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Industry and Fine Arts Meld, as Local Artist Paints Pratt & Whitney Engine

By Barbara Bresnahan | Correspondent
EAST HARTFORD, Conn., Thursday, January 9, 2014

While the materials may not be unconventional - brushes, oil paints, hand-stretched canvas - the setting and subject matter are certainly novel ones. A training facility full of enormous aircraft engines isn't the typical place one would find an artist hard at work at their easel, but this past December, Rachel Lussier became a familiar sight to the employees and students at the Pratt & Whitney Customer Training Center in East Hartford, Conn.

Delving into the untapped while also fulfilling her desire to free herself of the restrictive studio environment, Lussier has been thrusting herself into public settings to create paintings with an industrial theme.

In recent days, Lussier has been found creating her art inside aircraft hangars, fire stations, hardware stores and even an oil change business. After seeking permission from the powers that be, Pratt & Whitney became her latest venue.

"Usually when I come to a business, they are caught off guard," said Lussier. "You want to do what?," is a familiar reaction.

"But once I get started, people see what I do, and everybody has fun."

"Fun" is one of the many reasons Lussier prefers to paint "live," rather than from a photograph or in her studio, but there are other reasons, as well.

"It's a very different exercise. It's a much more rigorous experience to paint from the actual three-dimensional object," she said. "If I were to paint from a photograph, it's two dimensions. If you're painting live, you spend much more time studying, scaling."

Studying and scaling were indeed integral pieces to Lussier's process, as she recreated a detailed section of an engine onto canvas. Valves, cylinders, fans, wires and much more, made for an intricate and challenging subject.

"I'm literally flying without a net. It's just me, the subject, the canvas and my hands," she said on Dec. 12 when she was just eight days into the project. Her goal, at the time, was to be done by Dec. 20.

"I'm usually here for a limited amount of time, so what happens is the gloves have to come off, no playing around, no procrastination. So there's intensity, which is really good. It means I really have to push hard," said Lussier.

Despite her need to concentrate and make steady progress, Lussier said that the interruptions, questions and conversations she had with curious onlookers were a welcome part of the process.

"I realized after being around so many artists for so many years, I took it for granted that non-artists were just as interested in how the work was made as they were with the work itself. So that became kind of a brain child to keep going with this painting and working live, because my hosts become collaborators. If I can share the journey with people, it's totally awesome," explained Lussier. "Beyond the work itself, social barriers are being crossed."

Covered bridges and bowls of fruit aren't likely to be found in Lussier's repertoire. Lussier is, instead, inspired by new perspectives and exploration.

"First and foremost, I want to pick subject matter in environments that really inspire me and kind of get me jazzed. The thing is, people will be painting landscapes and still lifes forever, and probably far better than I can ever do it, but I don't know that very many people have crossed this boundary of industry and climate. I mean, these worlds don't usually mix together. I'm piercing that social barrier between industry and fine arts with me doing my projects here."

For more information about Lussier, visit her website at www.rachellussierart.com. Her completed Pratt & Whitney engine piece will be posted on her website shortly after the new year.

Photo Credit

Barbara Bresnahan

Photo Caption

Artist Rachel Lussier became a familiar sight to the employees and students at the Pratt & Whitney Customer Training Center in East Hartford, Conn.