Trucks and Trash
By Michael Shaw
Monet gained fame with water lilies, Warhol with soup cans. Rachel Maxi is making a splash in the Seattle art scene by painting, of all things, dumpsters. Not actually painting dumpsters, but crafting elegant oil-on-canvas creations of the rusty, greasy, smelly containers complete with Hefty SteelSaks peering over the lid. They are her water lilies. And if you’re wondering if a dumpster could be worthy of such attention, one critic notes that, “In Maxi’s hands, they have a seductively warm visual appeal.”
There’s only one problem.
“I really don’t want to be known as the artist who paints dumpsters,” says the 1988 fine arts major.
Umm. It may be too late. Her 2002 painting, “Green Dumpster,” which is now in the collection of the City of Seattle, started her on this unusual motif. She later chose to continue them as a “unifying theme” for her work, a theme that seems to strike a chord with the critics. A later painting, “Big White Rusty,” was described as “the glory of the show” in a 2010 Seattle Painter’s Show at the influential G. Gibson Gallery.
Lest you think she has painted herself into a conceptual corner, Maxi describes her work as a “diary of the mundane” and “is interested in the landscape of everyday, contemporary life,” which includes images of sprinklers, swimming pools, empty parking lots and old pickup trucks.
It all began, of course, in the most mundane of ways. “I was the youngest of seven children,” she says, “so my mom would give me crayons and paper to keep me busy. She told me a friend of hers saw me drawing and asked if I wanted to be an artist one day. Mom said I looked up and told her, ‘I already am an artist.’ ”
So where does Maxi go from here? Oysters—featured in sumptuous tabletop still-lifes inspired by 16th century Flemish painters. And though oysters, like dumpsters, may be an acquired taste, when brought to the canvas through Maxi’s consummate skills, they are sure to be irresistible.
[View more of Rachael Maxi's art]