Rachel Bess is known for her precise and theatrical oil paintings that blend historical techniques and traditional principles of portraiture, lighting and composition with contemporary props, poses, costumes and attitudes. Highly realistic and deeply informed by art history as well as underground comics and punk music, her work is at times surreal but always meticulous and compelling, drawing comparisons to the Dutch Old Masters. Over the past few years, she has worked on a series of paintings about rotting fruit as a commentary on the human body, aging and death. Big questions and human drama are important to her, as she has explained: “The starting point for the ideas behind many of my paintings is the turmoil that is so often a part of the mortal experience. Whether this occurs between people, between people and their surroundings, or is strictly internal, the adventure of living is wrought with these conflicting moments of pride, fear, sadness, and hostility.”
Bess received her BFA from Arizona State University. Her work is shown nationally and internationally. In 2014, she was awarded the Arlene and Morton Scult Contemporary Forum Artist Award and had a solo exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum the next year. She was the recipient of a 2017 Artist Research and Development Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. In addition to her work in the studio, she helped organize the Phoenix branch of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School and writes and illustrates a comic book entitled Fighting Death Through Reanimation.