Interview with Rahn Marion and David Onri Anderson of Electric Shed about Rahn’s latest solo ‘Back To The Dirt’:
DOA: First of all, I want to ask where did the title come from, or how did you decide to frame the show that way?
RM: Genesis 3:19 ~ “Dust you are and to dust you shall return.” I wanted a title that was encompassing of one or two aspects of each piece. A more spiritually bold phrase with grit. Dirt is grounding, messy, life giving, and essentially us.
DOA: The largest paintings in the show called ‘Mississippi River’ features the Memphis bridge broken in half with a sun rising above it and two fisherman with their heads hanging and their hooks and anchor hanging low as well. Deep below them we see a strata of colors and different fish with a very large and beautifully painted bass in the center with other fantastical sea creatures below as well as some figures. Care to unpack the imagery and symbolism a bit if you don’t mind? I am interested in why this large fish is such a focus. As well as the image of the sun seemingly coming out of the cracked bridge. Almost feels alchemical to me.
RM:I barrow this composition from a monk who illustrated The Revelation of John in 1047. The manuscript shows interesting symbols and angels blowing trumpets with layers of waiting, or chaos unfolding. With this in mind I began this painting when the Memphis bridge snapped and was one of many very plague-like occurrences happening in the world at the time. The Peacock Bass is a native fish to Tennessee , beautiful and almost as big as a whale. The fishermen are unaware of this utopia below, and this possible impending doom. After A.D 64 It was declared illegal to be Christian, sometimes punishable by death, so they would discretely draw a fish symbol in sand in solidarity. Which sometimes as queer people we can do the same but with our clothing or style of hair, etc. I’m interested in this idea of the fish as queer symbolism. Fish are unique, and otherworldly. The sun represents life, energy, clarity and brings light where there is darkness. The layers can be seen as levels of life, death, or purgatory, I’ll leave that to the viewer to decide.
DOA: Throughout your work I have noticed and admired the continuous use of the moth as a subject or image that finds itself into much of your work. What is the significance of the moth to you?
RM: Moths are everything. They’re beautiful, ugly, adaptable, incognito, bold, and transformative. As most people can most likely relate I have the potential to become all of those things, they’re my spiritual insect.
DOA: Your work involves lots of winged figures, mythic figures, figures of color, and images that feel religious, archetypal or even medieval. What are some influences or energies you work with in order to arrive at these images?
RM: Basically I’m in love with religious imagery, from catholic archangels to iconography. I love it all, but I’m more interested in involving people of color into my religious works because that’s what’s true for me. I’m attempting to put myself and people like myself closer into the canon.
DOA: What happens when you switch from painting to working with sculpture? Is there a preference?
RM: I love them both but sculpture has a more physicality to it for obvious reasons, but also on the body as well, I find this very refreshing. Painting is refreshing, but in a mental way. These two are languages of the soul for me, and I feel blessed to be able to communicate and translate my ideas in these ways.
DOA: Your show is called Back To The Dirt, and involves actual dirt, worms, a shovel and things from nature as well as depictions of nature. Also mostly using earth tones. In what ways does the Earth inform you and your work?
RM: The earth is beautiful, I’ve always come back to the earth when I’m stressed, exhausted, getting overwhelmed by digital screens, I walk in the forest, climb a tree, or explore in nature. I use earth tones to convey and sense of calm, warmth, familiarity, ancientness, and the non-material. Dirt also gives us serotonin, and I use to play with worms, and dirt a lot as a kid, in a way it’s nurturing my inner child.
DOA: What other practices do you engage with that may or may not influence your art practice?
RM: My favorite way of excising is skateboarding, I’ve been a skater for about 12 years since freshmen year in high school and I love the community aspect and the relentless spirit of a skater to accomplish their trick no matter how much they fall.
DOA: Is there anything you really want people to know about you and your work that you have up?
RM: Embrace your life and being human we’re here for a short good time, and it should be celebrated and death should be talked about more I feel it’s controversial, or seen as morbid when it’s a natural and inevitable journey, and in knowing that appreciation and gladness of one’s life should follow. Thank you.