Interview with artist A'Driane Nieves


Rare Device is pleased to present our next gallery show, Women, featuring five independent female artists who created worked based on the theme of female empowerment. One of those artists, A'Driane Nieves, agreed to give us a deeper look into her creative process from inside her San Jose, CA studio. A'Driane describes herself as a writer, artist, activist, and speaker with a heart for serving others and social good.


Photo by Steven Cotton Photography

KC: What is your background in painting and how long have you been creating art?

AN: I was the kid who grew up wanting to be a writer and did performance based arts-I knew I was a creative, but I never considered myself a visual artist. Drawing and painting weren't my things and my art teacher in 7th grade reinforced that belief after looking at my still-life drawings. However, in 2012, after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my therapist at the time recommended I find something constructive to do with my hands as a form of self-care. I went to Wal-Mart searching for yarn and a crochet hook, and on my way to the aisle full of yarns, my eyes caught the cheap brushes, paints, and small canvas boards in the aisle over. I threw some in my cart on a whim and after two weeks of failed attempts at crochet, I finally sat on the floor in my room and started pushing paint around on canvas board. All I was really looking for that day was a distraction, but when I finished, I noticed my mind was quieter and my anxiety had eased. I remember being surprised at how peaceful I felt, having unconsciously unloaded all that l had been carrying onto the small canvas board in front of me. So I didn't find painting, it honestly found me during a season I desperately needed something to keep me tethered to living. Painting started off strictly as a form of self-care in my treatment plant, but over the last 5 years, it's replaced writing as my default medium for expressing myself creatively. 

KC: Can you tell us about your creative process?

AN: My work is intuitive in nature, so I rely pretty heavily on emotion, tuning into how my body is physically responding to whatever I'm processing mentally or emotionally, and movement to create every piece.

Sometimes I'll go into a piece knowing what I want to construct or communicate, based off of something I saw in my dreams or a reaction I'm having to a current event in my own life or our society. With other pieces, it's not until after I'm 2-3 layers into a piece or even once I feel it's "done." There are times that I will not understand what my subconscious has been trying to help me grasp until after it's out of my head and on the surface in front of me, telling me its (my) story. I do a lot of writing, and snap images on my phone that I pull up later in the studio for inspiration. I also do a lot of art journaling in smaller notebooks, collaging images with paint to work out ideas in my head before I jump to canvas or larger paper. Lately, I've been very focused on collecting scraps of paper, dried paint, and other materials to incorporate into my paintings.

Photo by Steven Cotton Photography

KC: Color is a very big aspect in all of your pieces. What are some colors you gravitate to, and how do they play a role in the feeling of your pieces?

AN: I'm addicted to color - the bolder, deeper, and richer, the better. It's a mood stabilizer for me, in a way. When I first started painting, I used color primarily to convey mood, and I tended to use bold shades or red, orange, magenta, and brighter blues. I didn't use a lot of black or white. Over the last couple of years, that's changed as I've tried to incorporate more negative space and restraint into my paintings. The last few months I've found myself more drawn to muted tones, deep, dark blues like Prussian Blue Hue, Paynes Gray, and Anthraquinone, as well as darker yellows like Yellow Ochre, Oxide and Indian Yellow Hue. They feel very grounding to me and that's a feeling I like to evoke as I construct images that speak to past traumas.

Photo by Steven Cotton Photography

KC: What inspires you? Do you ever find inspiration in unlikely places? 

AN: Music - I can see colors and movement when I hear the emotion, melody, and rhythms in song. Unapologetic expressions of self, particularly from Black women and other women of color. Dance - movement has always been liberating for me and as an abuse survivor, the only time I've felt the most in control of my body and rooted to myself is when I'm running or dancing. Struggle and resistance. Pain and trauma. Words. I'm constantly striving to integrate these elements in each painting.


Photo by Steven Cotton Photography


KC: I know you’re very into social activism and call your artwork a form of protest. What do you think the role of art is within the current political and social climate?

AN: I think now is the time for artists to do what we do best: bear witness to the times and construct a lens for people to see our society and culture through as unfiltered as possible. James Baldwin stated that our obligation as artists to society is to "...illuminate the darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so what we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place." ("The Creative Process", 1962) I fully believe that in times like the ones we're facing, it's imperative we create work that does exactly this, that exhumes hidden and silent histories, and unapologetically tells the truths we'd much rather not face about ourselves and one another collectively. As a Black woman, however, I also believe my role as an artist is to balance all of that with work that encourages a celebration of self, healing, growth, thriving, and even joy. All of that is a form of resistance and power too.

