Rachel Durfee

Sprout a Garment, 2019, mixed media, 22 x 30″

Location: Madison, WI
Website: rachel-durfee.com

Describe your featured work:

Sprout a Garment began with one rather odd, but extremely irresistible thought – “fall leaf chain mail.” I simply had to discover what delicate fall leaves had to do with the armor, made of tiny metal rings linked together, that was worn by knights in the Middle Ages. My chain mail is made out of small ovals cut from my woodcut prints, printed on Japanese paper and painted with watercolors. I started attaching each of the delicate ovals together with metal chain mail rings. However, after attaching five pieces, the rings started making it too heavy and risked tearing the paper. Realizing that I had to “lighten the load,” I removed the majority of the rings and used thread to hold the remaining joints together. This seemed fitting, since I had designed the shape of the chain mail to resemble lungs or butterfly wings.

When I finished making the chain mail, I waited to discover what space it was meant to inhabit. I wanted it to read as a garment, so I put it on a hanger. Instinctively, the hanger took root and sprouted into a tree in springtime. It was only then that I understood that this piece referenced Isaiah 61. We are given a “garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” and we “will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Sprout a Garment affirms that when gratitude takes root, we can declare life’s seasons are good.

Artist Statement

My richly colored prints and poetry symbolically explore how we can thrive in the gap between life as it is and life as it ought to be. Humankind’s creative and destructive powers contrast with its ultimate frailty and powerlessness. In my work, the paradoxical architecture of existence is often populated with disappointment and resentment, but also hope and purpose—with a dash of wit. By revealing the breaking and mending process of our individual and collective brokenness, each work is an invitation to live more fully.

A Thin Line of Separation, 2019, mixed media, 30 x 22”
In Glass Jars, 2013 color etching 30” x 18”

What are you making now?

In my art and poetry, I am exploring “spaces between.” Mental spaces between are “threshold moments” brought on by loss or change and are places of reckoning and redefining. And here we are, in a place where COVID-19 has interrupted our lives and where the sins of racial injustice have boiled over. So much is happening that the landscape is changing daily. This is what being in liminal space is – unfamiliar territory. Within this space I am noticing the earth resting. I am considering how God is using this time to reclaim his creation and to draw our attention to the work he is doing in it. God is also reclaiming humanity to be the colors and textures of His vision of whom we are meant to be and how we are to live in community. God’s work of reclamation is currently challenging me and inspiring my work.

Substitution, 2015, mixed media, 22×30”

Holding On or Letting Go, 2017, mixed media, 24×25”

I belong to CIVA because…

I never knew that the church had a problem with art until I met CIVA. That was many years ago. Fortunately, God has never had a problem with art. CIVA has inspired me to think deeply about my art and my purpose as an artist. Through CIVA publications, events, and exhibitions, as well as the many conversations with friends I have made through CIVA, I have been spurred on to be faithful in my work as an artist. As a follower of Christ, I am inspired to create works that intersect with and speak to the longings that I see in the lives of those around me.


Rachel Durfee is an artist specializing in printmaking and poetry. She exhibits nationally and internationally. Her works are included in private and public collections including the Milwaukee Art Museum, The Warehouse Gallery Permanent Collection, Wheaton College, University of Wisconsin, Cornerstone University, Promega Corporation, Summit Credit Union and the Vatican. Ms. Durfee received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cornell University. She lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband, two sons and a 30” x 60” etching press.