Rafael Soldi Honorably Mentioned

Mar 13–Apr 13, 2019
Online Exhibition

In an early passage from Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs Dalloway, Woolf’s protagonist Clarissa likens her feelings on a formative, fleeting moment from her youth to having been given, “a present, wrapped up, and told just to keep it, not to look at it—a diamond, something infinitely precious…”. This concept of a pulsating, private moment, one which we hold dear, but fear looking at too closely, lest we diminish its potency, is perhaps one many of us can relate to. Peruvian­-born, Seattle-based artist Rafael Soldi has looked to Woolf’s writing as an inspiration, and his work shares a sense of probing into oneself. Yet unlike Woolf’s character Clarissa, Soldi’s work looks closely at these feelings, “exploring the depths of innerness”, as the artist says in his own words. Rather than disbanding their emotional affect, Soldi’s practice of looking inward, and contemplating private moments with a sustained intensity, provides an entry point for not only himself, but for others to explore their own depths.

The color black is everywhere in Soldi's series Life Stand Still Here. In Untitled (XIV), a portrait made in shades of black and grey, the figure seems suspended in a charcoal haze, emerging only from the contour lines of their body. In the diptych, All Day I Hear The Noise of Waters, rolling waves of black water crest smoothly across the image, the subtle lines and ripples of the water indicating a controlled sense of movement. Soldi coats his images in a special velvet laminate that makes the photographs look almost like a charcoal drawing, enhancing their delicate features and details. Soldi employs the color black with a great degree of care. His use of details—such as a fine line of hair cutting across the back of a neck—ease the viewer into his work. At the time of making these images, Soldi himself was experiencing an exceptionally devastating romantic breakup, and was, “taking a deep look inward into the depths of a psyche that was quite dark.” Yet, for the artist, this time period of self reflection, “wasn't a darkness that was scary or perverse, but rather one that was simply obscure and therefore somewhat frightening.” This abstract and unknowable quality of Soldi’s work is palpable, yet so is the feeling that we as viewers can contend with these images in tandem with our own feelings of fear towards the unknown. In making his work feel almost indescribable, or unknowable, it opens the door for viewers to tap into those parts of ourselves we most often shy away from acknowledging.

In a series of self portraits Soldi has titled, Imagined Futures, the artist looks to the unknown, and ideas of identity formation, in a different way. As an immigrant from Peru, Soldi grapples with the reality that in relocating from his country of birth to the United States, he has given up the future life, or lives, that may have played out for him in Peru. Created over a period of two years, Soldi periodically stepped into an analog photo booth, and took a photo of himself, grieving for that lost future. The photo booth acts a witness to this very personal performance, and creates a tangible memento of the artist’s farewell. The final project has resulted in fifty of these portraits, which when displayed together, create a monumental sense of loss. Soldi’s image becomes a vessel in this way, for not only his own reckoning, but for other immigrants who have bid farewell their own imagined futures in exchange for a life in the United States.

Honorably Mentioned is a series of online exhibitions highlighting work from artists chosen as Honorable Mentions for Silver Eye's Fellowship competition. Each year, Silver Eye receives hundreds of talented, innovative submissions of work, but can inevitably only choose two artists for our International and Keystone Awards. This series seeks to feature the six artists selected as Honorable Mentions by our jurors for their outstanding bodies of work. Rafael Soldi was selected as an Honorable Mention for the International Award, by juror Chris McCall, Executive Director of Pier 24 in San Francisco, CA

Participating Artist

  1. Rafael Soldi is a Peruvian­-born, Seattle-based artist and curator. He holds a BFA in Photography & Curatorial Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has exhibited internationally at the Frye Art Museum, American University Museum, Griffin Museum of Photography, ClampArt, The Print Center, G. Gibson Gallery, Connersmith, Filter Space, and Burrard Arts Foundation, among others. Rafael is a 2012 Magenta Foundation Award Winner, and recipient of the 2014 Puffin Foundation grant, 2015 Portable Works Cultural Perspectives Purchase Grant, 2016 smART Ventures grant, 2016 Jini Dellaccio GAP grant, 2017 CityArtist Projects Grant, and a 2017 4Culture Arts Projects Grant. He has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, PICTURE BERLIN, and Oxbow Space.

    His work is in the permanent collections of the Tacoma Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, and the King County Public Art Collection. He has been published in PDN, Dwell, Hello Mr, Metropolis, GRAY, LUXE, Lagom, among others. His work has been reviewed on ARTFORUM, The Seattle Times, The Boston Globe, Lensculture, and PDN. Rafael is the co-founder of FOUND, a space for contemporary art in Seattle, and the Strange Fire Collective, a project dedicated to highlighting work made by women, people of color, and queer and trans artists.

Learn More

    • Screen Shot 2019 03 13 At 11 07 35 Am
    • Lensculture Interviews Rafael Soldi
    • Using self-portraits from photo booths, and footage of playground hazing, photographer Rafael Soldi addresses his queer, Latinx identity, touching on subjects related to childhood, loss, immigration and assimilation