Meet an Artist: Rebecca S. Peterson

Rebecca S. Peterson came to Mineral School during 2016 as one of the vendors at our first annual summer art & craft fair. A former teacher, education masters graduate of University of Washington, and at the time of her visit a fashion student at New York Fashion Academy, she has spent the past few years reframing her life and finding her creative voice — a vulnerable process but one with many satisfactions. During 2018, Rebecca worked with us as a cleaner during residency and she will spend the whole 2019 residency season at Mineral in a hybrid role we’ve creative for a working artist–working quarter time, otherwise spending the rest of her time as an artist resident. We couldn’t be more excited to see her settle in to the 98355. 
Over the past few years you’ve chosen to live minimally. Describe what this means logistically, personally, and creatively for you?
I’m laughing because logistically, living “minimally” turns out to be surprisingly complicated. I thought living in an old motor home would be simple, but there are all these unexpected expenses. Personally, the challenges and the relative near-ness to survival situations have pushed me emotionally to grow and learn and have confidence in myself, in my Self. Creatively there has been an explosion. When I stripped away extra stimuli from my life, I found time and mental emotional space to create. (Before Rebecca got her motor home, she lived from her tear-drop trailer — kitchen photos below!)
You chose to move to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, almost in a quest-like manner. What did and does that community mean to you? What, to you, means home?
Oh gosh, that town makes me just clutch at my heart. I have such a soft spot for it. It was the first place I went during a divorce, in fact the first place I had ever moved from my birthplace, and the people I met there…it was like the Universe put those people in my life. These wonderful artists and musicians and film people and I was allowed to just bump elbows with them at the brewery or the Walmart, ya know? And the healing mineral waters… I’m writing a book about Truth or Consequences, my powerfully healing time there. It was magic. It is a vortex, hard to leave, but what I’ve learned is, home is inside you and you will find it wherever you go. A bird does not rely on the branch; a bird relies on its wings. Sometimes I panic about my lifestyle (“Am I homeless???!”) I told my sister “I have no anchor,” and she told me, “You are your own anchor,” and I hold onto what she said. 
After many years teaching kids, you attended fashion design school… and then added writing to your mix. What drives you creatively right now? How do these art forms relate?
I would love to know the answer to that question! I was an English teacher, taught literature, always was a reader and a writer, and wanted to help kids enjoy those activities as a form of self-expression, and fashion grew from that desire for self-expression as well. (Rebecca’s fashions always combine an earthy sensibility with charming flourishes — see one of her sweaters at right.) I can be a very suppressed person in real life, and writing and design let me express myself in a less inhibited way. 
What writers inspire or influence you? What, to you, makes a good story?

I am traveling in a motor home because of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I felt such an affinity with her childhood, the life of a pioneer. My grandma gave me a copy of “Little House in the Big Woods” when I was a kid, and I bring that copy with me wherever I live. It depicts a life of simple pleasure. I love stories that show me those little beauties of life and the fullness of other people’s experiences. The sound of a spoon in a teacup, that sort of thing.

Finally, how do you nourish yourself spiritually when living a minimal, nomadic life — or is that how you’d describe it? What makes you feel connected and energized? 
People lived for thousands of years without cell phones and electricity. I’ve had some magical moments doing ancient things, like sitting around a campfire with other humans and telling stories and trying to make each other laugh and drinking and singing. I go to karaoke wherever I travel. I find cheap yoga wherever I go. I read. I write. I light candles at night. I sew by hand. I try and do these things our ancestors have always done. It’s meditative.  (That said, Rebecca likes modern conveniences like mobile phones — she’s on the left taking a selfie with some of the residents and board member Jess Martin during September 2018.)