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Check Out Christine Rasmussen’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christine Rasmussen.

Hi Christine, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m an oil painter, interested in finding familiarity and commonality in the banal urban spaces that I depict. Growing up as a global nomad in Pakistan, Vietnam and the United States offered me many fascinating multicultural experiences that have given me a unique way of seeing the world. Moving so often, I often felt like an outsider and became a keen observer of my surroundings. I spent a lot of time alone, in my imagination, or reading fiction. My family didn’t have a TV and my siblings and I were often sent outdoors to entertain ourselves. Now, I see this childhood as having all the right ingredients to grow up to be an artist – unstructured time, nature, books, and crafts. My travels stoked my interest in architecture, and I can find familiarity in the details of every city I visit.

I learned to paint in high school and haven’t stopped since, despite pursuing various studies, jobs, and career paths. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a double major in Art Practice and Peace & Conflict Studies in 2009, right in the midst of the recession. In this uncertain climate, I worked odd jobs, started my own art business on the side, and carved out my unique path. In my paintings, I began depicting buildings to contrast with my tumultuous life, finding the repetition of geometric shapes meditative and grounding. While I don’t depict figures in my work, my paintings are often about the human experience.

I settled in LA six years ago and committed myself to my art career. I found a great studio building and art community and worked to deepen my paintings and grow my exhibition opportunities. After nearly ten years of independently running my art business, I am thrilled to now be represented by George Billis Gallery LA, with an upcoming solo exhibit at the end of this year.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I don’t think being an artist can ever be a smooth road, it’s sort of in our nature to think deeply and wrestle with existential questions. The older I get, though, the more I have come to appreciate the external struggles and how they have shaped me and my work. For example, I always felt behind in my art classes, but since I wanted to prove myself, I worked harder and put in extra hours to catch up and learn new skills. I am a better painter because of it. Graduating university in the middle of the recession was difficult. I was told that being an artist wasn’t a viable career path, but also advised not to waste money on an MFA – advice I am now grateful for. I felt lost at sea for a while, but I continued to paint in any spare time around my various day jobs. Somewhere along the way I learned to put the same amount of creative thinking into my art career as I did into my paintings, and so I forged my own path through research, online classes and interviewing other artists. I learned how to find independent spaces and self-produce exhibits to show my work. I continued to move cities throughout my twenties, so I kept having to start over with making connections, but through this I learned not to stay in a rut. If one strategy wasn’t working or if I went down the wrong path, I’d shift and try something new. I also found some great mentors and peers over the years. Most importantly, I kept painting. So, all these obstacles and struggles have made me more resilient and taught me grit, which I’m thankful for. I know I’ll never be bored or lack subject matter as life will always throw up new challenges – all part of the human experience that I hope to transcribe into my art. 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
As a painter, I investigate the in-between, depicting cityscapes that hover between familiar and imagined. In observing these urban spaces devoid of people, I play with the dichotomies of memory versus daydream, belonging versus aloneness, and even narrative versus abstraction; the “story” continues off the canvas, letting the viewer’s imagination step in.

My nomadic upbringing across different countries and cultures has made me a keen observer and influences how I interpret and depict my surroundings. My paintings capture spaces that most people pass daily but don’t notice. In documenting them – and often beautifying the banal through my bold color choices, dramatic skies, or shadow play – these everyday spaces become worthy of contemplation.

For example, a corrugated metal fence is a barrier, a boundary, a dividing space signifying the aloneness and disconnection common in today’s society. But the fence is also a common building material used all over the world, often as shelter, and serves as a point of familiarity even in a foreign place, evoking a sense of connection. Through capturing these commonalities – the wondrous details of urban environments – in my paintings, I explore the many complexities and multiple identities of our rich inner lives.

As in all the difficult times in my life, during the pandemic I turned to my art for solace. The months of lockdown allowed me to really focus on and deepen my paintings, and I’m really proud of the body of work I created during the pandemic, which I exhibited in a solo show in fall 2021. I’m excited to take what I’ve learned into the next series.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
Pico Iyer’s 2014 TED Talk “The Art of Stillness” that he expanded into a short book of the same title took on new dimensions for me over the course of the pandemic. It reminded me how to recapture my childlike wonder and imagination through slowing down and paying attention. For me, this has resulted in setting digital boundaries and giving myself permission to take breaks from work to fill up my cup and be present. My favorite podcasts right now are On Being with Krista Tippett and Poetry Unbound with Padraig O Tuama – both of these rekindle my love of learning, filling me with curiosity about all sorts of topics from grief to transcendence to the nature of reality.

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