Photo by Steven Cotton Photography


KC: What do you want viewers to take away from the pieces you’ll be exhibiting at the gallery show, “Women,” at Rare Device?

AN: What can be recovered, what can remain, and what must we abandon to do that and live unapologetically free?

In interpreting the theme, I was drawn to the idea of women connecting to, and reclaiming pieces of themselves that were lost, stunted, or silenced in the past. I want all women, including those who identify as cis, queer, trans or non-binary, to reclaim ownership of every person they've had to be to survive, and integrate all of those former selves into who they presently are. In this way, they can live as their most embodied, fullest selves. My work is intended to foster conversations within, about narrative, connection, embodiment, and power. The aim is to challenge and examine the beliefs women hold of themselves and of their place in the world, as well as consider how traumas and other life experiences have psychologically impacted their sense of self.

Taking the time to discover who I've been in the past has enabled me to heal and to embody my fullest self in the present. These pieces are born out of my own experiences, and my hope is that sharing a bit of my journey encourages other women to embark upon their own.

Photo by Steven Cotton Photography


You can find A'Driane's pieces, along with the work of LINDSAY STRIPLING, SARAH K. BENNING, KATIE GONG, and KRISTINE VEJAR at the opening of "Women," Friday May 5th at 600 Divisadero Street. The show will be up from May 5th - July 3rd.

Interview with artist Lindsay Stripling


With the upcoming gallery show, Women, opening at Rare Device on Friday, May 5th, we’ve been catching up with a few of the artists participating in the show. I recently had a chance to sit down with local San Francisco artist, Lindsay Stripling, at her Sunset studio. Lindsay is predominately a watercolor and acrylic artist who creates images that blend reality with fantasy. Lindsay’s studio is filled with earthy colored paint pallets, large unfinished oil paintings, and open sketchbooks filled with black and white drawings. Stepping into her quaint studio is like stepping into another world entirely, filled with moody blues and fantastic creatures in the making.

Dave, our photographer, and I sat down with Lindsay for a deeper look into her creative process.

KC: What’s your background in painting and how long have you been creating art?

LS: I studied photography at UC Santa Cruz, but also took some oil painting classes while I was there. I was painting a long time even before college, but probably not as much as most artists. I feel like a lot of artists I listen to say they’ve been very creative and drawing since they were very young, and I did a little bit, but not in a way that I took myself seriously.

KC: You mentioned oil painting, but it seems you mostly do watercolor now. Did you just pick up watercolor and teach yourself?

LS: Yeah, I went back to school in 2001 to SFAI, and at the time everyone was doing oil painting, but paper seemed like the easiest medium for me to work with. Especially living in the city, I don’t have a ton of space in my studio. Although recently I started doing oils and acrylics again so I have panels everywhere. In general, having one or two flat files in my studio is way easier.

KC: I’m really impressed with the amount of work you’re able to put out and share on social platforms like Instagram. Do you paint everyday?

LS: Instagram is really deceptive, but I do paint everyday. I work a full-time job and I recently made a post on Instragam about the realities of being an artist. Especially an artist in an expensive city like this. I work a full-time job in the city, but I also work full time as an artist. I do paint everyday, and if I have two or three days where I don’t paint I start to feel really anxious. I think what I’ve been really excited about with my acrylic and oil paintings alongside my watercolors, is that there is always something different for me to be working on. When I become frustrated with oils for instance, they then become something fun and different that I’m ok with being bad at. It’s fun learning and re-learning how to paint with oils after being so tight and controlled with my watercolors. Sometimes I get home from work and the last thing I want is to be painting tight and controlled and all I want to do is be ugly and loose and think about color in a different way.

KC: Your use of color in your paintings is always something that sticks out to me. I know you teach classes on color at Case For Making. Have you ever thought about going into teaching?

LS: Yeah, I teach a class at Case For Making with Alexis where she teaches you how to make your own watercolors from scratch, and I teach you how to use it and think about color mixing in general. I have thought about teaching at a college level, but I’m not interested in going back to school for my MFA and increasing my debt.

KC: Can you tell us about your creative process?

LS: At this point it is all building off of itself. Most of the things I look to for inspiration are books, or artists I love like Amy Cutler or Marcel Dzama who are dealing with similar content. I’m also always thinking about the things I’m listening to or reading, and how that applies to that type of technique. Usually, I’ll do some sketches and make an ugly painting, then make a similar but different painting building on itself. My tendency used to be to create something and then be done with it, but I actually had a professor that said you should never feel like you’re done with an idea. There are always so many different facets to it, so I force myself to use the same content in a different way, or do it again, and I find when I do that it tends to be more interesting because I’m thinking about it for a longer period of time.

