curve sensually—holding, stepping, twirling. They talk, they sing. The enveloping zone around the large installations can be quietly thunderous.

The sculptures are about ideas and feelings, but they do not translate literally. They are collectively her autobiography—the experience of life. She expresses in wood what she knows “deep down in her bones.” And the wood absorbs and reflects the beliefs and the emotions of a lifetime. At times, colors insinuate themselves, adding another visual dimension and imparting a distinct personality.

Rachel was born in Toronto, Canada. She attended University in Toronto, Jerusalem and New York City receiving her BFA from York University in 1981. In 1984 she moved to a studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and chose wood as her primary medium. In 2014 Rachel began sculpting for extended periods of time in Israel, where she now lives.

You can watch a video of her constructing a large installation on her website and see a complete display of her work at: http://rachelrotenberg.com

Also, she is exhibiting this month at The MacLean Project for the Arts.  (See, At the Galleries.)


Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art.
In the works of Rachel Rotenberg, the empty spaces are not empty, they have substance. They are as essential as the wood itself—as meaningful as the pauses in music or the breaks in poetry. The voids among the solids are like the empty spaces between tree branches…just as alive. They give the trees character.

Most paintings have both active and quiet areas, like skies and mountains…water and boats. But it is all equally essential. The corners are as important as the center. Yes, there are those whose paintings are a solid tone and they are as interesting as a symphony with one long unvarying note.

We understand Rachel’s sculptures because they are us. Our lives are made of positive and negative spaces. We may present a bold face to the world but we remain enigmas to ourselves. We twist and turn and circle back and let various colors impose themselves…and then fade.

We must have quiet times as well as the charged, busy times. Quiet is not the absence of sound; it is a precious force in thinking and imagining. The dead times in the middle of the night, or the times when the mind is just drifting, are buttresses to our creative structures. In those times, pictures appear and then become something else—sometimes floating—sometimes fleeing. But always creating.

Joy without an occasional sorrow is as emotionally numbing as a painting without contrasts: without lights or darks or warms and cools. A color desperately needs to reach out to its complement. Blue reaching for red. Red for green…yellow for violet.  There has to be contrasts. In life, contrasts define the forms.

At the Galleries

Give and Take: Building Form
MacLean Project for the Arts
1234 Ingleside Avenue
MacLean, VA 22101

“Give and Take” features abstract wood sculpture by Rachel Rotenberg (see: Artist Profile) Emilie Benes Brzezinski, Foon Sham and Norma Schwartz. They all work primarily in wood, each presenting a personal vision along with their methodology.                                                                  mpaart.org

Touchstone Gallery
901 New York Ave. NW
Jan. 7-30

Recep: Sun., Jan 9, 3-5

In “Seeing My Way,” Sonya Michel is exploring many different media to express how she sees the world and responds to it. She has been drawn to less conventional materials—the stuff of everyday life—packaging and  labels; textiles, paper and plastics:” found objects large and small. She incorporates them into her work, as is, or by crunching, tearing and other modifications to create collages and assemblages as well as works on canvas.

In “Mass-Balance-Space,” Gale Wallar paints mountain scenes, but they are not your standard landscapes. She focuses on the upper reaches of peaks and glaciers—almost exclusively on snow accumulation zones. She is after “vibrant realism balanced by a sense of serenity.


Juxtapositions” at the BlackRock Center for the Arts
12901 Town Commons Drive
Germantown, Maryland 20874
Jan 15 – Feb 26

Tory Cowles, and the CityDance Conservatory Dancers, come together for a winter celebration of installations and dance. It is always dynamic, but you need reservations. Check this out:


On a personal note:  You can watch the very short video (85 sec.) for my historical fiction novel, The Dead Man on the Corner.  https://youtu.be/bQad2_Ck78Q

You can buy the book on both Amazon and Barnes and Nobel, along with my other new historical fiction novel, John Dillinger and Geronimo. See:  


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