Shadows Love Me
Love letters to my past and future selves
A funeral for the rodent you found in the backyard
The clump of trees that protected you from the airplanes
The time blood appeared on your thigh from you-don’t-know-where
and shocked you into tears next to your favorite boulder
You can’t draw the lamb
Trust that the lines will follow you
I stole the title for this body of work from my three-year-old niece. She was initially afraid of the shadows created by the canopy her mom placed over her bed. My sister-in-law was about to take it down when she said, “never mind, shadows love me!” These neon gel pen drawings were first exhibited in Portland, Oregon, at a café called Albina Press, in the Fall of 2022. I was able to neglect the details of an Artist Statement and hide them behind the poem italicized above. Drawing is my way of sharing vulnerability that I am historically too afraid to express with words and the reason that I am a visual artist in the first place.
The beings depicted inhabit this void of a world where specifics and hard truths remain unseen. When I was young, I wished to be non-participatory, a fly on the wall. I had no desire to be active in the human world because I was too afraid to be a person. When I discovered my neurodivergence as an adult, every interaction I had as a young person suddenly snapped into place. These drawings are helping me to learn how to exist as an embodied vessel, not just an empty shape surrounded by what I am not. These beings emerge from an unseen realm to remind me (or you, or you) to become our own shapes.
Gel pens offer a decisive finality. I must acquiesce to the chance of “making a mistake” and trust the lines as they delicately emerge. When I sit down to work, I may have a vague idea of a body shape I want to draw, or a feeling I am soaking in, but the lines often surprise me as they wind around the strangers I meet on the page.
Looking at the drawings, it’s hard to know if the interactions are nurturing or violent, whether they know one another intimately or invite dread in the other. As these beings contort around the truths that are too sharp to say out loud, they invite the viewer to tell a story to themselves. Somehow our guts recognize it anyway.
Rachel Mulder lives in Portland, Oregon, with her two cats, Opal and Tomasina. She was born in rural Wisconsin, and when she was small, she spent a lot of time sitting in the grass staring, obsessing about animals, watching cartoons, and peeling her skin off. Now she makes drawings using a variety of media that often yield printmakerly textures—residual effects from earning her BFA in Printmaking at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 2007. Encouraging others to create/exist sincerely is a parallel passion of hers that braids itself into her visual work. Her website: www.rachelmulderart.com