Rachael Grad is a mom of three and former lawyer who has studied and worked in the US, France, Italy, Hong Kong, and Toronto. Grad left practicing law to study painting full-time at the New York Studio School and New York University (NYU) before transferring to OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Trained as an observational painter, Grad has focused on colourful painting that blurs the distinction between abstract, figurative, and representational styles.
Recently her art practice has expanded to incorporate digital painting and collage to further recreate her observational drawing and painting. Grad combines her experience as a mother, former lawyer, and traveler into her artwork, creating art that reflects parenting moments. Her current art series include “Motherhood Hit Me Like A Train” works on paper that use trains as paintbrushes and “Mommy Mayhem” digital collages and abstract expressionist paintings.
Grad’s artwork has been shown in solo and group shows in Washington, DC, New York City, Venice, Italy, and the Toronto area. She holds degrees from Brandeis University, Duke University School of Law, and Sciences Po in Paris, France. She earned a BFA with Distinction in Painting and Drawing from OCAD University in May 2022 as the Governor General Academic Medal and Mrs. W.O. Forsyth winner. This fall Grad will start a Master’s in Fine Arts program at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Motherhood is mayhem. When I became a parent, carving out time and space to create (not just people but artwork) became essential.
My current art practice is driven by an obsessive-compulsive need to document my three kids and their perpetually changing debris (meaning their messes of toys, books, clothing, and crafts). Daily household and art routines, rituals, and schedules reflect my attempt to reign in the chaos of parenting. Numbers, habits, and repetition are crucial to my sanity and survival.
There are 52 weekends in each year when my children’s school, daycare, or summer camp are closed for 65 agonizing hours in a row. To symbolize the slow passing of parenting time, I created 52 digital collages each containing 65 artworks layered together in photoshop. The artwork layers include my postcard drawings, abstract colour paintings, and paint mark experiments with toys.
Recent Mommy Mayhem series paintings are loosely based on these collages and blur the distinction between representation and abstraction. Gestural paint marks use the bright colours found in toys and messes.
In my Motherhood Hit Me Like a Train series, rolling a toy train across my artwork as a not-so subtle metaphor for being a mother artist. Toys have overtaken my home and my artwork, and they are always in mind and in my way. For my abstract watercolour on paper artworks, I reverse the ubiquitous toy train and turn it into a paintbrush.
Repetitive marks starting from observation are a way of building up unclear layers to form abstraction. Loosely based on the digital collages, I paint colourful abstract portraits of stuffed animals and toys that serve as transitional comfort objects for children as they grow and learn independence from parents.
My painting subjects reflect moments of motherhood, and my painting technique is a reference to, and mocking of, art history movements such as the machismo of the Abstract Expressionist painters. I am conceiving a visual language informed by abstract expressionism, playful mark making, and the contradiction between my dream of control and order versus my reality of constant pandemonium and mess at home. Routines, patterns, and symbolic numbers are expression in my art.
I research contemporary parent artists and their artwork including Mary Kelly (Post-Partum Document. 1973-79), Monica Bock (Maternal Exposure (or, don’t forget the lunches), 1999-2000), and Paul Campbell (Koosh Series and Remote Control Series). When painting, I think of Denyse Thomasos’ powerful gestural marks, Susanna Heller’s experimental studio practice, and Amy Silliman’s abstraction.
Museum of Motherhood Artist Residency Project
During her MOM Residency, Rachael will curate an online art exhibition of artwork made by artist mothers who manage to create artwork and keep up their studio practice while parenting. The show will include weekly blog posts interviewing participating artists to explore their work and parent experiences. During the period of her artist residency at MOM, Rachael will attempt to create a drawing or painting each day related to her “Mommy Mayhem” or “Motherhood Hit Me Like a Train” series.
You can view more of Rachael’s artwork at RachaelGradArt.com
If you are interested in connecting with Rachael, you can find her on social media @RachaelGradArt