Friday, September 09, 2005

Artists Interviewing Artists Project: Me

JT Kirkland over at has been hosting these really neat interviews, where artists write five questions to be answered by any other artist, and in return, they answer someone else's five questions. A few months ago, I submitted and answered my five questions, and my interview was just posted today. But there were some really interesting interviews that came before me, so if you actually go to his site, you can link to the others. In the meantime, here's mine, shamelessly lifted from Kirkland. Questions were by Heather Levy. Google her.

1. When are you most creative and why do you think this is? Early morning - late morning - afternoon -early evening - late evening, Spring - Summer - Winter - Fall

If inspiration hits, it hits. Although I'm fairly useless really early in the morning. I don't drink coffee, and chances are, I was up late the night before (I'm still in college after all), and the whole thing is just disastrous. Trust me, you do not want to be near me when I first wake up. I only work indoors, so it really doesn't matter what season I work in. All are good. But I really only use natural light, and for that, the season matters. Spring and Summer tend to have warmer, more yellow-toned light, while Fall and Winter sometimes have a blue cast. But late afternoon is great for me. The light is best then. Although if you're limited by a season or time of day, you're kinda screwed, aren't you?

2. Who are you most inspired by; another artist, relative, pet?

I'm encouraged by my friends and family, but inspired by other artists. There's a difference, even though there are traces of one in the other. My family and friends can give me the push I need to progress, and let me know that I have allies. Given that y work seems to be somewhat controversial, allies are important. But I think inspiration is the push to make art. It's a catalyst. I can look at another artist's work, and glean new ideas for perspective, or color and tone, or content, or subject. I don't want to emulate their style, but I use them as a springboard for my own work. They get the gears working for me. So inspiration is the spark, but encouragement helps to push me along.

3 Do you visualize your Art before creating? Do you know what it will look like before you begin? What's your process?

Sometimes. A lot of my work is documentary-style, where it's just capturing moments that happen to occur. Those I can't really plan; they seem more natural. I ask the models what turns them on, or what they feel comfortable with, and I essentially tell them to "do their thing," whatever that is. So they go ahead and do whatever they want, and I run around trying to keep up. But I do have a lot of still, posed shots that work to arouse in a different way. I'd like to think some of the extreme close-ups I take imply a physical intimacy I needed to have with the model in order to get that shot. Thus, by looking at that picture, in a way, the audience appropriates some of that intimacy. I'd like to get into more blunt, straightforward still shots. Posed, but somewhat antagonistic. Like, "Boom! Penis!" Sort of like Terry Richardson, but with selected body parts rather than whole people. I do try and come up with a checklist of certain shots or rough thumbnails before a shoot, but anything I come up with really only acts as a loose guide. If I know what a model is and isn't willing to do, I know what's game, and I can start to brainstorm new ways to capture certain body parts or acts. But I'd say 65%-75% is off the cuff.

4. Have you noticed that when people ask "What do you do" and you answer thatyou are an artist most people respond with either, "Oh, I can't draw a stick" or "My mom likes to paint furniture". Why do you think this is? When someone professes to be a lawyer or doctor these people don't mention how they can't perform surgery or try a case.

Well, no one really says that to me. I get a lot of blank stares, or people who just tell me they think what I do sounds cool. But I think we've been conditioned to think artists are untouchable to a degree, that they and their work is unaccessable. With this feeling of sanctity most people feel about art in museums (which seems to be the biggest way people learn about art), plus the intellectual intimidation a lot of people feel when you start to throw -isms at them, it's no wonder artists seem holier-than-thou and all but canonized to a lot of non-art people. And if someone doesn't think they have any artistic ability, and they see someone who seems to have talent oozing out of them, the canyon between them is widened. No one wants to feel stupid, and art seems to have that effect on people because we're supposed to think art is hard and out of reach, even if it isn't. So people make excuses or make comments that make themselves feel better. "Oh I can't draw a stick" uses humor to justify a personal failing. It's like people joking about being bad at math. It's supposed to make you seem more "human". I'm sorry, but that's nonsense. Since when is being bad at something supposed to make you likable or valuable as a person? Why is there such a premium on mediocrity? But underneath, a comment like that is more of an indirect way of saying, "wow" or showing your admiration. They are simultaneously commenting on the artist's ability and their own inability. The "My mom likes to paint furniture" comment works sort of the same way. It's a way to relate to something that one might think they can't relate to in any other way. Again, it has to do with inability and insecurity. Making comments about mothers painting furniture seems like a desperate attempt to tread water with someone that seems to be inaccessible. It's a way to feel like you belong. Lawyers and Doctors work hard and should be respected, but they're more commonplace than artists. Most people have probably met a lawyer or a doctor, but probably not an artist. Subsequently, artists seem to be shrouded in mystique that is really just overkill.

5. Did you choose Art or did Art choose you? Any advice for a young'un contemplating dedicating their life to Art?

I'd like to think art and I ran towards each other in slow motion on a beach with sappy music in the background, but didn't stop in time and accidentally crashed into each other. Art just sort of "happened" for me. My family encouraged me to explore art, I always seemed to have a natural tendency towards it, and my career just seems like a progression of events that somehow strung themselves together. Honestly, the erotic photography started as a school project, and I'm still not quite certain how the rest of it happened.

As for advice to "youngins", unless these people haven't hit puberty yet, I'm not sure what I can offer. I'm not even 21 yet [ed. Samantha turned 21 since she submitted the interview to me]. But emerging into any field, art or otherwise, and hob-nobbing with more powerful, established peers is very intoxicating, and thus very dangerous. Don't get consumed by the hype or the politics. Don't forget about why you started in the first place.


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