KC: A lot of your work echoes folklore and fairytales. Do you take inspiration from books and other stories, your imagination, or somewhere else?

LS: Definitely all of those things. My work before I started doing this body of work was based on my memory of events. It involved taking old photographs and altering them with paint to build on that idea of legends and lore and how we create our lives and how we think about ourselves in the world. I went to see Amy Cutler’s show at Virginia Mocha while driving across the country, and it blew me away how she created her own world that discusses all sorts of topics, not just memory and folklore, but politics and women's rights. I realized I wanted to create that type of vernacular for myself, so I used what I had been doing to create something new. In doing that, I’m definitely reading fairytales and folklore, but also just thinking about the symbols and things I’m using over and over again as a type of visual vocabulary.


KC: A lot of your work features what I consider to be these somewhat androgynous characters in situations where they very much seem to be in control. Do you think your work delivers a message of female empowerment?

LS: I love that that’s how you see them. I’m always so interested in how people perceive the worlds I’m creating and the creatures and characters in them. I use a lot of animal heads and masks, and I really hope all the characters I create can be read in multiple ways. I’m always interested in representing more than just white women, as a middle-class white woman myself, I’m not interested in furthering the discussion around just that character. I would like for everyone to be able to look at the characters and identify with them in some way or another. In all of my paintings, I’m hoping that the narrative is slightly mysterious or lost so that everyone can recreate it each time they look at it. I’m hoping that it’s not just women that look at it and identify with it, but I’m hoping that it’s transgender people, or bisexual people, or anyone that can look at it and connect with it, even men, and if that happens that I’m being slightly successful.

KC: I know you donated a portion of your sales to Planned Parenthood recently. What do you think the role of art is within the current political and social climate?

LS: I think the arts are so important and I just read a really empowering letter from the editor of Juxtapoz Magazine about the dissemination of the arts in a time when we need to be creating conversation around things that are very controversial. I think art can pose a place for discussion to be created, and sometimes I’m not sure what my viewpoint is, but I hope that through discussion of the imagery I’m creating, or the discussion of other peoples imagery, that we can get to a place where conversation is happening. I think especially right now in our country it’s very divisive, the things that are happening politically, and when that happens the discussion gets lot in everyone's anger and they are not able to find their voice or why they're upset or how to move forward. Art creates a bridge there. For me, I definitely have a clear idea of what’s upsetting me and bothering me, but art creates a place for me to personally figure it out also. It’s really cool that I can use my art to gather funds for something I’m excited about, or passionate about, or hoping to support. I think a lot of people are doing that which is really cool because artists are notoriously broke, but somehow all of these people who are creative are taking funds from something they could use to pay rent and survive, and instead putting it towards something they are passionate about.

KC: What do you want viewers to take away from the pieces you will be exhibiting at the gallery show, “Women” at Rare Device?

LS: I’m doing a bonfire piece that I kinda think of as a feminist bonfire, but also as an activist bonfire. I think the word “feminism” is really rough, but I think having a conversation around it can create discussion that’s less about just burning books and more about larger concepts of destruction in order to create new discussion. Because the word “feminism” is so problematic, and discussions of feminism have been problematic in the past and present, we can use discussions to give the term a new voice for what it should be and what we want it to be. I’m hoping that my pieces speak to that a little bit.

You can find Lindsay's pieces, along with the work of A'Driane Nieves, Sarah K. Benning, Katie Gong, and Kristine Vejar at the opening of "Women," Friday May 5th at 600 Divisadero Street. The show will be up from May 5th - July 3rd.

'Women': A Group Show Featuring Lindsay Stripling, Sarah K. Benning, A’Driane Nieves, Kristine Vejar, and Katie Gong


Rare Device is proud to present our next gallery show, Women. Curator Giselle Gyalzen asked 5 women artists that work in different mediums to create work based on the theme, Women Empowered Through Connection. As a woman-owned, community-minded business we strongly believe in proclaiming women’s strength and power in their community and beyond. The show will feature the works of Lindsay Stripling, Sarah K. Benning, A’Driane Nieves, Kristine Vejar, and Katie Gong.

The show will open May 5th, with an artists reception from 6 - 9PM at 600 Divisadero Street, and run through July 2nd. Get to know each artist below:

Lindsay Stripling. Lindsay is a San Francisco based artist. Lindsay works primarily with watercolor on paper, using color and form to create dreamlike narratives that echo folk and fairy tales that we vaguely remember from childhood. Mysterious characters exist in familiar landscapes, playing out scenes from stories with no beginning, middle or end. And where the moral might be lost, switched, blurred or even just completely missing. Lindsay works with clients like Illustoria Magazine and has shown in galleries such as Nahcotta in Portsmouth, NH, Flatcolor in Seattle, WA and Spoke Art in San Francisco and New York.

