You Can't Sit With Us Collective
Rachelle and Beth talk art, politics, and creativity with Hieronyvision contributor Olive Glass.
Interview with Rachelle and Beth
Olive: Introductions! Please tell us who you are, and what you do?
Rachelle: My name is Rachelle. I go by Block and Press. I work in an art collective called You Can’t Sit With Us (please sit with us though). We make large wood cut art, light boxes, shirts, murals, and experiments.
Beth: My name is Beth and I’ve been making art in Portland, Oregon since 2000. Rachelle and I met a year and a half ago while we were doing installations at the same business. I invited her to come have a beer at my workshop and we became instant friends. Shortly after that asked her if she would collaborate on a big commission and she said yes. Many beers, giggles and bad jokes later, the rest is history.
Olive: You’ve been creating street art for many years, what drew you to this genre? What are some of your inspirations?
Beth: I’ve always been drawn to street art and graffiti since I could remember. I have a lot of big feelings and street art is how I found a way to express them in a minimal, yet effective way. On a big level, I’m inspired by Swoon, Claw money and Muck Rock. There’s a bunch of local Portland people that inspire me, too. Wokeface, Rx skulls, Skam. There isn’t a street sign in this city that isn’t reppin’ at least one of them.
Olive: Has quarantine changed the way you create? If so, please explain!
Rachelle: Yes. Beth and I spent a couple months without seeing each other because we knew we’d run at each other with open arms and get germs all over each other like some 90’s romance movie. Luckily we were never clean enough to work in small spaces, so working outdoors has been lovely getting to be together again.
Beth: Quarantine has been a little strange. Not seeing Rachelle for a couple months was rough! When we reunited I spent the first ten minutes crying and telling her how cute she is. We would do social distance collabs at first, like Rachelle started a mural and then I went a few days later to finish the other half. On a positive level, I think it’s allowed us to prioritize projects and take time to appreciate them.
Olive: There is a lot of political unrest happening in Portland right now. How does this affect your ability to create street art? In both a physical, literal way and emotionally/mentally?
Beth: For me personally, it’s giving me a lot of inspiration to get out and put up more stuff than normal. I’ve been able to get away with a lot more than usual, partially because of quarantine and partially because the cops have all been busy with the protests.
Olive: What do you feel is your role as an artist during times of political upheaval?
Beth: I believe it’s our role to represent the underdogs, the people that may not have a voice. We also have the ability to reach audiences that others may not be able to. Rachelle and I have been able to raise a bunch of money for various causes by selling our art as well. At the very least, making art or doing street art allows the people that see it to have a brief moment of peace and forget about the chaos for a second.
Olive: Recently, acting secretary of defense, Chad Wolf, condemned ‘violent anarchists’ with ‘desecrating’ the federal courthouse in portland. He pointed out that to graffiti on a federal building is to attack America, itself. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think graffiti is a version of street art, or just a senseless act of vandalism?
Rachelle: First, no building, no flag, no emblem can ever exceed the importance of a single life-EVER. Graffiti is not violence. Killing people is violence, beating people is violence, cutting off the air supply with a knee to the neck is violence. No one will mourn a building like they mourn someone they loved.
Regarding graffiti as street art vs vandalism: it can be both at the same time without losing meaning, impact, and importance.
Graffiti and vandalism are a form of language for the voiceless. “Vandalism” seems to be the word used by people who hear that voice as angry shouting-and maybe it is. For many (and therefore, for all) trying to use the cleaner acceptable ways of voicing oppression has not worked. Big government rarely listens with its ears and I fully support the use of visual expressions to amplify those ignored cries.
Beth: Yep! I second Rachelle.
Olive: In other news...
What are you most excited about creating right now?
Rachelle: Working on large 3-D spaces is really satisfying. We are currently transforming an old shed into a multi-dimensional work that has been making us laugh and squeal for days.
Beth: I’m really excited to be able to create with Rachelle again on truly anything. We’re in the middle of getting a new art studio, And I’m pumped to get a clean slate. We’ve been slowly designing tarot cards, too. I’m learning to love the process vs. creating a bunch of stuff in a day.
Olive: Is there anything you would like to promote?
Beth: I would say just check out our instagrams (yeahrightokay and blockandpressco) to see what we’re getting into. Hopefully we will be able to have shows again in the future. Until then, don’t be a dick and black lives matter.
Olive: Do you have any advice for someone looking to become a working artist and/or street artist?
Beth: Just do it. Don’t over analyze or get into your own head too much. Don’t listen to the haters. Believe in yourself. Trust your gut. Reach out to other artists in your community.