Rather than a craft store or art shop, San Francisco-based artist Rachelle Reichert prefers to harvest raw salt straight from the San Francisco Bay.
“I wasn’t as interested in making a copy,” she says of her formal training in atelier painting, so she sought out familiar materials with strong associations of industry such as salt and steel. She uses all types of salt, experimenting with table salt and salt blocks as well as the raw materials harvested from the bay.
Instead of trying to manipulate these materials to render an image from her mind’s eye, Reichert lets the material lead her. They can be quite difficult to control, forcing her to be resourceful with her creativity.
Often using water in the place of her own hand, Reichert sculpts salt blocks in high-salinity baths. She grows salt crystals in glue. She experiments with varying proportions of salt and water, and salts of differing coarseness. She places sheets of galvanized steel in pools of salt water until the moisture evaporates. The salt crystallizes, adheres to the steel, begins corroding, and does not stop until the piece has completely self-destructed. As it hangs from a gallery wall, it bends and moves and changes from day to day. The art’s very chemical makeup causes it to corrode and waste away.
“Decay and growth are ultimately two sides of the same coin,” she says. The entropic process drives Reichert’s creative philosophy, which she describes as “Letting go, releasing it, putting it in a format in which we can observe it and analyze it and appreciate it.”