There are benefits and drawbacks to rapid development and growth in cities. One consequence can be the loss of smaller, local businesses. In the transition, what is left behind are abandoned storefronts, papered windows, and empty buildings awaiting demolition. The paradox is that the same is also found in small towns dotting the landscape between the large cities. I have been documenting what I identify as the primary signifier of this state of flux across the country. An empty sign askew above a bolted front door, a familiar shaped frame with exposed bulbs towering over the defunct gas station or the torn fabric of a sign exposing the supports. I find these structures visually and conceptually captivating. They have a history but no longer serve the intended purpose. These remnants often remain on site and in a decaying state for some time. They become something ignored, background noise in the landscape, both urban and rural. As I reinterpret these objects, I aim to visually transform the found structure into an architectural form, a partition or a window through which to view. These empty signs are given new context and new meaning.
Rebecca Rothfus Harrell is a visual artist living and working in Austin, TX. She earned a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1999) and a MAT from Tufts University/SMFA (2005). Her work has been exhibited in a variety of locations including: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, San Jose, and Austin. She has attended residencies at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of NM (2019), Vermont Studio Center (2017) and The Banff Centre (2015). As part of the City of Austin’s Art in Public Places TEMPO 2D Program, Harrell was commissioned to create a mural at the Jamie Odom Gazebo on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail in downtown Austin (2017-2019). Harrell is honored to be a 2020 Pollock-Krasner Grantee. Harrell’s ongoing fascination with infrastructure is rooted in the unique landscapes of the cities in which she has lived.