Northwest College alumna and mixed-media painter Rachel Stiff’s exhibition “High Gradient” is currently on display in the Cabre Building’s Northwest Gallery on the Powell campus. The artist’s reception will take place Thursday, Nov. 14, from 7-8:30 p.m. in the gallery.
Describing herself as one with “an addiction to physical labor and an obsession with process,” Stiff draws inspiration from the open spaces she experienced during her childhood while growing up in a small ranching community in central Montana.
Her large-scale paintings reflect both the beauty and growth found in decay. Stiff feels that beginning with one idea for a painting and ending up with something completely different is all part of the creative process. She describes this evolution as “satisfying” because all layers of the painting create an underlying history, and ultimately, the meaning of the painting is altered throughout the process of creation.
“Space is what interests me most,” Stiff said. “The West has a lot to offer. From the outskirts of town, one can examine the composition of a city and its relationship with surrounding landforms. There are endless variations of color and light, depending on exact location and time of day.”
Stiff earned her Associate of Arts degree from Northwest College in 2007, her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Montana in Missoula and her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Arizona.
She’s had exhibitions featured in Los Angeles, California, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming. In addition, Stiff’s work has appeared in publications such as Studio Visit Magazine and Superstition Review.
“Through painting I frame the modern West; exit ramps serve sunsets to go and mysterious bluffs quietly exhibit the beauty of perspective from the grocery store parking lot,” she explained. “Working intuitively at first, I allow each painting to develop. The partnership between the painting and myself progresses, as does the importance of decision making. Mistakes, deliberate forms, controlled spills and the culling of positive and negative space are the end result.”
Stiff is currently a fine arts faculty member at Western Nevada College in Carson City.
“In the end, the paintings are both the things remembered as well as the experience and history of being made.”
Admission to the gallery and the artist’s reception are free and open the public. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7-9 p.m. on Thursdays.
The Northwest Gallery is located off the lobby of the Cabre Building.
For more Northwest College events, visit https://nwc.edu/events/.