Adele Rahte became an artist at a young age; when she was eight she had an art tutor, and later on she attended a high school with an emphasis on art. In the 1980s, she studied at Parsons School of Design in New York City, where she lived for thirty years after college. As a child, she spent much of her time in Brewster, and she has frequented the Cape ever since. She now lives in Tribeca.
Adele Rahte’s collages are created from a careful practice of selecting, manipulating, layering, and juxtaposing handmade paper fragments. The papers that undergo this artistic method are pasted onto a film surface outlined with a rough pencil sketch of the artwork.
The papers used in these collages have names like Yuzen, Unryu, Lama Li, Tamarind, and Lokta, and they come from Thailand, Nepal, Tibet, Italy, Japan, India, and Mexico. The handmade papers are made in a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation — very often within the same family.
The bleach-free papers are infused with organic materials like leaves, seeds, stems, grasses, and bark. The selection and preparation of the fibers, along with the actual formation of the sheets are what give the paper its unusual character. Paper fragments are chosen for their color, texture, and weight. Once a paper fragment is selected, it is often cut, torn, shredded, or wrinkled.
To form a collage, Adele uses a bookbinders’ paste that is transparent, UV-resistant, acid-free, and suitable for archival use. This paste fuses the handmade papers together without any residue or evidence that a paste has even been used. The pasting process requires water, but the properties of the raw materials used in the paper allow the fragments to retain a workable ease when wet. As the piece comes further along, more layers of paper become superimposed — and all the fragments fuse themselves together while simultaneously adhering themselves to the image’s backing.
After much trial and error, the artist has chosen Mylar film as the backing material for her pieces. Mylar is an incredibly strong polyester film that was first developed by DuPont in the 1950s. Since then, it has been used in NASA space suits for insulation, and it was traditionally used in architectural and drafting applications. The film serves Adele Rahte’s collages well because of its ability to hold the layered paper fragments, as well as its stability and transparency. The collages have an extra element of depth thanks to the light that passes through the film; this explains the artist’s preference to have her pieces framed between two sheets of glass.
Adele Rahte’s collaging process was inspired by German-born artist Katharina Denzinger.