Rebecca Fin Simonetti

Rebecca Fin Simonetti is a visual artist and musician working in Queens, New York.  She masters a diverse spectrum of mediums, experimenting in sound, drawing, sculpture, and print. Through an over saturation of detail, her drawings pack in powerful narratives. The intensity of the characters and symbolism (embedded in the work),  dilute into their environments, subliminally infiltrating into the viewer's subconscious. We love Fin's work because every time you look into it, you find something new - something that you didn't notice before. Each component is stitched with history and meaning. Stories are existing within stories.  A victim of "two lovers", she is releasing her solo album ICE PIX on Hausu Mountain March 24th.  Currently, she is  the artist-in-residence at Otion Front, and we are proud to say she was part of our "No Vacancy" exhibition at Squat Gallery last November. 

What are you working on now?

Right now I am finishing up an album. I'm working on a couple of drawings, mostly of cows -- and a few lil sculptures.

What is the album you are working on?

It’s called ICE PIX.  It's a solo album, coming out on Hausu Mountain on March 24th.  

What kind of instrumentals are you working with?

The production varies a lot -- on some tracks I’m playing live instruments, like guitar or keyboard, on others I’m manipulating samples and using with plug-ins.  I record and produce everything in Ableton.  Arranging the music is a very ornate and visual process.  Right now I am doing a residency at Otion Front --  and one of my goals is to translate the finished material from ICE PIX into live performance.

When did you start the residency at Otion Front?

It runs all through this month.

You were also teaching Ableton classes for a while, right?

Yeah, I periodically host a workshop series called 4th.WAV -- where I teach groups of women how to use different music software and electronic gear.

Are women sometimes more intimidated to use programs like Ableton?

There is a systemic language barrier around electronic music equipment and software.  

With 4th.WAV, I am trying to subvert that by creating a space for knowledge sharing, and to perpetuate agency.  It’s micro-activist work.  An interpersonal exchange of information as a way to break down the language barrier.

Do you have any music gigs coming up?

I am playing a few festivals in Toronto next month, and the closing event at the Otion Front residency will probably include performance. I’ve been so focused on finishing the album, and once it’s done I’ll have to decide how much touring I want to do. It is hard to separate yourself between two lovers: art and music. Going on tour is not compatible with a daily studio practice.


Do you find that you split yourself evenly -- like do you go on tour for a few months and then are in the studio for a few months? Is it a routine oscillation?

I don’t have a consistent pattern -- it depends either on deadlines, or if I particularly obsessed with something.

When did you start drawing?

This iteration of drawings (with the red pen) started when I moved to Baltimore in 2011. I started drawing because it required the least resources. Since I was moving around, I needed to simplify my studio.

Revelation (Image from artist.)

Revelation (Image from artist.)

Are they all part of the same series? Or is each completely unique in its story?

The drawings are all from a contained world, and that world is in parallel to ours -– it has the same rules and social constructs. But each drawing is separated by a specific event.  In terms of timeframe, the “event” is either being anticipated, or we are witnessing the aftermath.  The event is never actively unfolding.

The one I am working on now revolves around a “pastoral emergency”.  Lots of gasoline, cracks in the ground, and cows.

That one is in a cast on his leg!

And his horns are cut off.  The other cow in the drawing is completely emaciated.  Injury is a big part of the work.

Do you always draw women?

Yeah. I don’t have anything interesting to say about men. I have no idea what it’s like to experience the world as a man.  The starting place in my work is in first person.  To be clear, I’m not interested in making work about myself personally -- rather I’m interested in starting from a place that is visceral.

"Other Pisser"  (Image from artist courtesy of Interstate Projects.)

"Other Pisser"  (Image from artist courtesy of Interstate Projects.)

There's so much detail in all of them.

I like the idea of packing the surface of the drawing with so much information that is actually obscures the narrative. The surplus negates itself.  As the content expands, the narrative loosens.  You can still get a feeling from it, but you bracket a cohesive narrative.

I like how all the figures seem to come from different time periods…

Yeah, like Jael in The Pisser.  I extracted her from Jael and Sisera by Artemisia Gentileschi.  In the Gentileschi’s painting, Jael is driving a tent peg into a sleeping man’s head.  She’s murdering him, but she is so poised -- she looks like she is could be carving a marble sculpture.  In The Pisser, I have her carving a made-up sorority crest into the earth.

Who are some other characters?

Hm.  I could talk about any of them...  In The Other Pisser, the two figures playing horns  reference “Dooms” - a genre of paintings depicting the Last Judgement. Dooms have particular narrative code and iconography -- for example the top tier of the images often depicts angels playing horns. The story is that the angels are playing to wake up the dead they can attend judgement.  I like the idea that the drawing contains a secret music.

Your work subtly alludes to religion.

Yeah, I am mostly interested in religious themes as an entry point into magical thinking.

When did you start using the red pen?

"The Pisser" (Image courtesey of Interstate Projects)

"The Pisser" (Image courtesey of Interstate Projects)

I picked red when I first started drawing in 2011.  A red pen is a utilitarian thing, it's not an 'art material’.  I like the basic-bitchness of it. Remember when you were in high school, and your teacher would write all over your essay in red pen?  I like that association of a corrective mark -- re-inscribing with a dominant voice.  It’s both authoritative and benign.  

What sculptures are you working on now?

A few different pieces… I am working on a big stained glass installation.

Wow, the glass looks like flesh.

Yeah, it’s really gross.  This particular glass actually got discontinued because no one wanted it --- so I bought up all of the remaining stock.

Did you know anything about glasswork before you started or did you jump right into it?

I didn’t have any experience with it.  I just had a very specific idea for a sculpture I wanted to make. Initially I started watching youtube videos to start figuring it out. I have an uncle on my dad's side of the family who is a stained glass artist, so once I had a rough idea of what I was doing, I went to his studio and learned the rest from him.

You also have a book out with Rita Ackermann, published by Innen and Nieves.  Tell me about that.

Rita was putting together material for a new monograph, which focused on a recent project of hers, and connected with some of her older work that is thematically linked.  The work deals with images of girls in American and Islamic cultures, imitation and abstraction, layer of exploitation and violence. Throughout the book there are collaged excerpts from philosopher Paul Virilio, which provide an entry point into Rita’s process with the imagery.  Anyway, Rita wanted me to contribute to the project, so I made a smaller booklet/zine that fits inside of her book.  My contribution is mostly text-based.  I collected the initial verbal reactions of different women (friends and strangers) to Rita’s images, and then cited the words with just the speaker’s first name.  The end result is both poetic and critical – at least that was my intention.  The imagery in Rita’s book touch a sensitive nerve, so my way of interacting with her images was to try to capture their divisive and reactionary impact. My book is like a thermometer, taking the temperature of her book.  Working with Rita was such a delight.  She is endlessly thoughtful, she is fearless.  Her work has been very influential to me.