Sarah K. Benning. Sarah is an American fiber artist with a nomadic studio practice (dividing her time between the U.S. and Spain for the past two years). Originally from Baltimore, she relocated to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received her BFA in Fiber and Material Studies. Shortly after graduating in 2013, Sarah discovered her love for embroidery almost by accident and the hobby transformed into her full-time art practice and career. Sarah is currently adjusting to country life and a new home studio in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

A'Driane "addyeB" Nieves. As a survivor of abuse, painting is an excavation of everything A'Driane hid in her mind and body for survival during childhood. It is also an act of reclaiming her voice. She examines the impact of inherited and personal trauma, and celebrates the resiliency, joy, and transformation that occurs in spite of it. Because her work is rooted in and influenced by abstract expressionism, she's intrigued by the internal processes we experience-especially when navigating life as an Other, both individually and collectively. She relies on abstract forms and composition to communicate what the biological and emotional processes of identity formation, adaptation, recovery, and transformation look like inside of us from birth to death.

Kristine Vejar. Kristine is a natural dyer, teacher, owner of A Verb for Keeping Warm a natural dyeing studio as well as yarn and fabric shop in Oakland, California, and author of The Modern Natural Dyer (Abrams 2015).

Katie Gong. Katie is a California-born sculptor and is best known for her woodwork installations. Using natural resources that are found locally, she creates works of art that are simultaneously visually stunning and functionally brilliant. Her work can be seen out of her studio in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. Her unique pioneering steam bending techniques allow her to challenge and develop classic woodworking practices.

Reawakening: A Group Show By The Rare Device Staff


Did you know that when you bring your interesting finds up to the sales associate at Rare Device, you could be talking to the person who made them? Many current and former Rare Device employees are artists or designers and have lines carried by Rare Device! Art prints, greeting cards, fiber jewelry, patches, notebooks, zines - the list goes on!

Cyanotype soaking up the sun by Cathleen Bishop 

Desert landscape in progress by Kayla Conyer

One of Rare Device’s primary missions is to support independent artists and artisans, with a particular focus on West Coast makers. So, in addition to stocking their work and curating monthly gallery shows and periodic pop-up shops, we have a lot of independent artists working here, it’s just a natural fit. They tend to be aligned with Rare Device's values and mission and can often offer customers helpful information based on their own artistic experience and expertise.


                Collage work in progress by Rachel T. Robertson

                   Cyanotype in progress by Cathleen Bishop

Every year we turn our gallery wall at our Divisadero location over to the RD artist-employees for one of our gallery shows. This year the show is called Reawakening and it will be up from March 10 - May 1, with an opening reception on this Friday, March 10 from 6-9pm.

Reawakening is a theme that reflects both the season of Spring with all its newness and the fact that each artist, in their work, is drawn to the natural world. ‘Reawakening’ suggests new growth, fresh starts, and being fully present. It shows itself in multiple ways: a sprout pushing up out of the ground, a new creative approach, or a focus on being more alive. The works shown, in all the diverse mediums, are reflective of what ‘reawakening’ means to each artist.

We hope you can stop in, say hello, admire their work, and perhaps bring some of it home. You may discover that you already have!

The artists featured in the show are: Rachel T Robertson, Eddie Soto, Cathleen Bishop, Kayla Conyer, Dave Medal and Giselle Gyalzen.

We hope to see you at the opening reception on Friday, March 10 from 6-9pm, at 600 Divisadero Street, San Francisco.

Ropetition: Cindy Hsu Zell


Rare Device is pleased to announce our first gallery exhibition for 2017, Ropetition, featuring artist Cindy Hsu Zell. On view from January 20 to March 6, 2017 with an artist reception on Friday, January 27 from 6-9pm at 600 Divisadero Street San Francisco, CA 94117.

Ropetition is a collection of material-driven sculptures that explore gravity’s influence on form. Individual pieces serve as studies on curves, drape, weight, and movement, reinterpreting traditional techniques in rope-making.

About the Artist:

Cindy Hsu Zell is a Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary artist who creates fiber-based sculptures out of handmade rope. She studied art and animation at USC and went on to work in retail display, gaining extensive experience designing and executing large-scale multi-media installations. In 2015 she launched a line of brass wall hangings and accessories called WKNDLA.