Henriksen — a native of Provo, Utah — will graduate with a BFA in studio art on April 24, 2020
Rachel Henriksen came to BYU confident that art was her calling.
“I’m one of those lucky people that already knew what they were going to do,” she said.
Henriksen was drawn to art because it allows her to engage with a wide variety of other interests, including philosophy, psychology and sociology.
“Some of the most amazing art I’ve seen is interdisciplinary, where an artist will explore scientific concepts abstractly through art instead of trying to explain them with data, numbers and logic,” said Henriksen.
After being accepted into the BFA program, she left to serve a mission — but upon returning home, she began to feel lost.
“I felt like I didn’t know how to do art anymore,” said Henriksen. “It felt like a selfish pursuit when I had just been serving so many other people. Art felt like an indulgence.”
It wasn’t long, however, before she felt at home in the art program.
“The faculty and students in the art program pulled me in,” said Henriksen. “They’re really special people, and I think that’s what drew me to the major.”
Her most memorable experiences in the program include an advanced art summer intensive in 2017, during which she and her peers traveled around Utah and LA, visiting land art installations such as the Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels and drawing inspiration from museums and landscapes. Henriksen also interned as an art assistant in Berlin for a summer.
Henriksen’s most challenging — and rewarding — experience while at BYU was her solo show “knew/new” at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, inspired by time she spent with her grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. She found out about the opportunity in mid-September of 2019, and was tasked with creating a full show of her own work by the end of October.
“It was a short turnaround, and really intimidating being invited to do this at a notable museum,” said Henriksen. “But it really pushed me — I knew I could do it if I put my mind to it, and so I did.”
Henriksen is currently applying for residency programs and is planning on taking some time post-graduation to experiment with her art.
“I eventually want to go to grad school, but I want to take a few years off and see what I make without the influence of academic critique,” she said.
An independent person by nature, Henriksen has learned throughout her college career how to reach out and ask for help from professors, friends and the Savior.
“I’m a stubborn person when it comes to doing things on my own; I feel like I have to prove to people that I can carry everything by myself even though it’s way too heavy for me,” said Henriksen. “But there have been so many times in this program where I’ve needed to reach out. I recognized it as giving other people an opportunity to serve by asking for help, instead of selfishly denying them that opportunity.”
Henriksen’s advice to prospective art students is to get to know their faculty and peers and to take advantage of opportunities to build a network of strong relationships.
“You can take those relationships beyond school and have a network of people that you can turn to after college. Being an art major is not necessarily something that leads you to a lucrative job right away,” said Henriksen. “You have to work your way through the world and figure out your own path. Having people to turn to is a good thing.”
Q&A WITH RACHEL HENRIKSEN, BFA ‘20
ART | STUDIO ART
What did you want to be when you grew up?
“My mom said I always used to tell her I wanted to be a street performer who played guitar or danced for money. And then that turned into wanting to be on Broadway, until I realized I really can’t dance or sing.”
What was your favorite class that you took at BYU?
“I think most of my favorite classes were the art theory classes for my major — the ones that were less about technique in art, and more about ideas and concepts and theories.”
Is there a specific work or practitioner in your field that has had a particularly strong influence on you?
“There’s a contemporary artist named Felix Gonzales Torres who passed away only a few years ago. He’s a conceptual artist who creates really powerful works in really simple ways. He uses a lot of universal themes that we all experience and feel, like love and loss.”
Do you have a hidden talent?
“I’m unusually good at finding really cool stuff at yard sales and thrift stores — just funky stuff that is hidden in weird places. That comes in handy, especially as an artist.”
What is your favorite snack for between classes?
“I usually have some sort of dried fruit with me. Right now I really like apricots.”