Let’s get freaky
Artist Rachel Moseley shows the beauty in being weird
Rachel Moseley sits perched on a stool wearing a red summer dress with white polka dots as a fan ticks in the background. Her entire Chico apartment is filled with drawings as she prepares for her upcoming exhibit. One of her prints is of a bearded lady whose round-cheeked face looks almost childlike despite the black goatee that curles from her chin. The woman has a wicked glint in her eye as she stares up from the floor.
Moseley’s style is a fusion of her classical training and her tattoo training. This series, titled Freak Show, looks something like circus side-show posters from the 1940s, with a modern twist.
Moseley is a premiering young talent who has already won awards for her work and had a showing in Las Vegas, where she earned more than $7,000—not bad for a 22-year-old debutante.
Her debut came about the same way many successful careers start: She was in the right place at the right time. Todd VonBastiaans, a Las Vegas personality, happened to see Moseley’s art hanging on the wall of someone’s house and was struck by it. He arranged her entire show, framed her art and even catered it with mini-sized circus food like cotton candy and hot dogs.
Originally from Santa Cruz, Moseley came to Chico State to study forensics anthropology. One might say anthropology is a round-about route to becoming a professional artist, but in reality she’s been drawing her whole life.
Moseley recalls drawing with her father, an architect, for hours from the time she was 2 years old. But it was only in the last three years that she started seriously focusing on her art.
“Goddammit, I’ve got such a long way to go,” she said.
Moseley speaks with humility about her art. It seems she hasn’t quite come to grips with the fact that she is, officially, a real artist. It was a surreal experience to see people at her show in Las Vegas and know they were there to buy her art, Moseley reflected. Stranger still is that her art sold like hotcakes.
She has also received a lot of criticism in the Art Department at Chico State from people who claim her works objectify women.
“I don’t identify with being a feminist artist, but I am a feminist,” Moseley said. Despite that disclaimer, it is obvious that Moseley’s art is all about women.
Her drawings deal with women’s sexuality being determined at a young age, which definitely strikes a nerve for her generation.
Women enable each other to be self-destructive, Moseley said. In a post-women’s-lib, post-modern and hyper-sexed world, she said young girls doll themselves up in revealing clothing and act sexual. The worst part is that young women encourage each other to be that way, she added, explaining that in some circles, being called a “slut” is one of the best compliments women can give each other. Young women sometimes treat sex as “a cure for boredom,” Moseley said.
Her approach to the female figure reflects her feminist beliefs, and many of Moseley’s subjects are nude. Most artists paint naked women with eyes averted or off-center because direct eye contact tends to make people uncomfortable. The women in Moseley’s pieces are different. They may be bare, but they aren’t afraid to look you in the eye, un-blinking and unapologetic.
In one of Moseley’s prints a pregnant woman stands with a cigarette dangling from her lips and a bottle of whiskey in her fist. She looks out of the drawing with a cocked eyebrow and an impudent smile.
“These girls are exactly who they are,” Moseley said. “They may be wrong, they may be different, they may be self-destructive, but they are not sorry.”
But there’s also a part of Moseley’s art that is universally appealing—conveying that sense of feeling awkward, or being an outcast. The Freak Show exhibition is a celebration of being different. Even a bearded lady can be beautiful.