I’ve never been the kind of artist that uses art as a means to express personal emotion. For years I photographed the female form because I was interested in the aesthetic of the abstraction of the body and creating interesting compositions through a photographic lens, but since I have been in graduate school it seems the content of my work has gone from aesthetic, formal observations, to emotional, personal content.
For 2+ years I dated a man who I thought I might ultimately share a future life with. We met in undergrad and developed a friendship, but there always seemed to be a little bit more there. We were awkward and avoided the potential feelings we might have and instead spent time dating other people, until eventually in the Spring of 2014 we decided to give in and figure out what this weird thing was between us. I always used to say I feel like I loved him since the day I met him, it just took me a while to come around to it, and I still believe that’s true. I drunkly told him after a month of dating that I was falling in love with him- something I still am embarrassed about to this day. Our time spent together in a small rural PA town while we both finished school was nothing short of amazing. We both played rugby, we were both hard working students, christians; our relationship was what some would call picture perfect.
Unfortunately, however, as we got more serious, so did the potential for our future, or lack there of. He was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, and come graduation he would have to make the decision as to whether he would find a job in the states and stay, pursue a masters here, or head home and study there instead. The latter occurred and was something I feared for a very long time. In August of 2016 as I began my first year of graduate school here in Columbus, OH, he left and returned to South Africa without a set timeline or plan to return to the states. We did what we could, but ultimately our relationship ended in November. Being an ocean away, with 6-7 hour time difference, and no real guarantee of when you may see each other next is as you can imagine, emotionally daunting.
Blue; a love affair is a body of work that is comprised of photographs I took in December of 2014 while I visited my boyfriend at the time and his family in South Africa. The photographs are accompanied by a small book containing a written narrative that explains a personal association created between the color blue, South Africa, this man, and his family. The photographs are printed as Cyanotypes to also reflect the content of the book and the color association. The combination of written narrative and personal photographs aim to explore and explain memory and the pain or emotion that comes with a love once lost.
On Thursday I had a studio visit with Malcolm Cochran. I had never met Malcolm before but we had a wonderful conversation and I appreciated his interest in getting to know me beyond my artwork. He wanted to know where I grew up, asked me about my family – how did I decide to make art my life. And then we got into the nitty gritty of it all. I’m a talker- and usually during studio visits I feel the time crunch and feel like I have to get things out as quickly as possible- often overwhelming myself and probably the visitor. Malcolm’s visit however felt relaxed, calm, and as if time was infinite. Just another element I really appreciated during our meeting.
As we spoke about my work (both past undergraduate pieces and current works) I began to feel less and less sure of my graduate work. Not in a sense that it’s poor work but rather what it is I have been trying to understand within the work. Malcolm emphasized the importance of exploring ideas and questions and finding answers within the work rather than starting with an answer and then trying to make work about it- which is the place I seem to have found myself in.
Drawn to my photographs from last semester he encouraged me to use them as sketches and re-look at them for more understanding and to try to find perhaps a commonality or what makes them interesting.
As for my most current video work he made a point to remind me that sometimes “confidence can be blinding.” A point that redirected us to his advice on exploration and question asking. There is a pressure within graduate school to make sure you know what your work is about- which myself and my classmates can attest to. Malcolm and I discussed this, and obviously it’s important to know what you’re making and why-but as he reminded me, explore IDEAS, see what kind of QUESTIONS you’re asking yourself and within that you will figure out what your work is about.
I seem to have set an agenda for myself and have worked backwards. “I am making work about Womens issues and oppression within domesticity.” But am I really? I would like to- but what if the work is exploring something else in a different way-not in the way I intended?
One of Malcolm’s final pieces of advice was to think of art making as a way of making soup. Say you make a really good tomato bisque, with fresh tomatoes, basil, chunks of mozzarella cheese, some salt and pepper. It’s delicious but the next time you make it you use that original recipe as a jumping off point to alter it and make it even better- experiment with some more flavors. The fresh tomatoes were a great addition so you decide to put more fresh ingredients in rather than artificial spices. This brands a new type of tomato bisque but nonetheless had the same initial concept behind it.
