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Turning Adversity into Beauty - Academy Student's Groundbreaking Work Receives Accolades

Academy of Art University student Rachel Arends wants to do it all: painting, sculpting, metalwork, fashion, photography and whatever else she can get her hands on. The Academy of Art University's diverse classes and flexibility allowed Rachel to tailor her educational experience to fit her needs. With the Academy's help, Rachel's "do everything" philosophy has opened up a myriad of possibilities and as a result, she has produced some beautiful, unique award-winning work.  

"Alatus Viscus"

She started her art career as a painter and photographer, but wanted to try something new. In 2003 she came to the Academy to study a field in which she had virtually no experience: fashion. Though she enjoyed her classes, fashion didn't seem right; it didn't feel complete. When she took her first metal arts class, however, everything changed.

"I fell in love with metal and how complex it is to work with. I love its stubborn nature," she said.

She began thinking about ways she could combine fashion design and metal arts in her studies and came up with her own individual major: Fashion Accessory Design. She proposed the idea the School of Fashion directors and they supported her decision.

When Rachel first came to the Academy, she made it a personal goal to participate in the Fashion Show. This past spring, she fulfilled that goal and showed two jaw-dropping pieces on the runway. She worked with Fashion colleagues, who designed dresses around her metal body sculptures. The experience of being backstage was unforgettable, but the exposure was priceless.

"It was very rewarding. Zac Posen and a lot of reporters saw my work. Recently, I was contacted by a gallery in London who had seen the show," she said.


"Vivificus Ossis"

Her sculptures, Alatus Viscus and Vivificus Ossis, won First Place in Metal Arts at the 2007 Spring Show. The two pieces reflect Rachel's lifelong struggle with scoliosis. They represent the physical and emotional scarring she endured from surgery and having to wear back braces in her youth.

 "I make body sculpture based on wanting the sculpture to feel more secure and support the body; like a brace," she writes in her artist's statement.

Her surgery left her with titanium rods in her back. The restriction of the titanium rods served as the inspiration for Vivificus Ossis. The neck is stagnant, while the sterling silver vertebrae move freely, which is the opposite of Rachel's body. The sculpture took one year to complete and Alatus Viscus, made from 18-gage copper, took six months to finish.

"Articulus"

Judges at the Academy of Art University Spring Show were not the only ones impressed by Rachel's sculptures. The Metal Arts Guild (MAG) awarded Rachel a MAGgrant for $300 and a photo of her work in an upcoming newsletter. She submitted photos of Alatus Viscus, Vivificus Ossis, and another piece, Articulus, which is a sterling silver finger encasement. The MAG jury praised her work for being personal, but not overtly so.

"Its really exciting for me," she said about winning the MAGgrant and the Spring Show award. "It's a feeling I've been waiting for my whole life - being recognized for my work."

The Academy has opened so many doors for Rachel and she knows that with hard work and determination, she can do anything.

"I want to work with metal, and fabric, I want to paint, draw, sculpt and photograph anything I encounter," she said. "I think I work best when I am doing everything I love, and not limiting myself to anything."

See more photos of Rachel's work here.

See Rachel's work on the runway at the Spring Fashion Show here.
 

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