Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, and for Rachel Trusty, the beginning of her journey starts with the time she spent with her mother as a child. “My mother was very crafty,” she recalls, “she was always sewing, or crafting and she doodled and stuff like that.”
Trusty, an only child, would sit on the floor, playing and sewing while her mother worked on various projects. “I always had access to her craft room and we would make stuff together,” she says.
As she grew, she found herself becoming more entrenched in art, and eventually chose to study art education at the University of Central Arkansas. It was there that she received a great deal of influence on her work. She says a large amount of influence comes from a mixed-media contemporary arts class taught by Liz Smith, and her graduate mentor Holly Laws who also teaches contemporary mixed-media at the school. “These two really changed and guided all my art-making,” she remembers.
Her interests are vast, including everything from painting to sculpture to drawing. She has a thing for material-driven pieces, as she says, “I like to work with different things. The thing that interests me the most is using materials and then gaining meaning from them. Instead of making a painting from scratch, I like to use materials that already have content and then reconfigure them so their meaning is deepened.”
When she was working on her MFA at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., her professors gave her some advice on how to tie her varying interests together. “They suggested that I stick to thematic work, and that way I could work in a lot of different mediums and materials and it would still be cohesive.”
An upcoming SOMA exhibit at The Essie Purse Museum illustrates this quality. Trusty created a series of floral sculptures which she calls ‘portals,’ and which have more than an aesthetic aim. The silk flowers were obtained from her family cemetery, harboring a weighted meaning before they were molded into sculptures. “It’s kind of an homage, it’s supposed to be a portal, a veil. You can see through them, but you can’t see all the way. It’s about life and death, but then again, about the forever-ness of the silk flowers,” she explains.
Trusty likes to explore themes focusing on women in her work. She says, “I want to talk about the women’s perspective. I also talk about propriety and rules and following those rules as a woman – things like that.”
She is extremely proud of an exhibit she had at the Historic Arkansas Museum last winter. “It was really exciting to have the show at HAM, that’s really my favorite museum in town because I’m an art person and a history person. I loved it,” she says. Her work has also been on exhibit elsewhere around the state, as well as in Boston.
Originally from Russellville, Trusty believes that Little Rock is a great place for an artist to grow – “I feel like it is the best place in the state as far as arts culture.” She goes on to cites the Argenta area as a neighborhood that has really tapped into the local art scene. “It’s catching momentum and I think it will only get better,” she says.
At least, while she is here getting involved, it will. In response to her fourth rejection letter from the Arkansas Art Center’s annual Delta Show, she decided to host a Salon de Refuses show for the artists who didn’t make the cut.
As far as having a premier call-show for artists, Trusty is glad the Delta exists, but she feels that something might possibly be lacking. After all, 57 years is a long time to host a show. Perhaps the vision is a little muddy, or the juror process needs to be updated, but as she says, “Regardless, I thought it would be fun to host a Salon de Refuses.” And, all work is welcome. “If it’s good it’s good, if it’s bad it’s bad – but everyone’s welcome,” she says.
The exhibit will take place at the Argenta Library, and is also already slated to occur next year alongside the Delta Show.
She is also helping to spearhead an Arkansas Art Educator show, which will be held in Argenta as well, in November of this year. “I’ve taught for nine years,” she says, “and there was talk about wanting to host an art teacher show but no one ever did it.” This left the perfect window for her to get involved and make it happen. So far the number of entries has been overwhelming, so she expects to get a panel together to juror that show.
This could be the beginning for Trusty to really get involved with other shows, as she says, “Now that I’ve been on a roll, it just clicked, and I’m hoping to continue to work with galleries around town.” She already is working with the Argenta Library on a show which will debut the month of December exhibiting work from the United Cerebral Palsy of Arkansas organization. “They have an art program and we will be displaying work from their clients,” she says.
When not creating fine art, Trusty turns to her roots and the days she used to sew with her mom. Currently, she has an Etsy shop, Ratty T’s, in which she offers dyed t-shirts with various stencil-bleached designs that she creates. She’s had the shirts at festivals such as Etsy-fest and Legends of Arkansas in the past and plans to continue to work the festival circuit.
She’s also expanding into jewelry, working on a line that will exhibit stones from the Hot Springs area.
When not teaching, art-making, or craft-making, it’s likely Trusty is sleeping. The super organized artist loves to create as she says, “I work from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed.” Not a bad way to go, if you love what you do, and thankfully for Trusty, she does.