|Born||Rachel J. Feinstein
May 25, 1971
Fort Defiance, Arizona
|Education||Columbia University in New York City.
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, Maine.
Rachel Feinstein (born May 25, 1971) is an American artist who specializes in sculpture. She is best known for baroque, fantasy-inspired sculptures like the "The Snow Queen”, which was drawn from a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. There have been over two dozen group and solo showings of her work in the United States, Europe and Asia. She is married to painter John Currin. In 2011 the New York Times described them as "the ruling power couple in today’s art world."
Feinstein, the daughter of a Jewish dermatologist and a Catholic nurse, was raised in Miami, Florida. She became interested in art in elementary school and took private lessons. She also studied with her artist grandmother. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 1993, studying religion, philosophy and studio art. In 1993 she also studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Feinstein applied for a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University, but believes she was rejected because she wore a transparent plastic miniskirt and a T-shirt reading “I’m a Satisfier”.
In New York Feinstein studied with artist Kiki Smith. She has said she was particularly inspired by the sculptors Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Pino Pascali, Elie Nadelman, Tilman Riemenschneider and Antonio Canova.
In 1994 her works were shown for the first time in the Sonnabend Gallery Artist Invitational group showing. In that year she also showed at the Exit Art "Let the Artist Live" exhibit where she built a Sleeping Beauty’s gingerbread house in which she actually slept. It was there she met John Currin who is known for satirical and even pornographic studies of female figures. They married three years later on Valentine's Day. She and Currin have two sons and a daughter.
Feinstein has appeared in many of Currin's paintings, both as a recognizable face and as a body model. She has been called his "muse." Her personality has been described as "warm, energetic and open." Currin, who describes himself as "not very liked," says she "helped my career tremendously."
Some have alleged that Feinstein has "piggybacked" on her husband's success, criticism that Feinstein regards as a sexist denial that she also might be talented. A photographer friend was quoted as saying that while Currin seems "very macho and old-fashioned" and Feinstein "super-feminine," artistically he does very fine work with brushes while she uses a chainsaw and goggles in her studio. She opined that their blurred yin and yang is the "key to their mystique."
In 1999 while working as a receptionist at the Marianne Boesky gallery, Boesky saw some of her sculpture sketches and relieved her of that position so that she could show her works. This was Feinstein's first solo show. The gallery has had three showings of her work.
In 2002 Feinstein and Currin published a 24-page book of their works at the Hydra Workshop in Hydra, Greece which they titled The Honeymooners, John Currin and Rachel Feinstein. It includes an interview conducted by Sadie Coles.
In 2008 Feinstein published a signed, limited edition full-color catalog of her works over the previous ten years. The introduction was written by author James Frey and the book includes an interview conducted by filmmaker Sofia Coppola.
Feinstein's flair for fashion inspired a 2004 collection by Marc Jacobs. Juergen Teller photographed her for the advertising campaign. The Currin's apartment loft, described as "most stylish apartment south of Houston Street", was featured in the December 2010 issue of World of Interiors after S. I. Newhouse, the chairman of Condé Nast, dined at the apartment. Tom Ford included her in his show of his new women’s fashion in 2010. Vogue reported on her 40th birthday party in their new town house in Gramercy Park; its theme was "Miss Havisham" and guests were bid to “Dress Edwardian.”
Feinstein's mediums include oil paint on glass and sculptures made of plaster and carved wood. Her work has been described as combining "Rococo and Baroque flourishes with fairy tale and Disneyesque themes" and as creating a "baroque kitsch fantasy-land". One reviewer wrote her work has "exposed (but also relied on) the ways in which flourish has been historically coded as feminine."
In 2000 Feinstein exhibited works in "Pastoral Pop" at the Whitney Museum at Philip Morris and 2000 at "The Americans" exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London. Her 2001 debut solo show was inspired by her trip to palaces in Munich and Vienna.
In 2004 she displayed her plywood sculpture "The Crucifixion" at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery. The life-sized depiction consisted of four figures: Jesus on the cross, Mary at his feet, John the Baptist and Saint John. A reviewer remarked that rather than making a joke of the scene, as several contemporary artists had done, she had produced a work that was "startling" as well as "evocative and fresh."
In 2005 she produced a show at the Boesky Gallery featuring elderly women posed in ornate costumes and wigs. She painted them in oils on ovals of glass and had them photographed. Her inspiration for the set of pieces was Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. She told an interview that being pregnant at the time, "I guess I was thinking about mortality, feminine beauty, my fears about being a mother and an artist." An ArtForum reviewer noted that the costume and pose of one drawing was a "nearly identical copy" of a Feinstein photograph in a Marc Jacobs advertisement from the year before and that the elderly model in fact looked much like Ms. Feinstein might look when she aged. The reviewer wrote the "(self-)portraits" felt "in line with the current vogue for noble iconography" and also described them as "celebratory caricatures, self-indulgent and vain." She also criticized the one foam and three wood sculptures from the exhibition as "merely clunky hybrids of kitschy Cubism and craft."
