Blueberry pie on a Monday morning in an art studio overlooking NE Minneapolis might be the best way to begin a week. We had the pleasure of engaging in a long conversation recently with visual artist Rachel Breen, as part of our ongoing activity, The Pie Project. As with much of our work, these things take time and attention. Rachel waited months for the pie as we tended other projects in our collaborative; projects that are deceptively obsessive, riddled with quiet details and always, always involve baking. In one year we had baked an enormous amount of pies and did a series of art actions-our own weird brand of slow, unscripted performance. So we needed a rest from pies for a bit. Finally, this autumn The Pie Project came to Rachel’s studio and, true to form, the topics were vast and deep: how to navigate creative collaborations, artistic processes (stalling out, dead ends, redirections), projects that never end, raising teens and repair work, physical and otherwise.
Much of Rachel’s art relates to the Hebrew concept of tikkun olam, or ‘repairing the world’ through human actions. You can see it in her ongoing series of sewn stencil drawings and in her sculptural work of mending fabric around rubble. And you can see it on her sewing table, a huge pile of fabric scraps hauled back from garment factories in Bangladesh. Last spring Rachel and writer Alison Morse collaborated on “The Price Of Our Clothes,” a research and travel project about the ways in which American consumers are tied to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the garment workers in Bangladesh. Rachel interviewed workers in the garment district, getting to know this vital community of mostly women, hearing their voices, recording their experiences and taking small, powerful steps to repair the world, one conversation at a time.