We had the good fortune of connecting with Rochelle Botello and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rochelle, what role has risk played in your life or career?
As a sculptor, risk is always about pushing the work in new directions whether in materiality or process. I make objects. I love to use every day materials in unexpected ways. I like to be engaged in an intuitive impulse. A huge part of risk taking is embracing the unknown. I’m often asked if I work from sketches. The answer is no. I prefer to begin by taking one action that informs the next action. I’m always open to seeing what forms start to develop. I have to trust the process. Risk for me is always associated with being open to the process of discovery, wonder and curiosity. I’m interested in using materials as a way to mark these curiosities. I’m fascinated by the bend of a leaf, knee bone of a dog or the anatomy of a grasshopper. I’ve even fallen in love with the fold of a potato chip bag. My observations of the world around me have sustained me as an artist and it is what compels me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My sculptures are an attempt to capture traces of my existence. They are constructed using everyday materials like cardboard, wood and tape. These materials have an ephemeral quality that I find both compelling and absurd. I use materials that are in my immediate environment, and for the last few years I have collected branches and twigs from my walks. I love these forms; the way they curve or unexpectedly shape shift. They feel poetic in both form and feature. I’m drawn to all things fauna and flora. I’m fascinated in how time changes their structure. I’m not concerned with the impermanence of my objects. I love the transient nature of life and so my objects mimic this wondrous inevitability. My sculptures often reflect this; not in a literal sense. It’s important to me that my sculptures have an odd familiarity; a vitality. I’m excited and love paying attention to the absurd and seemingly inconsequential banality of every day life.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Before the pandemic I would take friends to see art. L.A has so many amazing places to experience art. Hauser & Wirth is a must gallery to visit! I also love to spend the day at the Norton Simon Museum looking at their permanent collection where they have one of my favorite paintings, “The Ragpicker” by Edouard Manet. I love to take people to the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum located in Joshua Tree. I’m always in awe and inspired by Purifoy’s monumental and prolific sculptures. Depending on the season I like to visit Descanso Gardens, The Huntington Gardens or the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The truth of the matter is that people, events and situations enter our lives all the time, and often when these occur, we don’t realize at the time how they might inform our relationship to the world around us. Two instances come to mind. When I was a child I often liked playing alone and pretending. I enjoyed my solitude from a very young age, boredom being, more often than not a sort of catalyst for my imagination. I used objects around me in unusual ways, imbuing them with a new purpose and meaning. I made up stories, and from boredom grew curiosity. I wanted to make something out of nothing. I’ve maintained this curiosity to this day and I simultaneously both blame and thank my mom who endured and encouraged my antics. My love for object making would not have been possible if it wasn’t for meeting sculptor Coleen Sterritt. I met her over 20 years ago in a sculpture class I attended at Long Beach City College. She introduced me to artworks by Rachel Whiteread, Nancy Rubins and Noah Purifoy. I was excited to discover the possibilities and sense of wonder inherent in the materiality of found objects. For me, art making has always been about engaging fully in life. I was able to rediscover a part of myself that had disappeared as an adult. I began making objects in her class and continue to make them to this day, and for that, I’m grateful.
photo credit: Rochelle Botello and Denise Gray