Henriksen said she was “beyond elated” to receive the invitation—a rarity among student artists, and artists in general. As the magnitude of this honor sunk in, Henriksen turned to her mentors for support.
Professor Peter Everett, Henriksen’s faculty mentor in the art program, met with Henriksen in her on-campus studio to discuss strategy for the show and critique new work as it developed. He described her work as visually engaging and mature.
“Rachel has always had a strong aesthetic sense, even from early in her study,” Everett said. “She moves fluidly between media as she explores ideas and builds forms in a powerful way. The fact that [the UMOCA curator] noticed her art and took the initiative to explore a show with her, speaks a lot to her work.”
With no restrictive requirements from UMOCA for the show, Henriksen chose to create almost all new work. The pieces she will exhibit are currently works in progress veering slightly from recent work but exploring similar themes.
“[Rachel] moves fluidly between media as she explores ideas and builds forms in a powerful way.”
The impetus for Henriksen’s recent work was a painting she made earlier this year while visiting her artist grandmother in Washington. Funded by an experiential learning grant from the Art Department, Henriksen flew to Washington to make art side by side with her grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
Prior to her visit, Henriksen researched Alzheimer’s disease to try to better understand life from her grandmother’s perspective. While in Washington, she stayed with her grandmother for several days and learned how Alzheimer’s affects her daily routine. They talked and painted and searched through her grandmother’s art-filled garage.
“She’s very eclectic, very artistic, and has an unapologetically vivacious personality and style,” Henriksen said of her grandmother. “The colorful patterns that permeate her home and wardrobe inspired that first painting.”
This portrait of her grandmother was the first in a series of paintings and drawings in which Henriksen explores empathy through manipulating patterns and objects. “I’m thinking about my own background in relation to different cultural realities and trying to understand my place in it all,” Henriksen said about her art. She described her work at UMOCA as being in the same vein thematically as her previous body of work, but employing new mediums and substrates.
In addition to completing her last year of school and preparing for her show at UMOCA, Henriksen recently traveled to Korea to gather video footage for a collaborative project with several classmates. She also works part-time as a studio assistant for a local artist.
“None of the opportunities I’ve had would have happened had I not been in the [BYU art] program. It has pushed me to work harder and think about what I’m doing and why, and to continue to grow as an artist,” Henriksen said. “I wouldn’t trade my experience in the program for anything.”