Artist Interviews 2021

Rachael Dobos  
By Laura Siebold

Rachael Dobos is a queer artist based in Oakland, California. She founded the gallery space Queermilk in Oakland and has recently collaborated with Queer Arists Collab LA, installing her exhibition “Blight”. The exhibit showcases colorful displays of materials, mostly trash, bathed in neon colors, and invites the viewers to become active participants by incorporating white elements into their outfits. The exhibit aimed to mark the importance of queer-centric spaces for the queer community after the worst of the pandemic is (hopefully) over. In her interview, Rachael talks about her first encounters with art and about how the pandemic enabled her to create more art, every day.

You have many artistic talents – you illustrate, tattoo, restore art and build sculptures. Can you tell us when and how you first got into contact with art?

I have been marking art ever since I was a kid. I’ve always been drawn to the bubbly, snotty, waste-like forms – brains, quits, slime etc. in early 90’s cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Toxic Avenger. I got serious about art in high school and went on to study fine art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I got into picture framing as a day job that was able to support the cost of framing my own work for gallery shows and pay the bills. Tattooing was a natural progression because a lot of my illustrative work is easily translatable into tattoo designs. I’ve always loved tattoos and have a big collection of some of my favorite artists on myself, as well!

Was there a special moment or incident in your life which made you dedicate your career to art?

Definitely. I was in my high school art class and my teacher, Mr. Robert Parker, looked at a weird drawing and said “this is exciting”. That’s all it took.

Your gallery space Queermilk in Oakland, California is currently closed due to pandemic restrictions. How much has the pandemic influenced your ability to work as an artist?

Despite having to shut the doors of Queermilk, the pandemic did give me the opportunity to make art all day every day because I lost my framing job. I made a few paintings surrounding about the pandemic in addition to many Blight sculptures that were about the weird culture of home – made masks early in the pandemic.

How much does energy and the people you work with influence the outcome of your art?

I mostly prefer to create art alone, and usually at night without distractions. But bringing artists together to collaborate and put on themed shows is one of my favorite things to do. My best friend Ralph Broune is someone I’ve always been able to sit around and draw with, and we made a funny black light painting together during the pandemic and did weird photoshoots with toilet paper and Covid-costumes, too.

Your paintings are very expressive and often show distorted depictions of humans and animals, blurring the borders between reality and imagination, whereas your immersive art and sculptures are very abstract at times. You are a master of blending different forms, shapes, and materials. How is the process of working on a drawing different from working on immersive art or sculptures?

I think I’m a lot more experimental when I make sculptures. It’s important to play and try new things and see where it takes you. The two processes definitely influence each other – either by bringing my drawings to life or drawing the forms I create.

Your exhibit “Blight” in collaboration with Queer Artists Collab LA is coming up in June (Blight is on view June 16th through June 30th, 2021). Queer Artists Collab LA describes the show as “an immersive gallery experience that explores the importance of queer-centric spaces in the post-pandemic world”. Is this your first exhibit since the start of the pandemic? How did the collaboration come to life? What can we expect from the exhibit?

I had a closing reception for Queermilk at my Jingletown warehouse space before I moved to LA. It was a small gathering for safety reasons and was the first time I showed the Blight sculptures. The title ‘Blight’ came about as a reference to various types of plant disease or fungus that causes withering or decay. But it can also be used to regenerate growth. The sculptures have a fungal, disease-like quality to them, and I just kept making them as I watched the pandemic take over the world in isolation in my warehouse. Because we lost so many queer spaces during the pandemic, I wanted to do an installation with these ‘blights’ to regenerate life into the queer community, and bring us all back together, and Jordan and Taylor at Queer Artist Collab gave me the opportunity to do that.

Can you tell us about a favorite moment in your career which reassured you to continue your artistic career? What kind of projects do you enjoy most?

There were many moments that kept me going, as well as support from fellow artists and friends most notably my grandma, Spratx Gallery in Austin, TX, and my friends Lisa Harr and Ralph Broune and my girlfriend Vicki.

How did you find your unique artistic voice? Did art help you to define your identity as a queer artist?

By messing around and drawing weird shit! It’s definitely shaped my identity and helped me find community.

If you could work with anyone in the world, which artist would you like to collaborate with and why?

It would have to be the tattoo artist Grime or Matt Kerley – I love their styles and would love to learn from them.

We are curious what you are currently working on. Can you give us an insight into future projects?

Now, that the show in L.A. is hung, I’m really just focusing on drawing for tattoos, making flash, and working on my technique. I’m obsessed with it. I think that will be the main area of focus for quite some time, and possibly doing more Blight shows in the Bay Area.

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