What he was saying was that each artwork made should be inspiration for the next. Should serve as a jumping off point- take the best parts of the previous work and make a new recipe with them.
I appreciated this analogy in many ways. Since the visit I have felt a bit overwhelmed and lost within my work and have no idea where I’m going. Nevertheless, I am going to go back to my photographs from last semester and really look at them, I’m going to ask myself questions about what I am thinking about or trying to explore, I am going to examine my video works and do the same hoping that after all that I may have some pretty good ingredients to make a strong and hearty soup.
The last two weeks have been quite a whirlwind. I had a studio visit with photographer Laura Larson prior to her artist talk and it was refreshing to have someone with no prior knowledge of me or my work look at what I am creating. Almost objectively she provided me with some great feedback, questions to think through, and as always, artists to look at. Her visit was a great precursor to my upcoming critique.
Prior to that meeting, I met with CCAD professor and staff member, John Cairns as well as my mentor and CCAD Professor Danielle Julian Norton. John and I met to discuss some technology troubleshooting and the content/concept of my work. As always, he was encouraging and uplifting. Prompting me to push further within the work and continue to make it stronger with its content. Danielle likewise has really been pushing me to further my concept. There is one piece that she believes is missing that could really build the concept and fully flesh out the work.. a piece I am still looking to develop. She also is very encouraging about the discussion points of my work and the development of the language around it. Her questions, curiosities, and points always leave me with more to explore and investigate which I very much appreciate.
My critique the following week was equally as constructive as these two meetings. Leading up to the critique I was excited for my peers reaction and really looking forward to hearing their feedback and their thoughts on how I could continue to move forward. I presented two video iterations of myself ironing in a variety of fashions. What I mean by that is that in one video I am in a way going through the mundane task of ironing in a bored uninterested manner, seeming slightly frustrated. In the other video I become a variety of characters. A woman dressed for work, a woman in lounge clothes, a woman in pajamas, and a woman who has just come from the gym. Within this video the task of ironing is much more apparently frustrating. My motions are much more violet (if you can imagine a violent way in which to iron), and my frustration with the task/notion of the task is much more apparent. Both videos were projected onto a gallery wall, the first one projected through a silk print of a video still taken from the actual video. I also presented 4 photographs in which I was basically overtaken by the clothing that I was ironing and presented the ironing board with the mass of shirts in the corner of the space. (My peers felt these were both unnecessary additions- the videos served enough purpose and I don’t necessarily disagree).
I am keen to continue with the video work and perhaps really take some time to develop these female characters more thoroughly with really thought out and intentional costuming/dress. As I move forward I plan to continue to use the task of ironing as a tool to create discussion and bring to light the oppression of women within domesticity. I hope to develop my video work further and really broaden my skill-set as an artist within this realm as well as really be able to develop the language and intentionality between all of my choices and decisions aesthetically moving forward.
In my last post I mentioned the idea of quilting images together as a means of collage- so without hesitation the process has begun. Luckily CCAD is blessed to have a textile digital fabric printer and even more blessed to have a faculty member, Alice Frenz, who spends 10+ hours with this machine printing things for students. I met with Alice on Wednesday about possibilities and scheduled to make some tests for today. She’s wonderful to work with and today was more than accommodating. We actually made my first full print!
There are a variety of textile materials to print on and I am so excited for the opportunity to print on both cotton and silk fabrics. The silk will allow me to layer transparent images on top of the opaque cottons- allowing for a more traditional collage element. Monday I will print my second base image and then hopefully have the silks by mid week!
Let the cutting and sewing begin!
I haven’t posted in about two weeks.. whoops. And I also have realized a lot of my most recent work is not posted! Stay tuned!
Thanksgiving break has come to a close and with it has come a bit of anxiety with a side of stress due to time (or rather, a lack thereof). There are only 3 more weeks left of the semester- I’ve almost made it through my first trial of graduate school! (I don’t want to get too overzealous though, there is a lot of work to be done).
This weekend I also am participating as part of the on campus art show. I have been prepping like crazy for it, making scarves and other craft oriented things. As much as I am looking forward to it on Saturday it has been a major distraction to my current photographic practice and I am keen to get it over with and get back to my main focus.
