Rafael Soldi is a Peruvian­-born, Seattle-based artist and curator. He holds a BFA in Photography & Curatorial Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has exhibited internationally at the Frye Art Museum, American University Museum, Griffin Museum of Photography, Greg Kucera Gallery, G. Gibson Gallery, Connersmith, PCNW, and Vertice Galeria, among others. Rafael is a 2012 Magenta Foundation Award Winner, and recipient of the 2014 Puffin Foundation grant, 2016 smART Ventures and Jini Dellaccio GAP grants, and a 2017 4Culture Grant; he has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and PICTURE BERLIN.

His work is in the permanent collections of the Tacoma Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, and the King County Public Art Collection. He has been published in PDN, Dwell, Hello Mr, and Metropolis, among others. Rafael is the co-founder of the Strange Fire Collective, a project dedicated to highlighting work made by women, people of color, and queer and trans artists. He is a professor at the University of Washington and the San Francisco Art Institute.

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Life Stand Still Here

2013 – 2016

Life Stand Still Here explores internal dialogues and moments when life and its darkest facets can offer monumental symbolism. Inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf, I am interested in the elusive abstract space within us that defines the core of our psyche. Many people accept the idea that each of us has a certain resolute innerness—a core of selfhood that we can’t share with others because it is so private, internalized and visceral. I’m drawn to this ambiguous, sometimes painful inner darkness, not the kind that is perverse, but the kind that feels unknown and is, by default, frightening. Through a variety of image-making techniques, viewers can find an entry point into my deepest self—my interest is in opening the interplay between their histories and mine, a kind of dark mirroring that makes visible our shared psychic struggles.

When and where did Life Stand Still Here begin? 

I'm a slow worker, and my projects usually develop over the course of several years, bleeding into one another. Often times this means I don't realize I have a new project in my hands until later on, once I discover that new works are, in fact, connected and through which thread. I have always worked in a reflective way, using my work as a way to better understand my life—its joys, its questions, and its struggles. At the time this work started to form I had just wrapped up a body of work called Sentiment, which chronicled a sudden and devastating end to a relationship. After processing this event for a few years through photographs I felt quite ready to move on from it. However, this event altered my core and I began to make work that considered what was left of me after it. It was no longer about the breakup, now it was about who I was and who I'd become. I became fascinated with the awareness of self that is triggered by trauma, by how it brings out the detail in the shadow of our psyche. I looked inward and probed at the more abstract parts of myself, discovering dream patterns, childhood memories, darkness and lightness, spiritual awareness, connections between psyche and body, and other subtle ways that our internal selves manifest autonomous of our consciousness. At the time I read two great essays by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Rothman about Virginia Woolf's exploration of darkness and the abstract self. I started reading Woolf's "To The Lighthouse," a beautiful novel in which the characters find themselves having moments of great realization, in which they suddenly come to an understanding of some aspect of their life. I felt as if Woolf's words were everything I wanted my work to say; the title of this project comes from a passage in which a character realizes that there is no single big meaning to life, but rather "little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. This, that, and the other; Mrs. Ramsay saying 'Life stand still here' ". Over time I created works in response to specific events or circumstances and piece-by-piece this body of work came together.

Where do you see this body of work going? 

The project is completed and I'm making new work now that riffs off of my past work. As always on project bleeds into the other. I exhibited Life Stand Still Here in 2016 at Glass Box Gallery in Seattle and it's traveling to the Corvallis Art Center this October 2017 as part of the Society for Photographic Education regional conference at Oregon State University. I'm looking for more venues to travel the work to now. 

What helps you sustain your current creative practice?

I enjoy running, it's a form of mediation—it is here that I work through creative problems and many of my ideas clarify. I also have a critique group with other colleagues in my city, we get together 3-4 times a year and give each other feedback on projects. I allow myself time to complete projects, filling my life with other things that make me happy and healthy: friends, travel, exercise, family. When I'm happy and healthy creativity comes; I don't rush it and make work when I feel like making work—I've stopped putting pressure on myself to produce. I stay motivated and fulfilled through curatorial projects such as the Strange Fire Collective and through teaching.

What’s next for you?

Right now I'm focusing on creating new work, working on producing a new exhibition in the Boston area in 2018 (more details soon), and launching a new project space in Seattle (also more details soon). I'm looking forward to speaking and exhibiting work at the SPE regional conference at Oregon State University in October 2017, as well as presenting at the National SPE conference in Philadelphia March 2018 and at the CAA National Conference in Los Angeles in February 2018. I will also be co-curating an exhibition with Jordan Rockford, presented by Strange Fire Collective at NAPOLEON in Philadelphia during the SPE National Conference.

What other artists should we be keeping an eye on? 

Zora J Murff, Serrah Russell, Cassils, Lorenzo Triburgo, Zanele Muholi, Shikeith Cathey, and curator/historian Sarah Lewis.