Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
This is the seventh Artist Spotlight that will feature artists participating in the Invisible:VisAble exhibition. Every couple of weeks I will introduce you to one of the participants, give a little information about them, and include some insights they provide me with about their art, challenge(s), what they are working on...I have left it up to the artists what they would like to include! Please do leave comments; we would love to hear what you have to offer! Rea Rossi prefers to be known as "Rea". This interview is very special to me, since Rea and I share the challenge of deafness. As I curate this exhibition, my hearing in my good ear is diminishing, and I face deafness sooner, rather than later. For Rea and I, creating will be our way of communicating.
"I was born with a genetic bilateral hearing loss. Since I was three months old I have worn hearing aids. They clarify and amplify sounds for me, which are otherwise subdued or incomprehensible. Environmental noises, overlapping conversations, and the absence of light are the some of the most challenging obstacles I face.
I grew up mainstream, in the “hearing world”. Until my junior year of high school I was the only student with a hearing loss. I have faced much adversity in my life because of my disability, but it forced me to be an incredibly hard worker and extremely determined to be successful.
I do not consider my disability a limitation but it is challenging and it can be very frustrating at times. My disability is an invisible struggle; I seem like a hearing person in many ways and most people think that I am. This misunderstanding can be a challenge in itself. I exist in limbo where I don’t completely fit into the “hearing world” or the “deaf world”, but fortunately, I have a place in both.
I truly blossomed in the dynamic atmosphere at Rochester Institute of Technology, where I earned my B.F.A. degree in Metal and Jewelry Design, from the School for American Craftsmen. It was there that I discovered a sense of self-confidence and identity not only as an artist but also as a person with a hearing impairment. R.I.T. is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and Hard of hearing (N.T.I.D.). For the first time in my life, I was among a large community of people with varying degrees of hearing loss. I became immersed in Deaf culture and quickly became fluent in American Sign Language, which I am deeply passionate about.
In 2013, I earned my master’s degree in Metal/Jewelry/CAD-CAM from Temple University, Tyler School of Art. My experience with hearing loss inspired my MFA thesis work. I explored the concepts of sound waves, overlapping noise, missing segments, distortion and repetition. I wanted to visually express the way I perceive language and sounds.
In Harmony: model
My work is virtually designed, using a 3D modeling program called Rhinoceros. I utilize the process of 3D printing to produce each piece. They are printed in nylon, a strong, light weight and flexible material.
I established a sort of formula to the way each piece is created. I begin by multiplying a single form and array the pieces along a curve that twists and turns. They entwine and interlace with each other; producing a complex network of parts throughout each form.
I am a studio artist. I experiment and explore various processes, mediums, techniques and concepts in my work. In addition to jewelry, I also create sculpture. Currently I live and work in Philadelphia, where I was born and raised. I am an adjunct professor at Temple University and Towson University. I absolutely love teaching, being an artist and interacting with other creative individuals. I feel very fortunate to have found my passion in life and incredibly motivated to make a career of it.
Very nice work!!
Thank you so much Brigitte Martin.
Thank you to Leisa Rich, and Rea for sharing another interesting body of work. I think it might be helpful to see a drawing or graphic of sound waves....and how that transitions visually into the work.
Thank you so much for your comments. To address your suggestion of showcasing images of sound waves to better express their relationship in my work; I hesitate to do so because I do not use actual sound waves to develop my work, only the concept of them.
I create my work in a sort of 'free style'. The results are not controlled. Some of the pieces look surprisingly like the shape of an ear, others pieces are symbolic of how noise overlaps and becomes congested in stimulating environments. The repetition, distortion and missing parts are used to relate to my experience with hearing loss. This body of work is abstract, not literal.
Thank you so much for checking out my bio and images.
Thanks Rea for the response.
I look forward to seeing more work. It also might be interesting from this perspective to do an installation. Perhaps the hearing world on one side, and "overlapping noise, missing segments, distortion and repetition" that people with hearing aids often experience in a crowded room on the other side. It might be very interesting to create an experience for those that are not hearing impaired.
I am going to ask a really touch question:
Why use jewelry to "visually express the way I perceive language and sounds"?
Yes, I understand you were at Tyler and in the jewelry metalwork department. But the question really is why use jewelry to express the issues you raise in your written descriptions.
Please excuse my delayed response, I did not see your message until today.
I think your idea of doing an installation is very intriguing. I love creating sculpture and working large scale so it is of interest to me. I am facinated by the experiences of the both the hearing world, the deaf world, and of course what is in between. It is something I hope to continue to research and respond to creatively. I do hope that my work can create some awareness to some of the issues related to auditory perception and challenges.
To answer your questions of why jewelry? I think part of the reason, yes is because my focus is in jewelry, academically and technically. I think another reason I chose to express work through jewelry is because it is a deeply personal art form. Jewelry allows for such a unique experience between the wearer and the viewer.
My hearing loss, although very personal is an experience that not only affects me but also those around me. When I wear my hearing aids I can better engage and understand the world around me.....but sometimes I don't wear them, for various reasons, and when that happens my experience shifts for me and for those I interact with. I think that experience is similar to when my wearable objects are worn upon the body and when they are not. It puts them in a different context.
When I first began the grad program at Tyler, I was interested in re-designing the modern day hearing aid, which is designed to be invisible. Unnoticeable. A hearing loss is often seen as a weakness. People are often embarrassed to even admit they need hearing assistance. I wanted to create a bold and beautiful hearing device that would give its wearer a sense of confidence not awkwardness.
I did not follow through on this initial inspiration because I am not a product designer or an engineer. I am an artist. I feel that creating jewelry gave me the platform to share my concept in a very personal way with others. My goal is not to have people understand what experience is with hearing loss, but to have people consider how hearing loss has influenced my art and my life.
I am not sure if I am answering your question but I hope that my response sheds more light on how and why my work was conceived and my relationship to it.