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Rachel Simmons ~ Florida

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Artist's Bio: "Rachel Simmons is an artist-educator who teaches foundations, printmaking, and book arts at Rollins College … . Rachel began teaching at Rollins in 2000 after earning her MFA in Painting & Drawing from Louisiana State University. Her diverse practice is informed by the tensions surrounding globalization, ecotourism, activism, climate change, & sustainability. In Rachel’s socially engaged art projects, she asks community participants to think critically and creatively about our relationship with nature."
CBAA artist feature  

Conceited Rural Dandies
By Rachel Simmons
Orlando, Florida: Rachel Simmons, 2017. Edition of 15.

28” x 6” x 4” open, 6” x 6” x .75” closed. Accordion fold structure. Two leaves sewn into the valley of each fold. Materials: thread, vellum, watercolor paper and arches text wove. Letterpress, screen printing, and cyanotype. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Rachel Simmons: "The socially engaged art project 'Conceited Rural Dandies' reflects two essential ingredients in my work––community & environmental awareness. The edition was made in collaboration with students during the Paper Fox Printmaking Workshop at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. The project included a discussion of 1930’s field guides, a birdwatching walk along the Fox River and plenty of hours of setting type while discussing how Edwardian ladies’ hats helped birdwatching evolve from just a leisure hobby to a citizen-scientist conservation movement.

"To choose the text for the book, the Lawrence students and I examined the language from historical field guides, and found they were embedded with the values & perspectives of the birdwatchers who wrote them. While authors of historical guides assumed their audience to be fairly homogenous—mainly white, male & Christian—authors of contemporary bird guides use more scientific language to describe bird behavior. This linguistic shift reflects our ever-evolving attitudes about nature as an extension of our social systems. The screen prints of birds and ladies hats over vellum suggest fragility and preciousness, the cyanotype covers (made collaboratively with the students) references historical botanical studies, and the use of early 20th century typefaces forge a link between language of the past and present through the practice of letterpress. The image running along the accordion is a collage of bird names and images created from Lawrence University’s movable type collection."

Conceited Rural Dandies book
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i see the backs of your hands
By Rachel Simmons
Orlando, Florida: Rachel Simmons, 2016. Edition of 8.

9.125” x 12.125” x .5”; 10 leaves. Unbound. Letterpress and screen printing on unbleached Mulberry paper. Enhanced with stitching across the leaves. In hard cover overlap folio with velcro closures. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Rachel Simmons: "I created this book after losing my father suddenly in 2015. The design & typography reveal aspects of our loving, but challenging relationship. The neutrality of the color, generosity of the negative space and the fluid line work come together to express feelings of fragility after such a loss.

"Typesetting for this book was a meditative process; it allowed me to focus on assembling words with my hands, letter by letter, as I worked through waves of anger and sadness. On each unbound page, the open, broken lines of text exist in a liminal space. Drawn and stitched lines add a tactile sensibility, anchoring these reflections about life and death into something tangible.

"Leaving it unbound was a choice based, in part, in wanting to display the piece floating on the wall. Visitors to the exhibition 'Transcendence' in 2016 walked past the installation of the sheets pinned to the wall with long silver dissecting needles, any movement of air causing them to flutter and settle. This interactive quality and the delicacy of these pages express the ephemeral, transitory nature of grief and loss. Stacked in the portfolio, the transparency of the pages allows text to be seen through the sheets and viewers handle each sheet one at time."

i see the backs of your hands book
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Never Flinch: a visual journal
By Rachel Simmons
Orlando, Florida: Rachel Simmons, 2014. Open Edition.

8 x 5"; 96 pages. Pictorial glossy covers. Perfect bound.

Rachel Simmons: "Never Flinch is an autobiographical visual journal that I published as a print-on-demand book in 2014. A visual journal is a marriage of writing and art; a playground for a busy, creative mind; an amplification of your inner voice; a record of your experiences; a regular meeting over coffee between you and yourself. Through a rich layering of mixed media drawing, printmaking and collage, this self-reflective journal immerses the reader in a colorful narrative about life, art, science, travel, and family.

"In my journal practice, I use a wide variety of materials and techniques. I write the text using a stream of consciousness, timed writing approach, and then visualize the writing through collage, image transfers, wax resist, linoleum prints, ink wash, acrylic, watercolor, drawing, and erasure poetry."

Never Flinch: a visual journal book
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The Oil Book
By Rachel Simmons
Orlando, Florida: Rachel Simmons, 20010-2011. One-of-a-Kind.

14” x 10” x 6” closed, 28” x 10” x 3” extended. Accordion fold structure. Letterpress printed using French Clarendon typeface. Arches Cover paper and Japanese paper with acrylic ink, Sumi-e ink, gouache, pigment powder, thread, screen print, linoleum, carborundum, and transfer prints. Multi-needle coptic bound with hard cover. Signed and dated by the artist.

