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Rebeca Mendez

podcast / alumni / graphic-design / media-design-practices
March 28, 2019
Produced by: Christine Spines

Change Lab Podcast Episode 23

Rebeca Méndez on dissolving boundaries between art and design and connecting with our animal nature

Rebeca Méndez is an artist, designer, educator and ArtCenter alumna whose creative practice defies the bounds of traditional disciplines or descriptions.

Her pioneering career in graphic design has been widely recognized. Most recently, her work was featured in shows at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 2017, she was awarded the prestigious AIGA Medal for her transformative work in academia and design.

LA Metro Mural At the Same Time (2018)

We are as humans incredibly receptive and it is only our limited ego, mind and disciplinary definitions that keep us from exploring all what we can do

At Any Given Moment, Grass 2 with Burnt Wood, 2010.
At Any Given Moment, Grass 2 with Burnt Wood, 2010.

She is also a celebrated fine artist best known for her visually arresting mixed-media installations incorporating photography, film, video and typography. She explores the mediated experience of nature at its most elemental in her breakthrough series At Any Given Moment, filmed on location in Iceland between 2006 and 2008. The series exhibited to rave reviews around the world, including at ArtCenter’s Williamson Gallery in 2010. It was there that I first physically encountered Rebeca’s work and was spellbound by its raw power. Most recently her video installation piece, Ascent of the Weavers, was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Ascent of Weavers / Ascenso de Tejedoras, 2018.

A focal point of Rebeca’s creative practice is her long-term, transdisciplinary, multimedia project entitled CircumSolar, which encompasses a mural, a photo essay and several large-scale single channel video installations. The project is centered around the arctic tern (T-E-R-N), a very small sea bird distinguished as having the longest migration of all living beings on earth. Each year, it flies from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again. This bird’s epic journey crystallizes Rebeca’s interest in nature’s exquisite refusal to succumb to the limits and artificial boundaries of human enterprise.

CircumSolar, Migration 1, 2013. Single-channel video installation. 26:20 minutes. Installation view: Glow, Santa Monica.
CircumSolar, Migration 1, 2013. Single-channel video installation. 26:20 minutes. Installation view: Glow, Santa Monica.
CircumSolar, Migration 4, 2016–18. 16 × 14.5 feet. Smalti Mosaic.
CircumSolar, Migration 4, 2016–18. 16 × 14.5 feet. Smalti Mosaic.

Méndez also directs the CounterForce Lab at UCLA, where she is a professor of Design Media Arts. She founded CounterForce to develop new modes of field research to study the social and ecological impacts of climate change.

Rebeca herself is a force of nature whose poetic spirit infused every moment of her impassioned and, at turns, tender and vulnerable interview with Change Lab’s Lorne Buchman. The conversation covered the broad arc of a remarkable journey from her upbringing in Mexico, where she became the country’s top ranked gymnast, to a singular career that dissolves boundaries and, to borrow her phrase, rages with love.



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