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  • Writer's pictureLake Shore Dive

Spotlight On: Rachel Martorana, Visual Artist

Most kids want to be doctors, astronauts, or veterinarians when they grow up, but Rachel Martorana? She always wanted to be an artist.

Studying graphic design at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Rachel specialized in medical illustration, thinking it was the most practical track. Much to her surprise, many of her professors and colleagues were practicing artists, which not just inspired her to focus on making art she loves, but also allowed her to realize art can become a career.

Rachel experiments with different forms of self-expression within her work. Focusing on an intentional combination of painting, graphic design, and sculpturing, she strikes the balance of a mixed media artist, while drawing inspiration from hip-hop and rap culture.

A series of architectural sculptures revolving around the theme of identity, in partnership with Chicago hip-hop artist, Squeak Pivot.

Finding herself drawn to podcasts and interviews centered around rap and its counterparts, Rachel began to create while under-the-influence of her environment. The theme of identity is a topic that a lot of her work explores, which connects to the alter-ego complex that is prevalent in rap. "Art has helped me realize that the alter ego becomes a mirror, a mirror to show who a person truly is based on what they want to become, and also a mirror to the audience/public, it shows them what they really want too." An homage to the hip-hop genre, her art compliments music.

"I want my sculptures to be seen as a part of the music culture, not as a criticism of the genre or artist, not even a comment on the community, but as frozen moments in time that can serve as a look back into the history of that particular artist or time in music."

Rachel's journey as an artist is marked with milestones and continual growth. She's expanded her techniques to using plexiglass and engraving tools to find more avenues of self-expression. Her story is just beginning—she's not done evolving anytime soon.

Follow Rachel on Instagram to keep up with her recent work, and check out her personally curated Spotify playlist and favorite things below.

Favorite part about the Chicago creative community?

I love how supportive we are of one another. I know there are a lot of cities where the vibe is much more individualized, but when I first got into the art scene here everyone was incredibly warm and welcoming. As a new artist with no connections, and unsure of the work I was making, it was really fortunate that the artists and other creatives welcomed me in with open arms. I can never express how much I appreciated that from the community.

Favorite TV show?

Breaking Bad, Eastbound and Down, or South Park. Can’t pick just one.

Favorite cocktail?

Moscow mule or mojito.

Favorite Chicago artist?

There's so many amazing artists here, but probably Kristopher Kites. I really love his acrylic work and the way he incorporates that within jewelry design.

Favorite spot in Chicago? (can be a neighborhood, restaurant, bar, etc.)

Boystown for sure, so many great memories there.


"Spotlight On" is a bi-weekly series highlighting Chicago creatives with a twist. We share a slice of their stories and what they love, hoping to inspire and connect.

Words by Jasmine Muldrow


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