Rachel Lee Hovnanian is a New York based artist whose multidisciplinary practice explores the complexities of modern feminism, ideals of perfection, and the often-detrimental effects of media on our psyches.
Hovnanian’s art practice merges photography, video, sculpture, painting, and installations that draw upon her Southern upbringing as a woman growing up in Houston, Texas. Her work delves into embedded societal mores that reveal the dichotomy between our intrinsic value systems and our public selves.
With her 2018 three-part solo exhibition, The Women’s Trilogy Project, Hovnanian became the first female artist to be given three consecutive gallery exhibitions in New York. In July of 2019, Hovnanian will hold a solo museum exhibition at the Medici Palace Museum in Seravezza, Italy.
Hovnanian has been represented by Leila Heller Gallery since 2006. She has exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Her work is collected widely, and is in the collections of the Royal Family of Dubai, the Mallin Collection, the collections of Lily Safra, the corporate collections of AT&T, Dior, Graff Diamonds and TD Bank, the Multimedia Art Museum, the Moscow Collection, and the 21c Museum Hotels Collection.
Hovnanian’s recent solo exhibitions have been held at Leila Heller Gallery, New York and Dubai; Pechersky Gallery, Moscow; Joyce Gallery, Beijing; and Foundation Pons, Barcelona. Her work has been shown in group exhibitions including at the United States Embassy in Budapest, Hungary; Parasol Unit Foundation, London; the Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines; Imago Galleries, Palm Springs; Manarat al Saadivat, Abu Dhabi; Loretta Howard Gallery, New York in an exhibition curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody; Leila Heller Gallery, New York and Dubai; University of Connecticut, Storrs; and at the Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor. Hovnanian received her BFA from the University of Texas, Austin.
Her work has also been featured in The New York Times, Departures, ArtNews, Elle Decor, The Financial Times, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Marie Claire Maison, Architectural Digest, W Magazine, NY TV 1, Vogue and Vogue Russia, PBS Radio, Brussels TV, Monopol, and Interview Magazine.
Current and Upcoming Exhibitions
July 20 – September 15, 2019 | Open Secrets, The Medici Palace Museum, Seravezza, Italy
July 2018 – June 2019 | OFF-SPRING: New Generations, 21c Museum Hotel, Lexington, KY
How did you find yourself in the arts – or how did the arts find you?
My father was a literature professor and writer from Dallas, and many of his friends were artists as well. Growing up in New York and Texas, we would often visit their studios as a family. Both my mother and father also painted, so it was through their influence that I started painting and drawing as a child.
I always knew I would be an artist. My mother and father supported my desire to go to art school, which was fortunate since so many women I’ve met didn’t have parents who supported that career path. I went on to study art at the University of Texas, Austin. I moved to New York immediately after graduating and worked as an art director at McCann-Erikson, while running my own art practice on the side. At that point, I painted mostly for my own fulfillment and began to exhibit after my children entered school in the early 2000s.
Who has been a big influence to you in your career?
I love the bronze Spider series by Louise Bourgeois. I was fortunate enough to produce my bronze sculpture Body Armor at the same foundry where Maman was produced, which was an incredibly inspiring experience for me to be working alongside such a monumental work – a web of emotion indeed.
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
I try to dig deep and use whatever emotions I am experiencing in the moment to flip the switch and channel them
into creative energy. I draw inspiration for my work from my own lived experiences and from observing the people – and society at large – that are around me. I am drawn to societal themes and behavioral trends that run as the undercurrents dictating how we live.
How do you define success?
Success is witnessing viewers discover a powerful personal experience from interacting with my work. During my exhibition of PURE, an interactive installation that invites viewers to confront their self-doubts, a school group of preteen girls came to participate in the exhibition. These young women were in the midst of middle school, a complex time in life, and their teacher expressed that many of them struggled with self-esteem issues. After they participated in the show, the girls said the experience made them feel confident, motivated, and powerful. Those responses were incredibly rewarding.
What message do you hope your work communicates?
My job as an artist is to create conversation. I am not specifically sending a message – the fact that people connect with my work in their own individual ways is what is significant to me. I feel most fulfilled by work that draws the viewer’s attention to something in their own life that they may not have noticed so clearly before participating
in one of my exhibitions.
What has been an important lesson you have learned during your career?
Put your head down, work hard, enjoy the journey. Be present in the moment because there is always an opportunity to learn.
Finally, what advice might you give to your younger self?
Self-doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.
Explore Rachel’s work at www.rachelleehovnanian.com.