Barrington resident Rachel Rasnick “just picked up a brush and started painting” four years ago at Looking Upwards, a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. Rasnick, who is on the autism spectrum, says “the staff realized I was pretty good at painting, and I’ve just kept doing it.” Her work has since gained attention in Rhode Island and beyond.
The 26-year-old artist’s acrylic paintings, which she says take a few days to a few weeks to complete, have been featured in art shows in Providence, Warwick and Warren. Her upcoming show on April 5, at Whalers Brewery, in Wakefield has been canceled due to COVID-19; details are being worked out for a replacement virtual show.
Rasnick says she “can’t paint fast enough for all the people who like [her] art.” To meet demand, and aided by small business grants, she has started selling her prints and postcards online. Her younger sister, Maxine, manages Rachel’s website and social media channels, while mother Karen handles public relations.
The website acts as Rasnick’s online portfolio and gallery, and displays her paintings by category: figures, animals and “dreamscapes.”
Rasnick’s art often depicts women looking coyly over their shoulders while draped in psychedelic blankets reminiscent of Peter Max and Gustav Klimt. Other paintings show animals, the most striking of which are her elephants, which are depicted with humor and tenderness. The dreamscape paintings are largely landscapes, featuring deep, colorful and expansive skies.
When she’s not at Looking Upwards, Rasnick can often be found at Newport’s Downtown Designs Gallery, where she works in mediums that include jewelry and pottery.
Rasnick has also begun to teach others how to paint, and has already run several “paint night” events at friend’s homes.
Art isn’t Rasnick’s only passion, though – she’s also earned a brown belt in karate, and at age 10 competed in the Special Olympics in track and field. Today, as a member of the Wampanoag Warriors team, her events are bowling and swimming; she won silver and bronze medals for swimming at the 2018 Special Olympics Summer USA games.
Rasnick’s art and athleticism came together when her art was featured on a Special Olympics’ holiday card and a Penguin Plunge reminder.
When asked about plans for future artistic endeavors, Rasnick says she’s unsure, but mentions that “acrylic pouring seems like fun, but really, really messy.”
Although modest about her accomplishments, Rasnick says “you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.” That sentiment is echoed by her sister Maxine, who adds that “it’s important to support people with disabilities as they’re trying to start their own businesses.”
Rasnick’s art can be found online at rachelrasnick.com and on Etsy as “RachelsArtfulObjects.” She is on Facebook as “Rachel Rasnick Art” and on Instagram as “rachelrasnickart.”
MICHAEL SCHEMAILLE (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes for Jewish Rhode Island and the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.