Rachel Hsu


Someone I admire very much once told me “to be a shark.”

Name, Age, Location, Professional Title, Employer

Rachel Hsu   |   25   |   Seattle, WA   |   Exhibitions Coordinator, Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

What hobbies do you have outside of your professional field that keep you inspired and motivated to generate personal work? How do they inspire you?

I can’t wait around to be inspired all the time, since I would get nothing done. It’s taken me awhile to figure out, but I’ve got a set schedule I try to stick to of 8-11pm to work on personal projects, reading, and research.

I love watching movies—they serve as a good reminder that like most, if not all, ambitious projects cannot be accomplished alone. The bigger the project, the more hands you ultimately need on deck—museums and art exhibitions are like that too. I think it was cinematographer Sam Levy (and I apologize if I am mistaken), who said that it’s not just about shooting beautiful images. What you’re making has to ultimately convey the story and the mood, so having a purely beautiful shot can sometimes take away from your main objective if the aesthetics overshadow the message. Even though most mainstream films primarily function as a narrative and conceptual art translates more like poetry, I think what Levy says still applies. I try to remember that when I’m making decisions in my own art making.

Traveling is extremely important to me. It’s exciting to meet new people and experience new things that have the potential to change your outlook on life—even if it’s on a small scale.

I love hiking too—it’s never a bad thing to be reminded of how small you are.


Do you have a hard time balancing being a creative professional and generating personal work that you're proud of?

Definitely! My work is quite large, can be expensive to make, and is not the most commercially viable by any means. Therefore, having enough funds and space is a constant juggling act. Since my work usually does not exist past the closing of an exhibition, I put it upon myself to at least strive to make work I can be proud of. Even if I don’t make money off of these projects, at least I can have good work. Who knows—with a lot of luck and more hard work, maybe the money will come after. My available working space and studio time these past couple of years has dramatically shrunk, which has actually yielded some interesting projects as I find workarounds within these constraints.

What time of day do you feel the most creative? What about the most productive?

It depends—sometimes when I’m watching a movie, listening to podcasts, or when I’m taking a shower. However, most ideas come at the most inconvenient times like when I’m just about to fall asleep. Sometimes I’ll write it down in the notebook I keep by my bed or I’ll mull it over for far too long before I finally pass out and see if it was worth remembering in the morning. I’m most productive at night and into the early morning. On weekdays, I need to force myself to retire at a reasonable hour so that I have enough energy to support SAM exhibitions—otherwise I get a spur of adrenaline come midnight.


What are your creative goals for the future? 

I would love to work on a longer video piece—it would be great to find somebody to collaborate with. I have two very specific shots in mind that I want to film, but I don’t know what they’ll become yet. I think the overarching objective is to keep evolving and to keep my integrity, but transition into different ways of making that may or may not result in a very different aesthetic. I don’t want to be at the end of it all, look back, and realize I that haven’t gone very far and changed very little.

Are you working on any personal projects right now? If so, can you share a little bit about your inspiration and your creative process?

I’m working on a series of hand-bound artist books, which also exist as portraits.

I have a conversation with an individual about their possessions and photograph these pieces on 35mm film. I’m very interested in objects and spaces because they carry so many memories, dreams, and identities. So in essence, one book is a portrait of somebody without ever revealing their likeness. They donate an item of fabric for the cover and the size of what they pass on to me dictates the print run. For example, Ella Ordona’s portrait has and will only ever have 10 editions because I could only make so many from her nightgown. I wanted to extend the theme surrounding objects and self not just through the tactile and nostalgic quality of film, but also via the physical act of running thread through my fingers—of sewing and binding each book by hand.

I have two more portraits queued—one of a young man who lives in the Netherlands and the other lives in Germany. I met them both while traveling alone in Vietnam and had the opportunity of seeing them again this past winter.

I would ultimately love to have a small library of these acquaintances one day…maybe in twenty years or so.

What scares you?

Letting my parents down—they immigrated from Taiwan and are the most self-sacrificing, hardest-working people I know. Being stuck. One day realizing all the lives I haven’t lived.

What does success mean to you?

I don’t know if it’s any one thing. I think there will always be the next goal that arises once you accomplish what you set out to do. I guess this is a question I can’t adequately answer at this point in my life…unless I just did?

Why do you create?

I have a lot of personal questions and I find that the best way to answer them is to solve through making.

Anything else you want to add?

Someone I admire very much once told me “to be a shark.”


If you'd like to see more of Rachel's work and learn more about her work featured here, head over to her website rachelhsustudio.com.