Rebecca Medel has a background in three-dimensional design and fiber art. Her B.F.A. degree in Environmental Design from Arizona State University informed her use of space-time as a central element in her work. Several years after receiving her undergraduate degree, Medel began fiber studies at Pacific Basin School of Textiles Arts, and Fiberworks, Center for the Textile Arts in Berkeley, California. It was at these schools that she learned two historical processes, ikat and knotted netting, that she was to use in creating her work for two and a half decades. The conceptual basis and development of her major professional works occurred during her graduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned an M.F.A. in Art, Sculptural Fibers.
During her graduate education Medel developed a personal off-loom technique using the processes she learned in Berkeley to knot large structural multi-planed square grid nets with ikat and braid resist threads. These resist processes separated color and created ambiguous or floating values of color. Medel singled out the use of linen and cotton thread because they are intrinsically structural and can be both bleached and dyed. During the many years that Medel used these processes her work comprised a series of ideas involving time & space, metaphysics, and symbolism. The elemental characteristic of the work was an exploration of light through the grid structure, without mass and weight, on the edge of being physically supportable, and creating transparent weightlessness. Structure was achieved through the use of lines that became planes, at times parallel and layered, at other times connecting and intersecting perpendiculars; against the wall or coming out in relief. These structures supported other concurrent ideas that spoke of voids, of tensions and distortions, of universal symbolism and the beauty of mathematics through an underlying geometry and the use of such mathematical principles as Sacred Geometry, the Golden Proportion, and the Fibonacci series.
In 2005 Medel changed directions ending her work using the materials and techniques she had used for two and a half decades. However, she continues many of the themes of her netted work. These include the exploration of luminous light, the universal symbols of the spiral and the maze, and a personal visual interpretation of the universe and the phenomena of the cosmos. Although the work itself is not physically multi-dimensional, it implies dimensions through content. Medel now uses digitally printed images of her themes on opaque cotton or translucent organza, adding surface applications of embroidery with silk floss and glass beads to highlight her ideas.
Medel has exhibited her work in numerous solos, juried, and invitational shows throughout the world. Her work is in many private and public collections including the Denver Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Racine Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Stedelijik Museum, and others. Medel is a Fellow of the American Craft Council and has received many awards including several Mid-Atlantic Creative Artist Fellowships and National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowships, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.
Medel has taught at Tennessee Technological University, UCLA, University of North Texas and is a Professor Emeritus at Temple University, Tyler School of Art.
Rebecca Medel maintains a studio in Tucson, Arizona