Helen Rae is an artist who works at First Street Gallery, a program for adults with developmental disabilities in Claremont, California. First Street has encouraged the growth of some remarkable artists over the years, none more so than Helen, a 76-year-old, who has been a regular since the facility opened its doors in 1989.
Her work, in pencil and crayon, is immediately striking for its vivid imagery and resonant use of color. Her drawings exude a strange power and sense of menace. Fierce or frightened-looking women, with distorted figures, often seem to be hiding or escaping in furtive dream-like adventures, emerging out of or disappearing into ornate floral patterns, shrouded in luxuriant foliage, or on the verge of vanishing into abstraction. Using fashion advertisements as a point of departure for otherworldly journeys into the unconscious, Helen holds up a shattered mirror to the source material, breaking down the images into something uniquely expressive.