Rabbit Rabbit: A Portable Artist Exhibition
Scott Rowland • December 6, 2016 • Art •
Sit down. Relax. And enjoy Rabbit Rabbit, a collection of essays, artwork and interviews that brings meaning to change. This annual journal conjures the grand feeling of going on an adventure to find yourself. One artist at a time. One page at a time.
Rabbit Rabbit is a new beginning for Big Bad Bettie Press (BBBP). The first edition of this annually released journal, Transition 01, features 21 masterful artists and innovators from around the world. It’s the first release since Founder Katie Harwood’s graduation from the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). And with the help of Creative Queen B, Stephanie A. Lindsey, the world will experience first-hand the intention of spreading keen artistic expression that exists at BBBP.
ALOC: What inspired you to develop an annual publication focused on what has been described as, “emerging photographers, painters, sculptors, and writers working around the globe?”
Katie Harwood: In short, it was my grandmother’s daring spirit, along with my frustration of not being able to find a job, that initially flamed the fire of inspiration for Rabbit Rabbit and the creation BBBP. I saw that I would need to make my own path if I were to utilize my skills and do the thing I was most passionate about. I could envision something that didn’t exist, so I set out to create it.
Last year, I graduated with my MFA from SFAI. I experienced a brief moment of ecstasy that was quickly followed by several expletives and heavy questions like, “Now what?!” I could not find a job in my field, and I felt as though I had lost my community. I’ll be honest with you, it was rough. But in the middle of my fear, I began to think about my grandmother, Big Bad Bettie. She was daring, creative, and marched to the beat of her own drum. One of the original “nasty women” you might say. She possessed a certain boldness and tenacity that inspired me during that dark time and continues to inspire me on this crazy adventure.
I also thought about my fellow graduates. I thought about the vast talents and skills of my colleagues. How many of them were looking for work. How many of them were looking for opportunities to show their work. How many of them were coming up dry on both accounts. And this is the just experience at one art school in one state. Thousands of students are graduating each year with Master’s and PhDs, and they are all looking for work and opportunities to share their creative vision. Many of them struggle to do so. The opportunity for emerging artists to show their work and use their skills does equal the need.
I wanted to continue the exchange of ideas and the fostering of global community I experienced in grad school. I wanted to create a tangible object that could be easily shared – an object of desire that would last. I wanted to create an alternative space to share work and ideas people should know about but don’t. The idea of a portable exhibition came to me, and I put the word out to my community, including Stephanie, my co-curator and Denver-based artist. The response I got was incredible! Rabbit Rabbit was off and running!
Stephanie A. Lindsey: For me it was different. I was almost 10 years removed from graduating from SFAI. The glow of graduating had long warn off for me by the time Katie approached me with her idea. I had lost a bit of my creative zeal for life, and listening to Katie’s idea of a portable exhibition began to spark something in me that I felt I needed to explore.
I had been in a place where I was questioning what it meant to be creative and what it meant to be an artist. I think, because I was so far removed from my grad school experience and was in the day-to-day of life, I thought somehow I was no longer an artist because I wasn’t constantly making new bodies of work. I was teaching photography students how to be creative, and I was teaching them how to discern the work they were seeing, but I had stopped that investigation for myself.
So my inspiration was a bit of saving myself and taking ownership of my own creative voice. I knew deep within me I was a creative person, and I knew that I had a voice that had valid points to be made regarding all aspects of art.
Much like Katie, I started thinking of all my fellow SFAI alums and how interesting all of their paths have been post graduation. I felt my long and unconventional road offered a unique vision of how to bring artists, be it traditional fine art, literary or scholarly, together to create something new.
ALOC: Rabbit Rabbit shows that creativity experienced by artists isn’t much different than the way innovators progress their craft. Why is this connection important for our culture and society to understand?
KH: Great question! Artists take ideas and inspiration from their personal experiences and the world around them. Innovators do the same. It’s just that the resulting expression of those ideas looks different. New ideas and valuable change are born out of an exchange of knowledge. No one, no matter how right-brained or left-brained you are, can create in a bubble. I wondered, what if those ideas and stories existed alongside each other in one of the oldest forms of communication: the book. Who knows what new ideas, solutions, or creative bursts might result. The possibilities are really exciting to me!
Bringing this all together in a digestible format that is also aesthetically strong is a challenge my team and I approached head on and are still finding solutions for. I believe strongly that artists and innovators need to be a part of the batter, not just the icing. That’s where the juice is. That’s where the difference making will happen. Rabbit Rabbit is a small contribution to contemporary culture and society existing in the relatively small field of art and books. But I believe it’s a valuable contribution, and I hope it sparks creativity and inspiration for our readers.
SL: To reiterate, no one creates in a bubble! I know I personally can find inspiration just about anywhere. My entire thesis came from two lines in Sisters of the Yam by bell hooks. What I so very much enjoyed about SFAI was the constant push to examine and reexamine the work I was creating from multiple perspectives. One of the scariest and ultimately best things to happen to me at SFAI was a professor saying to me, “What if this work isn’t a photograph?” As a photographer it shook me to my core, but it also gave me the freedom to abandon the box I had put myself in.
Rabbit Rabbit was designed to obliterate the box, both figuratively and literally. Regardless of if you are an academic scholar, a writer or a traditional fine artist, you approach the work very similarly. There’s the questioning of Is this good? Do I keep working? Does this need to change? Am I done? We all go through that. I think the strength of Rabbit Rabbit is that we recognize that while aesthetically different, the work we collected, all have their roots in the need to create, the need to explore and the need to examine. We spend a lot of time separating ourselves by means of labeling what we do and how we do it, when really, we are all more connected through our desire to understand the society around us. Rabbit Rabbit offers up that sense of interconnectedness in a handy little book form.
ALOC: Can you tell me about you experience at the Boulder Creative Collective (BCC)? How long have you utilized their space for BBBP? How has it affected Rabbit Rabbit as well as your company’s development?
KH: For a short four months, I ran Big Bad Bettie Press (as well as my fine art photography practice) out of one of the studio’s at the Boulder Creative Collective’s new warehouse space. I was their first tenant. Being part of the space allowed me to connect with community and provided a sense of legitimacy as a new businesses and recent graduate that I needed at the time. In a small town like Boulder, the focus on arts and creativity in the BCC’s space was intoxicating. The first issue of Rabbit Rabbit was delivered on a large pallet to that space. That was very cool and something I’ll always remember. The company is now based “everywhere” which allows me flexibility and the ability to focus resources on building the business.
Be on the look out for the second edition of Rabbit Rabbit, coming out Summer 2017!
Photos Courtesy of Big Bad Bettie PressBBBPress