Gravel Pit No. 3, pastel, 16″ x 20″, 2018


Alkali flats, mixed media, 50.5″ x 69″, 2023


What’s up with the Sky? mixed media, 44″ x 50″, 2019


Gravel Pit No. 1, pastel, 16″ x 20″, 2018


Tar pimp, mixed media, 44″ x 50″, 2021


Long Distance, mixed media, 50.5″ x 69″, 2018



Walk without Knowing, graphite, 9″ x 12″, 2021




Most evenings I can be found on the outskirts of my Nevada town. Looking up, looking out. I climb the side of an uphill range to examine the composition of the city and its relationship with surrounding landforms. The weight of the city nestled into the palm of the earth, the place where water was once as abundant as the sky above. There are endless variations of color and light, depending on the exact location and time of day. Through painting, I frame the modern West; exit ramps serve sunsets to go and mysterious bluffs quietly exhibit the beauty of perspective from the grocery store parking lot. My ongoing ‘Atmosphere’ series is about construction/deconstruction/reconstruction, land, fire, water, sky and air. Working intuitively at first, I allow each painting to develop. The partnership between the painting and myself progresses, as does the importance of decision-making. Mistakes, deliberate forms, controlled spills, and the culling of positive and negative space are the end result. I do not work with preliminary sketches, planned compositions or projected images.

Drawings provide a quieter more intimate space for me to work. I think of all things while thinking of nothing in particular. But mostly, I contemplate the idea that graphite is a dark matter; foliated masses. Pushing, pulling and scraping of the pencil develops the page. My obsession with building spaces is to watch them expand and collapse while being made. The illusion of depth or nearness is mystifying. Like the cosmos, dark matter holds the strange structures from my drawings in place. They are like layers, thoughts or physical edifices such as Greek columns. The orders shift and break apart as if being expelled by some great force. At times the forms feel suspended with little gravity. During the current era of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, I still look out and up but most recently I’ve been turning inward. Becoming comfortable with silence and the continued pressing of the pencil into paper. 



Stiff’s artwork examines the construction of the modern landscape and desert-urban interface through abstraction. Her love of Nevada, as well as her fascination with the American West, informs her art. Stiff’s work can be found in the permanent collection of the Marjorie Barrick Museum in Las Vegas; it has also been shown throughout the West and was acquired by the Emmy award-winning studio, Traktor Films of Santa Monica, California. She was also a featured artist in the exhibition, “Tilting the Basin,” at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno and Las Vegas, and her paintings were included in “The Nuclear Landscape,” an exhibition in conjunction with the Nevada STEAM Conference at the Nevada Museum of Art. Stiff was also nominated for the Joan Mitchell Fellowship in 2022.

As a Professor of Fine Art and Gallery Coordinator at Western Nevada College, Rachel Stiff earned the WNC Outstanding Faculty of the Year award for 2021 as a result of her commitment to her students, to her own work, and to rebuilding the WNC Art Program where she began as an emergency hire in 2018.  Her tremendous outreach work and networking promoting art in the WNC service area, along with her active art-making practice and exhibition record, have been instrumental in establishing WNC’s presence in the community. In addition to teaching, Stiff leads workshops and is a seasoned speaker and guest art lecturer across the West. Her exhibition record is extensive, having over ten solo exhibitions and many group exhibitions. She holds an MFA from the University of Arizona in Tucson (2012) and a BFA from the University of Montana in Missoula (2009).



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