The Stunning, Emerging Artist Breaks Molds Wherever She Goes
Written By: Elizabeth Nutt Test the Boundaries with Artist Rachel Harris
Photographed By: Taylor Lewis
Rachel Harris’s work is centered on the idea of layering texture and color. In her collection of abstract works, resin, cement, plaster and paint come together to create unexpected, beautiful imagery. Imitating her art, Rachel, too, is comprised of many layers. There’s the gorgeous, blonde model, the quiet thinker and the strong, bold woman who’s hell-bent on shattering stereotypes associated with artists. She’s creating a career the way she creates art—with a little sweat, intuition and a lot of forward thinking.
Raised on a ranch in LA, Rachel describes her upbringing as isolated and will tell you that she was sort of a loner growing up. Art filled a void in her life. “I was quiet—that was my nature. I definitely wasn’t a cheerleader, ” she says. “I picked up art at a very young age as something I could work on and have for myself, sort of a self-validation. I’ve always loved working with my hands and creating something on my own.”
She went on to attend the California College of the Arts and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and actively pursued positions within the fashion industry, dabbling in more technical art forms. Those experiences led her to discover an art form that would soon define her signature style.
“I was in school, working for a designer, spending time in these warehouse lofts with a lot of construction material. I found that a lot of those materials that I was using would be very interesting if used to make art, and I really hadn’t seen that being done before, ” Rachel says. She started experimenting with different techniques and materials. “It was very freeing. I’ve been doing art my whole life, but when I started working in this form, that’s when I really found my voice.”
While she was still a student, Rachel survived a motorcycle accident that temporarily placed her in a wheelchair. The experience gave her a determination to follow her gut as an artist. In the spring of 2015 Rachel threw herself her very first art show, using a unique venue that had never before been utilized for a show. On that first night, she sold out of the show’s 16, large-scale abstract works.
That same evening, Rachel met her future manager Heidi Cortez, who eventually introduced her to Playboy’s senior photographer. When the iconic magazine invited her to do a nude shoot with her art as part of the set, she was both surprised and hesitant.
“I think my hesitation was that a lot of art critics would consider it distasteful—you’re not really supposed to sell yourself with your art. I was definitely nervous because I was nude, ” she says. The shoot challenged Rachel, taking her out of her comfort zone. Looking back she says it was an incredible experience that opened many unforeseen doors. Rachel has since launched a modeling career that complements her career as an artist. Modeling helps her come out of her shell and bridge the gap between art and fashion, which she believes are inherently connected.
More important to Rachel than gaining recognition and fame is the fact that she has the opportunity to show the world the woman behind her art. “I want to be a public artist. In the past, I think artists have been viewed as these crazy, tortured souls who hide behind their art dealers. But I think now, with social media, people are interested in getting to know the artist as a person.”
Challenging expectations has been at the forefront of Rachel’s mind over the last year. When she found out that she’d be Playboy’s Miss November 2015, Rachel scrambled to pull together a second show, rather than ride the wave of her newfound popularity. “I knew people would be looking at what I’m doing and I wanted something to show for it. I wanted people to see that this is not some gimmick. I work hard every day, this is very real for me, ” she says.
Today, she’s channeling all of that passion into putting together a third show. Though she’s seen impressive momentum over the past year in her modeling career, Rachel insists that you’ll see her with more paint than product in her hair.