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Q&A: Meet the artist ... Rachel Illingworth

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In landlocked Indiana, the ocean isn’t part of the everyday lives of Hoosier residents.

But their actions, from throwing plastic water bottles into the trash to using disposable plastic bags for groceries, can have a massive impact on the health of the seas.

Indianapolis artist Rachel Illingworth has devoted her most recent exhibition, “Vital Threat,” to bringing awareness to the plight of the ocean and how people affect it. The 15 multimedia works incorporate recyclable items such as plastic bags, broken bottles and aluminum cans to make larger pieces of art.

“Vital Threat” opened Friday at the Art Bank, 811 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis. Gallery hours are 1 to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

The exhibition is free.

What is the focus of this exhibition?

I lived for several years in Los Angeles. Because I was so close to the ocean, a lot of news centered around the ocean and pollution. As soon as I moved back here, I noticed immediately our focus on pollution was a lot less here than what it was in Los Angeles.

Why was it important for people in Indiana to think about?

It’s not something that we normally think about. There are some recycling available to residents of central Indiana, but it’s not readily available. It’s not on our conscious thoughts day-to-day about what happens to the water bottle that we throw in the trash. I wanted to bring more focus on that, that it does affect the fish that we eat and dolphins that we love to look at, the wildlife in general.

How did you put it together?

I mostly work with acrylic on canvas, but thought it would be a good idea to incorporate the things that we can recycle into the artwork. With each piece, I tried to incorporate an item that has to do with something that we can recycle.

How did it work out?

At first, it was incredibly difficult. My first foray was trying to adhere plastic bags to a canvas. I didn’t quite know what I was doing with it, and it became a jumbled mess, sticky and gross. But after a couple different tries, I figured it out. I almost gave up on one or two, before I figured I have to give it another go. I went in, and I think I succeeded.

Why did you choose the name “Vital Threat”?

Water is vital to us, and there is a very eminent threat to both drinking water and the world.

What do you hope people take from this exhibit?

I really do hope people walk away a little more conscious where people throw away their water bottle when they’re done with it, hope they gain some interest in our world as it is right now and keeping it as beautiful as it is, if not making it better.

What led you to be an artist in the first place?

I’ve always been an artist, as long as I can remember. My grandmother sat me in front of the TV and Bob Ross was on. Being that age, everyone always asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I always said that I wanted to be an artist. That changed when I went to college, when I thought my art would be acting. But as things settled down in my life, I’m ready to pursue art as a form of painting formally.

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