This week I am going to be experimenting with some hand stitching on larger photographs that I printed last week on campus. During my critique, some of my peers suggested that within the work I presented that I should combine my notions of collage, large printing, and hand sewn/craft elements into one and see what I can come up with. I am excited to spend some time in my studio this evening and do a bit of sewing on some of the larger images. I definitely need to grab some more embroidery thread though.
While thinking about the digital collage prints, I was wondering how else I could incorporate craftwork into these images, different than that of the more rigid, documented interiors of the domestic space. Immediately my mind went to quilting. I quilted a photograph once before and I truly loved the process, as time consuming and frustrating as it could be. I’ve been thinking about printing these large domestic interior images on fabric and then collaging them in a manner similar to that of which I have done through digital processes but now with sewing. I am excited to give it a shot and think it could really elevate the imagery in a way that I have been hoping for. My main concern is finding an outlet to print them on. Because the images are all mainly at 24″ to 44″ wide, I cannot adhere the fabric to a piece of poster board and feed it through the Epson 9890 as I usually would. They’re just too large The fashion department does have a brand new fabric printer so I am waiting for an email response on gaining access to that as a resource. I don’t think outsourcing the prints at this point will work with the time associated with shipping and what not, but I may have to splurge on costs and order from spoon flower with expedited delivery.
Cheers to new ideas and exciting work to come!
This Thursday I have my second critique of the semester, my last before final critique in December. I am excited to show half of my cohort the new images I created and share with them the changes that have occurred in my work since my last critique. It is much different from the creation of the aprons, however, it is important to know that the new work stems from wanting to explore and investigate the same concept.
Some of the critique I initially received involved questioning what was happening in current homes today- not just focusing on the 50s and 60s. How are men and women living in their homes and sharing their spaces with their partners today? I took this question along with my inspiration for installation and began thinking about the space of the home itself. Before beginning to think about what kind of photographs I was going to make I wanted to figure out how I could actually create the physical space of a home and what a “home” actually is. I began reading a book titled Domestic Space and a specific article that touches on the separation of spaces within a home based on gender or class role. This article has inspired me to make an investigation and/or documentation of current homes to see how people are living within them and what they feel their roles are as well.
So far I have photographed two couples and their homes and also conducted a recorded interview with each couple asking a series of questions about what it’s like to share a space with someone, what they feel their roles are within that space, how their upbringing may have effected that, and a few other questions. Initially, I planned to play the audio recordings with each couples group of photos but upon discussion in a recent studio visit Julie Abijanic I think the recordings will better serve as a means of documentation and research for myself. I do plan to use a bit of ambient sound from inside my own home and am keen to see how that works with the photographs. I have quite a variety of ways that I plan to show the photos and am looking forward to getting feedback. Prepare yourselves group 2 (or are we group 1?), I’m expecting you to say something!
I have always been a writer, whether its journaling, short poems, or even research papers; writing has always been something I enjoyed. My sketchbooks are consumed by it. My freshman year of college was probably the last time that I bought an actual college ruled notebook to write in and so sketchbooks have always been my resource for not only sketching, but for copious note taking as well.
My sketchbooks are my outlet to be able to work out my ideas and concepts both with words and visual representation. I can make quick lucid sketches that coincide with the words next to it right on the same page. Overtime I have acquired a number of sketchbooks, all serving a variety of purpose. (see below image) My most current sketchbook is used for primary note taking, self reflective questions, and the investigating of ideas. It’s filled with quick scribbled notes, post its stacked on top of words below them, and ideas I hope to eventually all explore. My studio operates in a very similar way. My main table has post its all over with ideas, artists, or concepts to think about and the walls also have reflective questions to refer to while I make my work.
Most women have guilty pleasure in buying too many shoes, purses, clothes, etc. Although I am guilty of a few of those myself, I must say buying sketchbooks is right at the top of that list as well.
*The open spreads of mainly notes are showing pages from my most recent sketchbook. I point them out specifically to show my process of working through concepts and asking myself questions, as well as quotes from art videos I find particularly inspiring or motivational.