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Meet JR Rapier

Today we’d like to introduce you to JR Rapier.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I have always been a Texas girl and a slightly weird one. When I was growing up, I played army outside with my brothers, and I ran through creeks running from imaginary Indians with my best friend (who is still my BFF). She and I came up with some pretty amazing play characters that we kick ourselves now for not writing our own “adult swim” books featuring these characters. We would roll around laughing on the floor, crying and would get stitches in our sides. We thought we were so funny. For an example, one of our characters was half of a naked Ken doll… you know, we were 10, maybe younger, so we played with Barbies but in a really deranged way. Our half of a naked Ken doll was the bottom half. His name was “Butt.” All he did was chase the Barbie’s, and well, “do them.” Whatever that meant, we actually had NO idea what “Do it” meant, but it was hilarious to us at the time and it’s still pretty hilarious now.

After my BFF and I were heavily made fun of, I think we closed our creativity off to fit in with our peers. That was rough mainly because we had to hide our deranged sense of humor and laugh at ourselves and at our inside jokes under our breath. Eventually, we both went to different schools, and unfortunately, closed up that avenue of creativity for the sake of our social lives. I went to University to study Design Communication in 1991, in a nutshell, I spent 20-ish years in advertising (and painting in my spare time a few times a month.) My life fell apart, divorce, layoffs all that. And then my 1st husband died. That was my tipping point. I said the HELL with it, I can’t die without ever living out my dream, or living in a dream.

My dream ever since I was a little girl was to be an artist and paint. And so, I quit doing advertising, I found new love and became involved with spiritual shamanism to heal. I had plenty of healing to do, but what I forgot about was “Butt,” the symbol of complete freedom in my inner child’s mind. I forgot I had this deeply deranged creativity that I packed away. I stopped laughing, enjoying my craft, my art, and most importantly, myself. Through life tragedies, trauma, and then some searching for myself, I rediscovered my inner child. I’ve been painting exclusively for six years. I started off searching for subject matter. I was attracted to landscape – enjoyed painting it enough, but then my inspiration started morphing into painting trees and driftwoods, which I also enjoyed enough, and likely to paint again. I painted skulls for 3 or 4 months, and again, enjoyed them too, but it wasn’t enough.

Something along the way shifted. Spirit showed me a vision I couldn’t understand. A woman in an egg with a rooster as a head, and a piglet or fox sitting on top of the rooster was my first vision of the kind. I painted it with dis-ease. I said to myself, “What the hell? Have I *ucking lost it?” I started painting figures and not only figures but figures with messed-up postures and heads. And this is the most fun I’ve had since imaginary Indians in creeks, half-naked Ken dolls chasing my barbies —since playing and laughing in church, since playing kickball and dodgeball, etc. The painting is never clear when I start – the painting takes a life of her or his own. They become entities themselves, and they tell me how they want to be created. And it’s fun to just play, not worry about what the rest of the world thinks. This is mine, and I’m the creator.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m fairly serious about my art. I used to be pressured about it’s meaning (because I didn’t really know and felt I needed this pretentious reason and whys of what I painted). There is an energy about being inspired and following through with it. I’m a little bit of a maniac about what inspires me. Trees for instance. They talk to me. If a tree hasn’t spoken to you, then you will not understand. It’s not just one tree it’s ALL of them, When my landscape inspiration experienced a dry spell, I remember laying in bed in a funk about what to paint next. I started hearing all these children yelling and screaming outside. Completely sober I shoot out of bed after not being able to sleep for an hour, and I go outside because I think it’s a group of children outside causing all this commotion.

