Rachel Perry


Rachel Perry spent every day of her October 2014 residency in the Museum galleries, where she chose one object each day to ponder for an hour, including masterpieces and works that are less familiar. Perry observed that, “in standing before one object for an hour, even after 45 minutes, I could gasp with delight at discovering something I hadn’t seen in it before that moment.” She also used the opportunity to sketch, write, and take photos in the galleries. On Tuesdays, when the Museum is closed to the public, Perry tested out various locations throughout the Gardner for a new series of photographic self-portraits, influenced by the play of shadows in the Museum and her relationship to the many portraits. Another series of works came from counting the halos that are speckled throughout the Collection.

Perry transformed the Artist-in-Residence apartment into a studio where she read and worked on several projects, including an array of Gardner Museum postcards she altered and two large chiral drawings that began as an attempt to make a drawing of lines using every single pen, pencil, crayon and marker that she owned. In the Archives, she looked at Gardner’s guest books and researched the architect Henry Hobson Richardson. She visited the conservation labs, attended Sunday concerts, and the opening of Michelangelo, Donatello, Cellini: Sculptors’ Drawings from Renaissance Italy. Later she returned to give a Brown Bag talk to the staff about her work and time as a Resident.

In 2016, Rachel Perry was the seventh Artist-in-Residence to create a temporary site-specific work for the Museum’s façade. The artist asked us a very open-ended question: “What do you really want?” This seemingly simple question was selected from the subject line of a spam email. Perry crushed and formed the sentence out of a single piece of aluminum foil, then photographed it against Bardini Blue, a color dear to Isabella’s heart.

Using the detritus of daily life, Rachel Perry produces installations, sculptures, photographs, works on paper, performances, and videos in which she explores how identity is both shaped and subsumed by contemporary consumer culture. Misdirected phone messages, spam mailings, receipts, and medical records are among the materials she collects—often in vast quantities—and crafts into her meticulously composed works of art. In her Lost in My Life series for example, she photographs herself almost entirely camouflaged by consumer byproducts such as takeout containers and fruit stickers. Simultaneously personal and universal, Perry’s works map her own life and reveal patterns in ours. She says, “What I am doing here is trying to comment on the daily life of one small life on this planet as it may relate to art and that is all.”

Born in 1962 in Tokyo, Rachel Perry has been in group shows at the Kunstmuseum in Bonn, The Drawing Center in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and the Beatriz Esguerra Gallery in Bogota, Colombia. Her solo shows include Lost in My Life at the Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York, Same Difference at the Barbara Krakow Gallery in Boston, and her first solo museum show 24/7 at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, which traveled to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers in New Jersey. In her second residency at the MacDowell Colony in 2011, Perry received the Catherine Boettcher Fellowship, and is a three-time winner of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award for Excellence in Drawing and Sculpture.

Perry's work is in museums and private collections, and has been reviewed in publications including Art in America, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Huffington Post, Art on Paper, Harvard Business Review, and Sculpture Magazine. Her four-page pictorial essay was published in Vogue in December 2011.

Rachel Perry: What Do You Really Want, 2016. Video by SheridanWorks.