Raubacher puts life into Biggs exhibit

Rebecca Raubacher, who owned the Raubacher Gallery in Dover for 30 years before moving to Rehoboth Beach, is showing her latest work in an exhibit at the Biggs Museum of American Art entitled “Rebecca Raubacher: Drawings and Paintings” through Oct. 20. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — When Rebecca Raubacher was 3 years old, her sister took her to ride ponies. It was a moment that would define her career path.

“I fell in love with the ponies and the assorted farm animals,” Ms. Raubacher said. “As soon as I got home, I picked up a paper and pencil and started trying to draw everything I saw.”

She hasn’t put her pencil down yet. For the last 60 years, she has been capturing moments in her life through her art.

“Drawing and painting are sensual experiences whether drawing from nature or conjuring a subject in the studio,” Ms. Raubacher said.

The Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover unveiled “Rebecca Raubacher: Drawings and Paintings” last weekend. The exhibit will run through Oct. 20.

A Delaware native and former Dover resident, Ms. Raubacher has had several solo exhibitions in public and commercial spaces throughout the First State and the country but it’s her first solo show at the Biggs Museum.

“Everything just fell in place,” Ms. Raubacher said. “The Biggs Museum was ready for me and I was more than ready to showcase my work at the museum.”

Ms. Raubacher’s 2010 work “Portrait of a Young Woman” is oil stick, charcoal and watercolor on paper.

The exhibit features about 80 of Ms. Raubacher’s works, tracing the evolution of her unique drawing style and technique. It dives deeply into her recent work, focusing mostly on the human figure.

Ms. Raubacher and her husband had their own business in Dover called The Raubacher Gallery for 30 years.

“We were very busy,” Ms. Raubacher said. “I was born and raised in Wilmington, but I met my husband Chris in Rehoboth. He’s from Dover and we settled there and opened up our gallery. When our children finished school we moved to Rehoboth.

“I’m really excited that I have the opportunity to show my work again in Dover. It gives me a chance to show my work to people who may have not known me before as well as the people who have followed my work for years.”

Ms. Raubacher’s depictions of human and animal figures emerge over time from a few simple marks layered onto a piece of paper.

She carefully and hypnotically builds her faces and bodies with cross-hatched lines using a wide range of artistic media. At times, her characters reveal themselves fully formed from within a simple line drawing. At other times, complex personalities appear through veiled skins of layered drawings and paint to demonstrate psychological tensions and universal narratives.

Patrons look at the work of Rebecca Raubacher during an opening reception of her exhibit at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover on Aug. 2.

“My drawing style is I think very classical,” Ms. Raubacher said. “It is developed from quick contour drawings. I draw from life every day. It gives me edge and hand confidence.”

Her unique drawing style and longevity is what caused Biggs Museum curator Ryan Grover to ask Ms. Raubacher to do her first solo show at the museum.

“Rebecca had been working on a new group of figural artworks that were a concentrated departure from other periods,” Mr. Grover said. “They were really lively, colorful, full of joy and there were a lot of them. I felt that she had built up a large enough body of work that we could feature a recent works show and catalogue.”

Ms. Raubacher said she draws inspiration from just living life.

“A life drawing can take seconds — 15 to 30 seconds,” Ms. Raubacher said. “A drawing that builds into a painting can take hours, weeks or sometimes years. All I have to do is make a mark on a piece of paper and the mark starts telling me what to do next.”

Mr. Grover said her style of artistry is what makes her unique.

“She is pretty fearless about laying down drawing medium and paint onto paper,” Mr. Grover said. “She just goes for it and really wants the viewer to be able to see how she has built up layers of colorful marks across the paper.

“Her subjects are thoughtful but not alienating. Everyone can relate. And the works are huge. It’s like walking right into someone’s memories.”

The exhibit features about 80 of Ms. Raubacher’s works, tracing the evolution of her unique drawing style and technique. It dives deeply into her recent work, focusing mostly on the human figure.

Ms. Raubacher said out of all of works she doesn’t have a favorite, as each of them tell different stories.

“All the drawings and paintings offer something very unique to themselves but the last two pieces I did are ‘She is Going’ and ‘Past and Present.’ Their color surface, composition and subject excite me,” Ms. Raubacher said.

Even when the exhibit is over she hopes to use her experiences at the Biggs Museum as inspiration.

“I can’t wait to get back in the studio, put up large fresh paper and see what the next works are like,” Ms. Raubacher said.

The Biggs Museum is at 406 Federal St. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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