Interview with Muse Rebecca Youssef

Interview with Muse Rebecca Youssef

We had the honor of meeting with Rebecca Yousef. 

Youssef is a mixed media artist with a special focus on the use of repurposed materials. Raised on the north shore of O’ahu, Hawaii, she currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Galvanized by the global movement towards sustainability, her work aims to give new life to discarded materials by immortalizing them in art. Rebecca’s work honors the natural world while simultaneously contemplating her role in its evolving state.

Keep reading to learn more about her craft and inspiration! 


Tell us about yourself!


I’m Rebecca Youssef, a Los Angeles-based mixed media artist using repurposed materials. I also have a reforestation project in the Santa Monica Mountains where I grow native oak trees which informs my art practice.


Tell us about your art!


A fundamental belief at the center of my work is that beautiful things can be made by working with the planet, not taking from it. Over the last 10 years, I have become a dedicated cultivator of native California oak trees, which has deepened my dedication to repurposing paper-based materials destined for the recycle bin or landfill. Whether it’s painting on paper I made by hand or on discarded paper grocery bags, I want to celebrate the full life span of these materials, from tree to canvas, and to use the tactile beauty of these materials to stimulate reflection on our reciprocity with nature.



Have you always implemented sustainability into your life/work?


It all started by necessity and has since become a way of life. Growing up, my parents were both teachers and we lived on a budget. I learned to be resourceful and creative early in life. When I went to art school traditional art supplies were expensive, so I started using whatever I could find to create art. I used shipping pallets, found wood, and scrap sheet metal in my work. The local thrift store sold old, and presumably used, hospital sheets that I bought to use as canvas. I had a professor that encouraged us to use latex house paint because it was a lot cheaper than oils or acrylic paint. And the hardware store always had a returned paint section that was discounted. To this day, I still shop the returned paint section. It’s a little gold mine!


How do you incorporate “upcycling” in your art?


I don’t buy any commercially made paper products. I use undervalued materials that have been deemed used or disposable. I reuse and upcycle cardboard boxes, paper grocery bags or make paper myself from junk mail and my childrens’ school work. I’m trying to have a zero waste art practice. I'm not 100% there, by any means, but I’m always thinking about my consumption. I want my work to serve as a conversation starter surrounding environmental issues, while showcasing the longevity of the materials I use beyond their initial function. I want to challenge the definition of value, history, and beauty. What makes something valuable? And can a low status, utilitarian material (like cardboard) be elevated to a thing of beauty and deemed valuable? That’s a theme I’m interested in and it spills over into the reforestation work I do with planting trees. How do I get people to value trees and see them as a necessity and not something that is merely decorative.

What does sustainability mean to you?


To me, “sustainability” in my art practice means working with the planet, not taking from it. I put great consideration into my materials, especially my substrates. I was conflicted by my love for paper-based work. Repurposing and upcycling items destined for
the recycle bin and/or landfill like cardboard, paper bags and junk mail have become the cornerstone of my work.