Audience & Avatar Proposal


Rainey Straus / Katherine Isbister

Rainey’s work explores desire, technology and the body. Her work emerges from years of movement training and sculptural practice combined with a commercial life spent immersed in digital technology. Her work has appeared at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as well as other bay area venues and the Canadian Design Exchange Museum. Rainey received her M.F.A. in Sculpture from the California College of Arts and Crafts, and a B.F.A. in Painting from the State University of New York at Purchase. She is also the founder and principal designer of Whirligirl Studio which focuses on web and interactive design.


SIMVeillance: San Jose, 2006

SIMVeillance: San Jose is a collaboration between Katherine Isbister and Rainey Straus with additional consulting from Chelsea Hash. SIMVeillance elicits the viewer’s consideration of a normally fleeting urban phenomenon: the passage of strangers through a public space. Who are these people and where are they going? How does their traversal affect one’s perception of the vitality and nature of a place? This project seeks to make the viewer more aware of this phenomenon, as transmogrified when viewed through the lens of a computer game. By repurposing surveillance footage of a real-world place very close to where the viewer will be experiencing the work SIMveillance also asks the viewer to consider the increasing presence of recording devices within the urban landscape, and the possibility of leaving traces that linger in unexpected ways.

SIMveillance brings the local urban population back into the show in a unique way—locals may be able to see themselves as captured in the prior month. Whether or not a viewer catches a glimpse of his/herself, s/he is bound to reconsider the impact of wandering the urban landscape. The project seeks to evoke feelings of curiosity, voyeurism, discomfort, and a jolt into the perspective more typically inhabited by city planners or sociologists. The work also explores the territory in which simulated-avatars co-mingle in the landscape with “the real” to produce a hybrid community with potentially unexpected results.


F.L.E.M.A, 2003

F.L.E.M.A. (Fluid, Language, Experience, Manifest, Attributes) is five stations with soft flesh-like cast vinyl sculptures that are manipulated by the audience. The amorphous platforms holding the sculptures are low to the floor where the audience may lounge on plush carpet and or cushions. As the viewer interacts with the sculptures, a simultaneous video projection of the interaction is viewed larger than life on the facing wall. The piece accesses the aesthetic, sensual knowledge of the body while investigating how technology affects the viewer. I imagine the small handheld objects kick-start perception. The video projection combines the initial sensory experience with a representational layer of the same moment. The dynamic created between the mediated and unmediated moments allows the audience to question and renew an awareness of the biological and digital body. F.L.E.M.A. creates an environment in which sensual play activates ‘unlanguaged’ body perception.

Review in Sculpture Magazine





MFA Sculpture, California College of Arts, San Francisco, CA
BFA Painting & Sculpture, SUNY Purchase, Purchase, NY
Semester abroad, Siena, Italy through SUNY Buffalo
Solo Exhibitions:
2002 Aphasia, Gallery 364 Hayes, San Francisco, CA
Group Exhibitions:
SimVeillance, Edge Conditions, The San Jose Museum of Art, ISEA 2006, San Jose, CA
Grrls, Chicks, Sisters & Squaws: Let Citoyennes du Cyberspace, MAWA, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

IMC Expo at the Chelsea Museum, New York, New York
Entermultimediale.2 (Festival of new media art), Prague, Czech Republic


Performance Night, Works Gallery, San Jose, CA
New Fangle, GenArts, San Francisco, CA
Digifest, The Design Exchange Museum, Toronto, Canada
Game Scenes, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
Erotic LA, The Erotic Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Virtual Galleries, Timeexpo Museum, Waterbury, CN

2002 1111 - MFA Exhibition California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA
5 At Eye Level, Rizzoli Gallery, San Francisco, CA
“I don’t know much about art, but…,” Live Culture Gallery, Oakland, CA

1999 San Francisco Open Studios, San Francisco, CA
Recent Work, Crucible Steel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Gen Art Tour, with Sally Cote at San Francisco Open Studios, San Francisco, CA
Selections ‘98, The Academy of Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1997 San Francisco Open Studios, San Francisco, CA
1993 San Francisco Open Studios, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Open Studios, San Francisco, CA
Footworks Dance and Performance Space, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Open Studios, San Francisco, CA

1987 Paintings & Sound, Poly Art Space, New York, NY
1986 Collaborative Performance, Poly Art Space, New York, NY
1985 BFA Exhibition, SUNY Purchase, Purchase, NY
Research Projects:
2005 Sensual Evaluation Instrument, with Katherine Isbister & Kristina Hook
2006 Antonucci, Mike, San Jose meets the Sims, San Jose Mercury News, August 5, 2006
Winn, Steven, It's hard to tell where pixels end and reality begins, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 6, 2006
2005 Casolari, Pierluigi, Interview with Rainey Straus and Katherine Isbister
2004 Casolari, Pierluigi, “Vista la SimGallery”, Glamour Magazine (Italian edition), Dec. 2004
Cohn, Terri, “Rainey Straus”, Sculpture Magazine, October 2003
Bianco, Alessandro Piana, “Ten Questions on the SimGallery Project”,

Colin, Berry, “Featured Open Studio Artist”, CitySearch7 online,
Colin, Berry, “Recent Work at Crucible Steel Gallery”, CitySearch7 online

2004 Electronic Arts Project Support Grant
Artist’s Grant Recipient - The Vermont Studio Center
San Francisco Art Council Grant finalist

2006 Honorable Mention, Adobe Emerging Artists Award, Zero One/ISEA: Global Festival of Art on the Edge
2004 New Voices Winner Digifest 2004
1999 Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT
2005 From Crackers to Culture: Contemporary Game Art, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA
Panel Discussion, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
Critical Studies in New Media, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Digifest 2004, Design Exchange Museum, Toronto, Canada
Games Younger People Play, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley. CA

Freshman Seminar, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Thesis Seminar, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA

Teaching Experience:
TA, Cyborg the Reinvention of Nature, Contemporary theory course at The California Colleges of the Arts

1993 Photoshop and Introduction to Mac, Computer Arts Institute
Founder of Whirligirl Studio a multimedia design firm specializing in interactive and print design for a variety of clients including PBS, ITVS and Groove Eleven.