Checking in with Rebekah Graves


What were you doing when we called?
I was walking out to my woodshed in the rain to gather wood. I’m building a fire on my woodstove.

In addition to her art, Rebekah Graves has a sculptured lighting business. Check out her offerings at

What are you working on right now?
I mainly work with lights—getting lanterns up in shops around town. The lanterns I just walked into. I was doing bookmaking at UVA with Dean Dass and I had taken some sculpture studio art classes at UVA. I was basically approached by a buddy, Phillip St. Ours, about working on some lanterns. I had always had an attraction towards lighting and good lighting, and I always really had an attention to lighting in my own home. I had always wanted to work with paper and light—I was doing these shadowbox paintings as well—so I said, “Yeah, absolutely.” Now, I’ve got several lines out. Recently I’ve been in contact with Elaine Butcher, who does jewelry and some glasswork. We talked about doing a collaboration, either together or as part of a group show. I think we could do a pretty rocking installation.

What is your first artistic memory from childhood?
Building mud bridges. I was drawn towards mud puddles as a kid. I was three years old and my grandmother would be coming to visit. I remember building an elaborate mud bridge for her. I loved to work with mud. Now I love to work with clay, and it’s the same kind of thing.

What is an item you’d splurge on?
A road trip. I’ve always wanted to take an epic cross-country trip in my car. I’ve only made it to North Dakota. I’ve yet to make it to California. It would be an epic road trip across the country and down the coast of California, then coming back by the Southwest. I would love to go to New Mexico, Arizona. The pueblos, the turquoise—I would definitely splurge on some turquoise. Turquoise, silver and gasoline, baby.

Tell us about a book/painting/record/piece of art that you wish were in your private collection.
It would definitely be an Eva Hesse piece —one of her dripping, drooping fiberglass sculptures. It would be above my bed. She uses very organic shapes that hold a natural weight. I remember seeing one of her works in D.C., it was this heavy ball and these ropes were hanging from it and it had this natural, beautiful curved shape to it. That’s what I absolutely strive for in my lanterns: I think, How would it hold this shape with this weight? How would it drip? How would it droop? Hesse’s work takes on a very water-like quality. She has that sense of weight: What would be in nature? How would this hang? Where would this weight be carried? That to me is so beautiful, so natural, so real and attainable.

Favorite artist outside your medium?
I can’t help it. Outside of sculpture, it’s Dean Dass. He’s a professor at UVA, and bookmaking is mainly what he teaches, but he also does printmaking, and huge, large-scale paintings. The simplicity of his drawings, especially, I have always loved and his prints are outstanding. And gorgeous. They have that weathered, organic quality to them that I’m really drawn to. In the simplicity of the movement and lines, there’s a certain intimacy.

Locally, who would you like to collaborate with?
I think that would be a dance company or Live Arts, something involving the stage-setting for lanterns. That’s something locally I’d like to do and I haven’t spoken to anyone about. I’m not sure if Zen Monkey Project is still around, but I’d like to collaborate with Zap McConnell.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
I would start my own business. I would be a full-time artist. I would do exactly what I love and make my rent and be comfortable. There’s a big jump: We have to have our day job, but what if your day job was your art? I would just do that. I would just expand, I would work for a landscape architect, work for an interior designer if I needed to, but doing what I was good at. And that’s going to come. We’re all just striving to kick the fear factor.