Rachel Simmons: "In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico; it took 86 days to stop the flow of oil into the water and the damage to the marine ecosystems was devastating. I witnessed the emotional and financial impact on my family in the Florida Panhandle and I wanted to better understand this terrible accident within the larger context of the history of oil exploration. Researching major global oil spills since 1967, I was not surprised to find that humans have spilled billions of gallons of oil into rivers, lakes, and oceans, and that many of the spills have gone unnoticed or even unreported. In other words, Deepwater was a catastrophe, but it was just another disaster in an industry riddled with disasters.

"The book uses French Clarendon, a typeface from the 1800’s for the text which repeats several times, 'rude crude spill will soak sea brown black clean green American dream.' These prints were created through layering letterpress, serigraphy and carborundum and then mounted in pairs on each spread. Each print was washed and splattered with ink to evoke the colors of the marine landscape and the alien quality of the invading oil. Each printed word is unique despite the repetition of the poem. The text is often obscured by images of the Deepwater Horizon rig. On each left-hand page, a quote from Karl Marx printed in black on black reads, 'history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.' A tangled mass of colored price tags hangs from the book’s spine, revealing dates and locations of the worst oil spills in recent history.

"In a way, the history of oil spills is similar; each accident varies in location, impact, and circumstance, but they blur together in the same timeline of mistakes repeated over and over again. This repetition prevents us from seeing the magnitude of each tragedy over time and encourages us to accept them as insurmountable disasters that cannot be reversed or avoided. The book was bound together in a marathon 12-hour sewing session using the multi-needle coptic stitch technique. Thickly bound with heavy paper and tangled with thread, the physical experience of looking through the book echoes the complexities and challenges that come with large-scale environmental disasters."

The Oil Spill book
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Rachel Simmons SOLD/Out of Print Titles:  

Merde Sur La Mer
By Rachel Simmons
Orlando, Florida: Rachel Simmons, 2008. One-of-a-Kind.

51.5” x 56.5” x 6”open. Accordion structure. Printed digitally on Epson Enhanced Matte and Okawara papers. Materials: acrylic ink, linoleum relief prints, yarn, board. Signed and dated by the artist.

Rachel Simmons: "As with much of my work, this artist’s book focuses on an aspect of our complex relationship with the natural environment, in this case, with the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean. In 2007, I spent a month at a residency on the big island of Hawaii. One day, another artist at the residency, Pam Longobardi, drove us all down to Green Sand Beach where we were shocked to discover huge piles of plastic waste piled up on an otherwise pristine coastline. I began to research the Pacific Gyre, a floating area of plastic pollution larger than the state of Texas in the Pacific, and created this artist’s book as a result.

"One of the things that struck me was the global nature of the problem, with so many countries contributing trash to the sea, but none willing to offer any resources to address it. The words stitched into the accordion mean 'shit' in several languages, and the book’s title (in French) translates to 'Shit on The Sea,' referring to the floating plastic waste on the surface and to the idea that humans are not taking responsibility for how their habits of consumption affect the health of the ocean. The bright colors reference lively sea life images you might see at an aquarium, but the objects floating in the waterline and hanging from the tangled lengths of yarn are tires, oil drums, plastic bottles, and other containers. The tangled net of objects is something I’ve used in other projects to refer to complexity, confusion, and a lack of clear solutions."

Merde Sur La Mer book
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By Rachel Simmons Orlando, Florida: Rachel Simmons, 2014.

8” x 6” x 2.5; 140 pages. Altered book. Mixed media with gesso, acrylic, tape transfers, collage, graphite, screen prints, letterpress prints, and found objects. Includes pop-up elements and pockets containing information. In original dust jacket. Signed and dated by the artist.

Rachel Simmons: "In 2014, I created this altered book to reflect on my first visit to Namibia, a newly independent nation in southwestern Africa. The project, which took over six months to complete, was a rumination on Namibia’s emerging ecotourism industry, the impact of Chinese development, their successful political independence from South African, and their ongoing struggle to modernize one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world.

"The book I altered was a memoir written in the 1980’s by journalist David Lamb titled 'The Africans.' His narrative as a western journalist and humanitarian evoked perceptions of Africa from my childhood when many Americans viewed it only as place of pervasive hunger, poverty and war. Revisiting these ideas of past and present gave shape to my process of alteration. I brushed pages with either black or white gesso to both silence and emphasize the original text, and added collage and drawing. On the trip, I wrote journal entries as we bumped down long gravel roads along the Skeleton Coast. I photographed and drew Namibian tribespeople, villages, sand dunes, elephants, and shipwrecks and upon my return, placed these images into the book along with my written observations and reflections. "

Namibians book
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A review of this work "Rachel Simmons' work explores the economy and ecology of independence" by Yulia Tikhonova in the Orlando Weekly can be found at

Page last update: 09.30.19

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