Six questions for
Heather Rasmussen

Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Heather Rasmussen.

Artist Heather Rasmussen
Lives in Los Angeles, CA, USA
Website https://www.heatherrasmussen.com/

How do you describe your own art practice?

I have a studio practice that has been evolving for over a decade now. I create and photograph still lifes which then also become sculptures. I’ve made scans and casts of my legs and feet and included them in photographs and videos. I interact with objects – mirrors, found chairs, giant or moldy vegetables and textures such as packing blankets or towels. These objects have become a cast of characters that play different parts throughout my practice. As a dancer and a mother, I’ve seen my own body change, grow and even become a food source for my son and I’ve attempted to convey these changes through images. Although my work may feel very formal, I’m interested in the documentation of deterioration, movement and experimentation that comes together in my space.
Recently my practice has begun including other people for the first time. In 2021 I created a ‘mirror room’ where I could make photo-multigraphs. Normally two mirrors are used to create 5 subjects from one sitter, but I wanted to make these reflections of my whole body. Throughout the process of working in this space, I began to invite family and friends into my studio, and over the last year I’ve made portraits of others as well as myself. Sometimes I’m hidden or completely out of the frame, but sometimes you can see me making an expression that the subject is reacting to, or we are even sitting together in this confrontative but intimate space.
I make photographs almost every day outside of the studio and have an ongoing photographic series Compile. Shot in medium format film, these pictures capture isolated moments of domestic and urban environments that ring with a canny sense of color, texture, and a fragility that lends lightness to subject matter imbued with process: stacking, preparation, dilapidation, death, and overgrowth. The work is best viewed in book form so the parallels and conversations between images can be seen. I’ve made a book every four years and have three volumes currently.

Which question or theme is central in your work?

I’ve been adding to this table of ideas and themes around my work.

What was your first experience with art?

Ballet class starting at the age of 4 and a lifelong time seeing ballet at the theatre. Making paintings at home and entering local contests. Going with my mom to craft fairs where she would display and sell her cross stitching and toll-painted wares. Art classes in school and AP art in high school. Christo and Jean Claude umbrellas in 1991. We went to lots of musicals but the most memorable was The Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles when I was in elementary school. The Van Gogh show in Los Angeles at LACMA 1998.
My mom always tried to expose me to all kinds of art. My dad always had me experiment with him in his workshop of computers. I feel genuinely lucky to have always been supported by my parents – whether wanting to be a professional ballerina or a visual artist, they have always encouraged me to do what I love. Although I did not pickup a camera at a young age, I think it was appropriate for me to find my way to photography. I love the technical aspects, as well as the surrounding equipment needed to digitize negatives, produce prints, light a shoot. It feels like the perfect combination for me.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

My body, bodies in general. Looking in the mirror at myself and my body’s imperfections. My son and his face. Light. Dance. Movement. Skin. The way film looks. The way prints look from film. Polaroids. Looking through the waist viewfinder of the Hasselblad 503CM camera. Overgrown vines loaded with flowers. The camellia tree in my backyard that produces pink and white striped flowers. Subtle changes of light and color throughout the day. The Los Angeles sky the day after rain. The spiral of a shell or the way a daikon radish looks like two feet hugging each other.
I also gather inspiration from other artists and their practices. I’ve been looking closely at
Edward Muybridge, Etienne Jules Marey, Weegee, Hans Breder, Magritte, Yves Tanguy, Kay Sage, Joan Miro, Raphelle Peale, Juan Sanchez Cotan, Andre Kertesz, Joann Callis, Simone Forti, Eliot Porter, Sarah Charlesworth, Paul Outerbridge, Michiko Kon, Whitney Hubbs, Carmen Winant, Lucas Samaras, Roe Etheridge, Francesca Woodman

What do you need in order to create your work?

As a mother of a 5-year-old, I really need time to be able to create my work. I end up stealing time at the end of a workday, or a few hours on a weekend.
Ideally, I’d have a studio where I can control the light. Objects that I’ve collected and backgrounds I’ve printed. Art books that I can sit and look at during breaks. A comfortable chair. A shooting table with stands for hanging backgrounds. Lighting, camera equipment, tripod, computer, film!
In the end, I just need my eyes and my camera.

What work or artist has most recently surprised you?

I’ve been following the work of photographer Justine Kurland for a long time, but when her book S.C.U.M.B. Manifesto came out I was totally blown away. I’m used to seeing her gorgeous, large format photographs of people in the landscape, but this was a whole other thing. The first, that she would actually cut up books, was daring to me. but to reclaim the female body through cutting up and reconfiguring male photographer’s books, she is also reclaiming a history of photographic publications and really the history of photography itself.

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