Written by Alli Kennedy
Photographed by Blair Bellaire
Rachel Tabor’s striking blue eyes stare into the distance as her words chase stories of her friends, family, and her artistic endeavors. She’s wearing an outfit she proudly picked out from clothes scattered on the floor of her room and gold earrings, shaped like hands with a peculiar engraved swirl in the middle, that she got from a thrift shop in Colorado. “I don’t know if the swirl means anything. Hopefully, it’s not symbol from a cult that will try and claim me as their own,” she says laughing.
Rachel is motivated by curiosity, picking figs from trees on the way to class, just to know what they taste like, and listening in on conversations at grocery stores to understand better how folks different from her live and care for each other in Anderson. “Someone once told me I’m fun in a serious way,” she says. And that’s true, but she’s also serious in a fun way, in life and in the way she approaches her art. Completely dedicated to her craft, she enjoys every one of the hundreds of hours she pours into projects like her self-portrait made entirely from straws.
Though Rachel did not seriously pursue art until she started college, she has valued creativity in different forms since she was a child. Growing up with four sisters, she often put on plays and musicals, wrote scripts, and designed costumes and sets to showcase her wild imagination and creativity. Ergo, she attributes her love of art to her sisters. Subconsciously, consciously, and with remarkable consistency, Rachel has given women a central role in her art; nearly all her portraits feature women, something she also attributes to her sisters: “My entire world is filled with women; they are collectively my best friends and biggest supporters.” Rachel’s work presents a strong message of female dignity and vitality. “I think my family and friends are proof that girls do get along, and that shows through my work.”
While many of her ideas come from the women around her, she also draws inspiration from literature. Because there is little time for her to read as she pursues a double major in Painting and Drawing and Digital Media Communications, she started listening to audiobooks. “Listening while I’m working in the studio has enriched my process. It gives me more time to think about the book and grapple with new ideas to incorporate into my work,” says Rachel. Her latest body of work was inspired by a quote from G.K. Chesterton’s Christian apologetics classic Orthodoxy: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free . . . they want things repeated and unchanged.” Through a series of figure paintings focusing on the repetition of similar forms rendered in various, dissimilar ways, Rachel explores what it looks like to do the same things over and over to discover the value in repetition, rest, and routine.
Friendships have taught her about God, too, she says. “Beyond caring about relationships, beyond accomplishing things, it’s people who are valuable. People are never a wasted investment.” Rachel is preparing to backpack across Europe with one of her friends after graduation, hitting every art museum she can along the way. But Rachel doesn’t need a plane ticket for an adventure. She laughs as she recalls taking an air mattress to a lake with her friend and paddling around with sticks, waving to boats that passed by. As Rachel moves towards graduation and pursuing her dream of being a “creative director of anything,” she wants God to be the focal point of her relationships and pursuits. She wants to follow where curiosity leads and discover the fun in serious things, in serving God and creating art.