Art Form(s)

Fiber, Installation, Mixed Media, Paper, Public Art



[email protected]


Artist Statement

I am interested in the creative possibilities of the sewing machine, which I use to draw, create installations, and initiate socially engaged public projects. I am a maker, yet much of my work involves the opposite: I “unmake” things and “dismantle” ways of seeing and believing. I am interested in the sewing machine as a deeply symbolic and also (im)practical object. I use the revolving needle of my sewing machine to both draw and reimagine connections between people. I often use the sewing machine without thread and instead use the needle’s punctures to create stencils and works on paper. I shake or “pounce” charcoal and soft pastel through the resulting stencils and onto walls, creating large-scale, site-specific drawings. I also create installations with disassembled garments, reassembling various “parts” to make the labor in these clothes visible and tangible. Through the act of undoing seams and re-making connections through sewing, I divert sewing's original purpose of creating and mending toward social critique. I call attention to the stitch as a symbol of interdependence, using it to express belief in the possibility of social change and repair. For the last eight years my work has examined the labor rights of garment workers, as a catalyst for social change. While rooted in research about the garment industry, my work also refers to the scale of many crisis caused by capitalism—climate change, racism, and labor abuse. It makes visible numbers and systems that are hard to comprehend, in an effort to remind us of the human labor present in the clothes we wear and our relationship to these workers. My interest in labor rights stems from histories of Jewish activism in the garment industry and also my own family history as immigrants and activists.

Rachel Breen’s work has been shown widely, both in Minnesota and across the country. Her solo exhibition, “The Price of Our Clothes,” at the Perlman Museum, Carleton was Included in the top 20, best of 2018, exhibitions in the US by Hyperallergic (December 20, 2018). Rachel is the recipient of a Fulbright award and will be a resident scholar at the Indian Institute of Craft and Design in Jaipur Rajasthan, India in 2022. She has been awarded an artist residency at MacDowell and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Rachel is an inaugural recipient of the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, has received four Minnesota State Arts Board grants and a fellowship from the Walker Art Center Open Field. Rachel’s social engagement projects have been presented across the state including two projects commissioned for Northern Spark, a public art festival addressing climate change in Minnesota. Rachel holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota and a BA from The Evergreen State College. She lives in Minneapolis, MN, maintains an active studio practice and is a professor of art at Anoka Ramsey Community College.