Her 2008 show "Puritan's Delight” combined pieces displaying "disparate references to art history, cultural history, and contemporary life" and "mixed Cubism, Deconstruction, Mexican crosses, furniture-making techniques, Puritan spartanism, and Viennese elegance." Notable pieces included a woman posing erotically, two dancing satyrs, a Renaissance-era avenging angel, wood sculptures of prancing horses with white pompadors painted in high-gloss enamel and a black stained collapsed wooden carriage holding a working lantern.
The Fashion Fund Award committee commissioned Feinstein to create their 2010 award. She created it in the form of a swan which she described as “a pure, elite thing.” For the ceremony she created 20 “one-of-a-kind” awards cast in bronze.
In January 2011 she opened her show “The Snow Queen" at Lever House in New York. It combines Carpenter Gothic architecture and Baroque painting to present vignettes of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen, showing Feinstein's "flair for synthesizing myriad fascinations." The exhibited included painted wood toy soldiers, roses, children, and ice, as well as a lacquered gold coach which was displayed outside in the January snow. The Vogue magazine reviewer wrote that she "explores the themes of fantasy, ruin, and beauty to create a magical universe of her own."
In February 2012 Feinstein created for a Marc Jacobs' fashion show "a twisted paper castle set", also described as "a decayed Walt Disney castle." Rachel Feinstein referred to her work as "rococo with a nasty underside".
From November 2012 to January 2013 the Gagosian Gallery held Feinstein's first exhibition in Rome, Italy. For it she created an impressionistic panoramic wallpaper of Rome covering different historical periods, painted and displayed on mirrors and accompanied by life size wooden sculptures inspired by depictions of early Christian saints and martyrs.
Feinstein and Currin's "ritzy indulgence" has been described as a "risky move" in the art world. Feinstein told an interviewer: "The New York art world is very protective of itself...They don't like it when something is not in an art magazine. Dealers and collectors told me I shouldn't have been in Vogue. They feel that they have to defend you because you were photographed at some party, so it means you are not a great artist." 
Feinstein has said about fashion: "Fashion is at its best when a woman and her outfit work together to make you stop and stare just like a great painting. Art should look amazing regardless of where it is, whether it is in a collector's home or a museum...Fashion and Art both need to know their strengths and weakness and not try to do what the other does best."
In interviews both Feinstein and Currin have commented on sexism in the art world. Feinstein has said "if you are a female artist you have to think about being female and making work because you are a female artist; but I grew up in a home where the only difference between men and women was medical." She believes that she is judged unjustly by her appearance in a way her husband and other males artists are not.
- Rachel J. Feinstein profile, CityFile.com.
- Biography of Rachel Feinstein at Marianne Boesky Gallery, including listing of all exhibitions.
- David Colman, Rachel Feinstein and John Currin, Their Own Best Creations, New York Times, March 11, 2011.
- Mary Barone, Angels and Alligators, artnet magazine, 2008.
- Power Punk: Rachel Feinstein, The New York Observer, December 15, 2003.
- Rebecca Suhrawardi Austin, About Last Weekend... Chatting With Rachel Feinstein at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Paper Mag, Aug 5, 2008.
- Glen O'Brien, Interview with Rachel Feinstein, Interview magazine, December 2011.
- Jessica Berens,We are not a muse: Jessica Berens talks to John Currin and Rachel Feinstein, The Observer, August 31, 2003.
- Marianne Boesky Gallery Press release announcing 2001 Rachel Feinstein show.
- Listing of Rachel Feinstein exhibitions at the Marianne Boesky Gallery, at the Gallery web site.
- WorldCat listing of The Honeymooners, John Currin and Rachel Feinstein.
- Rachel Feinstein, Rachel Feinstein, Introduction by James Frey, TarSIZ, 2008.
- The Hamishsphere: Rachel Feinstein's 40th Birthday Party, Vogue, May 23, 2011.
- Johanna Burton, Review of Rachel Feinstein: Marianne Boesky Gallery, ArtForum, Summer, 2005.
- Steven Vincent, The plywood intercessor.(Rachel Feinstein's sculpture "The Crucifixion"), The Antioch Review, March 22, 2004.
- Jan Garden Castro, Conversation with Rachel Feinstein, Sculpture magazine, March 2009.
- Review of "Puritan's Delight", artnet, 2008.
- Caroline Palmer, Art for Art's Sake: Rachel Feinstein Creates the 2010 Fashion Fund Award, Vogue Magazine, November 12, 2010.
- André Leon Talley on Rachel Feinstein's "The Snow Queen", Vogue magazine, January 28, 2011.
- Zoe Walker, The most memorable moments from fall fashion shows, The New Zealand Herald, March 12, 2012.
- Suzy Menkes, A Magical Pilgrim's Path, New York Times, February 14, 2012.
- Gagosian Gallery on Rachel Feinstein Rome 2012-2013 exhibit.