Stories of the Past Meet Movements of the Future

Originally posted on The Torch

By: Molly Newhard

Building 18 is getting a colorful facelift. Muralist Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith’s newest piece is inspired by the late climate activist and Lakota historian LaDonna Brave Bull. 

Wolfe-Goldsmith said they met Brave Bull during Give Power’s solar program launch at the Standing Rock Reservation in July of 2019. Wolfe-Goldsmith pulls inspiration from a video she took of Brave Bull telling a story of the Cannonball River at the Standing Rock Reservation. Her arms waving with the wind, sharing her knowledge of the land with the listeners. She spoke about Lewis and Clark getting lost on the river and naming it “Cannonball” because of the great round sandstones at the end of the river. That story and video are the inspiration for the south wall of the painting which depicts LaDonna Brave Bull speaking between two wildly colorful environments. 

Darker blues and greens flow into pink, blue and orange; the colors as fluid as the story being told. The theme of the whole piece is ecological justice and how that affects racial justice. Wrapping around the east side of Building 18 the mural will feature a mycologist and a runner. Wolfe-Goldsmith said their call to action with the piece is taking care of the earth and the feeling of forward movement and momentum.

Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith attended the Wellsprings Friends School in Eugene. Art being the only thing they always liked, Wellsprings was a fitting place for them to explore their creativity. They took some design and painting classes at Lane Community College before moving to Oakland, California in 2012 wanting to be a “small fish, big pond.” Wolfe-Goldsmith is now the Creative Director of the Bay Area Mural Program which launched their mural career, and allowed them the chance to help other muralists. 

Wolfe-Goldsmith is inspired by their own experiences and by “the archives,” a large bank of work they pull from when designing. They prefer to always use real people and real moments to create the murals. Wolfe-Goldsmith hopes that these murals will result in feelings of empowerment and ownership of the space for underrepresented communities. 

They have the “freedom to create these really large narratives about people’s lives, it provides an opportunity to take up space.” Representation through art, especially on the scale that they work in, will potentially have “positive, psychological impacts on people.” 

Wolfe-Goldsmith hopes that as their work grows, they can provide tangible financial opportunities for other artists and causes. They hope that their art can be used for activism and growth within the community. They hinted at an upcoming collaboration intended to support legislation change. 

Wolfe-Goldsmith is also getting into the world of NFTs with a project called The 5th Story NFT. Bay Area artists took over the entire fifth floor of the Tribune Tower and turned it into a massive mural project. Those murals were then 3D scanned and given to a digital animator. Wolfe-Goldsmith leans into the future of art while being inspired by the past and present. 

Wolfe-Goldsmith imparted advice to aspiring young artists: “Try to work circles around everybody around you.” They laughed. “Get as much real world experience as possible.” 

Wolfe-Goldsmith reminisced about growing up in Eugene and trying to break out as an artist. “A lot of time you have to do stuff for free but no one else has to know you did it for free.” Whether it’s painting a van or making a friend’s business look better, it is all about getting your work out there. They spoke about how we get stuck in the mindset that we need to seek permission or find the one right way. “Freestyle education” has been their path to success.

Original Article

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