Modern Artist Named Rejcel

Two different types of signatures by artist Rachael Harbert

You may notice that the signature on my paintings prior to December 2015 is spelled "Rejcel". Let me tell you the story about that.

The Influence in College

While I was in college, I adopted the spelling of "Rejcel" as a unique way to sign my artwork. Rejcel is how my name is spelled in the Serbo-Croatian language - using the Roman alphabet instead of Cyrillic, that is.

When I started college, I became associated with fellow students who were from Serbia and Croatia. Our soccer team was primarily comprised of students from Serbia, including a coach from Serbia. These guys were hard-core soccer players, and our school probably had the best soccer seasons of its history while the Serbs were playing. They were also a very tight knit group. Many of them took the same business courses I was taking, and during class, these students (mostly males and a couple of females) would be communicating with each other in their native tongue. Curious to know what they were saying, I bought some books and began to study their language. I've always been curious about other cultures and peoples. Frankly, I've always felt compelled to understand other cultures in an effort to create common ground and break prejudicial barriers. My minor in college was Spanish, and I speak it to this day. Also, I can greet people in 15 different languages.

So, I'm in class one day, and the Serbs come in and take their seats. I turn to them and greet them in their tongue. They stop talking and stare. Then, they all start hooting and exclaiming, "What is this?! Rachael speaks our language? How is this possible?" I was probably the only American to ever have shown a sincere interest in them by learning words in their language. They immediately welcomed me into their group, and I became friends with most of them. The word quickly spread through their niche that I was the American girl learning their language.

Over the next four years, I associated with them on a regular basis, expanding my ability to speak with them in their tongue. Of course, I never spoke their language as well as they spoke English, but I think they appreciated my efforts. I could hold an elementary conversation with them, and they said that my pronunication was excellent. They taught me early on that my name was spelled "Rejcel" in their language. So, when I took my first college art class, that's how I signed my name. I had begun learning their language and speaking it, so I felt I had earned the right to sign my name as such. Using "Rejcel" was one of my ways of immersing myself in learning the language.

After college, I continued my self-study of Serbo-Croatian, and I met some people who were native speakers. I even took a class where a couple native speakers led the course. You see? I was in college on the back end of the civil unrest occurring in Kosovo. For several years, there was a large influx of immigrants coming into the United States from Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina due to the civil warfare in that region. Yes, there's always been war in that eastern European bloc, but I knew people personally touched by the war in Kosovo. I could only imagine what it was like to come from a war torn region into a country where the majority of people, let's be honest, look down upon you. In my own way, I was being an ambassador - creating a warmth that someone from that region would feel when they met me and could heard from me words in their own tongue.

Getting Back to my Roots

So, now we come to the present day. I'm no longer studying Serbo-Croatian and speak it only on a rare occasion. However, I'm still painting. While the name "Rejcel" stuck with me for several years, and it served a purpose in my artwork, it was time for me to revert back to my given name. I'm not Serbian, and I'm not Croatian. I'm an abstract artist, and I was born in the United States. I no longer wanted to confuse people with the spelling of my name and have to give the back story as to why I spelled it "Rejcel". Instead, I want my art to be the focus. I want people to appreciate my art work, and to do that, they need the real me... as "Rachael" - as the name my parents gave me. Simple.

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