I live in the country. I’m standing there and it’s the tree’s screaming, “Paint me! Paint me!’ It was the strangest, craziest, most insane thing ever. So, I take these type of random acts of spirit communication whether I can understand them or not into account. I paint what I’m attracted to, or from a vision that has come to me or in the tree case, what is screaming at me. I don’t paint for the hopes of fame or to sell. Yeah, sure I’d like to live and to live you need fuel. As an artist, it definitely pays to sell your work. It’s a type validation that you are not crazy, but regardless, I do it because it’s my vocation. I’m drawn to the canvas. It could be 3 in the morning, and I can’t sleep. I go to my studio and have the best 3 hours of painting because some energy is flowing through. Call it God, call it spirit, some divine thing. I don’t know. I just know the energy is clear and focused. Something was not letting me sleep in the middle of the night. Messages from my soul? Messages from my future alien-self?

Sometimes I have no Earthly idea why I painted what I painted and what it means. It just happens and I’m fulfilled. Usually, others see something they love and relate to, in my experience anyway – some think it’s too dark, and some really get moved. I realize a lot of my work relates to woman, fertility, and ancestry. These are mirrors of me. I’m a woman, playing with manifesting and communicating with ancestry lines through my spiritual work. Healing and owing acknowledgment to unhealed speed bumps I suppose. My work is an illustration of my interior self. For all artists, it takes courage to show yourself in that way. Over the years, and with each painting the layers of ego melt away, and my acknowledgment to my self, and to my art gets to be seen and discovered through others eyes.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
Most definitely the role of the artist has changed, but changed from when? In the Leonardo days, artists were important public figures, aristocrats, etc. There used to be medical artists, political artists, courtroom artists, graphic designers who went to a University for a full degree, so on and so on. The world, at least the U.S. has a different value system today. Today artists are considered anyone that can take a photo with their phone, and apply a filter. Technology has taken over the artist’s role. Every type of artist feels this growing pain — how do you remain a creator and not a duplicator or replicator. The talent pool has definitely broadened but also has been watered down.

The world has been whittled-down to systems that are cheaper, faster, better, but more accurately just cheaper. The value on art is not considered a profession as much as it’s a leisure, semi-mystical activity to most. Today’s work ethic is much different than it was even 30 years ago. It’s a ludicrous world out there – your healthcare pretty much robs you, your doctor is not going to prevent you from getting sick, but they will prescribe you a bandaid bullshit pill, your school system will only teach you what’s on the STAR, SAT, or PSAT test. Never mind Civics! And teachers, policemen, firefighters and alike have to live outside of the city they teach and protect because they aren’t paid enough to live inside the city in which they work. I don’t feel artists have any unlucky hand because look at our world and what we as a society value!

My wishes and hopes are that artists are still seen as the one who creates something out of nothing. A creator. A manifestor. In today’s world, I the artist, have discovered I actually can’t allow my art to unfold when I’m paying attention to the world’s events and issues, or even my family’s issues. There is so much drama, and noise that I have to turn off all media, and focus on the interior world of human issues, feminine connections, and just create, not react. I have to isolate, become a hermit, and cut myself off from the chaos that can easily pull me from being present with myself. I am no longer co-dependent to the news, social media, sit-coms or realities series, even NPR pulls me away from the present. The energy I tap into involves a huge amount of meditating and listening. Art comes from within. It’s not something that just happens. It’s something that wants to be seen, and you have to be free and clear of your own bullshit to allow it to come through.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Last year, I was one of ten artists in Austin to win a free year of advertising on an Austin city billboard. You may have seen “Eldorlore” a painting of 1000-year-old tree that exists in Goose Is. State Park with monarch butterflies on a billboard, on I-35, or Airport Blvd, or South Congress Ave. I will be part of a national juried group show at Keep Contemporary, a cutting-edge contemporary gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. February 22 – March 17, 2019. The opening reception is Feb 22, 5-8pm. My work is represented by Art For the People on South 1st, Austin, TX. I also have small pieces on sale at Art & Soul Design located on South Lamar in Austin. Other places to view and purchase originals, reproductions or prints is https://www.saatchiart.com/jrrapier. I also have a studio near Dripping Springs where you can purchase directly from me at jrrapier.com.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Richard Casteel – photo credit for personal photo; OShea Gifford – photo of me in front of my billboard.

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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