Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking to my friend Lillian Lewis's class about my work. I had fun getting to talk about technology and change and getting to learn and grow during the birth of the internet, and showing some of what I'd done when I was their age. It hit me hard just how much things have changed since I was at school. I realised that there was no YouTube, no easy means of doing things. Animation programmes weren't very sophisticated so I did everything by hand. Digital photography was only just getting started so I fucked around with it until I got things I thought were interesting at the time. I wince when I look at it now, but it was all part of the path to where I am as an artist now.
Talking about my work, or trying to, can be frustrating. I don't fit in any kind of a box. I am not a neatly labeled personality. I can never really explain my process, no matter how many times people ask "what inspires me." Everything inspires me. That's how it should be. I am interested in everything, and everything generates ideas. On the blackboard I wrote like twenty names off the top of my head and just told them to look them up. I don't mean to be flippant - it's just when I'm confronted with the enormity of what really generates ideas, I can't process it myself. I go on autopilot and see what happens.
They did ask me some great questions, though. One was, do I like modern aesthetics at all? Why do I go back to old styles?
At the risk of sounding completely potty, I think the answer is pretty complex. To me all styles, modern and old, are the same. I personally am drawn to styles and aesthetics of the 1920s, and have been since I was very small, but to me it's just as real and valid as stuff going on now. I don't separate time periods, because it's all the same.
One thing I do detest is contrived photography, maybe because I operate as a reaction photographer more than a conceptual one. Pinterest has really destroyed the spontaneity of wedding photography, for instance. Where the photographer used to be able to go to a wedding and pick out special, unique moments, it seems everyone puts on a performance in order to get identical photos to ones they saw on Pinterest - manufactured romance, really. It's a bit disgusting. If you scroll through wedding photography, you see little comments here and there like "I WILL have a photo just like this at my wedding!" They fail to see that those special little moments have meaning precisely because they were genuine, not contrived. This might be a little bit of a rant here, but I think precisely what I like about old photos is that there's no question that most of them were heavily posed, just like a painting. There's no false "spontaneity," everything was heavily directed, at least in formal photos. When you look at old Brownie snapshots that aren't "say cheese" moments, they're delightful. They show a lack of awareness and boredom with being posed. Being photographed was a rare treat. I love that and actually still remember those days, barely. Anyway, I digress.
We did some photography as a class activity afterward and I showed them how I do my stuff. I figured if they wanted to try things on their own they could. I wanted to demonstrate that I mostly work with whatever is available to me at that moment, mostly because I'm broke.
I ripped up some paper and another kid dug out some coins from his pocket, and I had a feather in my purse. Lillian poured out some Tylenol for the cause. I stuck the items on the students' faces and made them lay on the floor.
All in all it was a really fun experience and a bit strange to be taken seriously as an artist. I never know what people are thinking when they see my work, so communicating with them directly can be a challenge. I don't know where they are, they don't know where i am. But that's the beauty of art - creating a bridge, however small. It's why I hate artist statements: that bridge is very tender and fragile. Being told what to think in an artist statement destroys that bridge. I'd much rather let people think for themselves and bring their own experiences to the table. I learn and grow from that as well.