Nikki Scioscia: Interview



“I hoped to answer the question, ‘When everything around me is different, what of myself remains?'” 

Nikki Scioscia is a 22-year-old emerging artist from South Carolina who combines repetitious mark making with experimental photographic processes. She makes layered, surreal portraits of women that reflect the powerful beauty of the divine mother & the objectification that torments both women & the natural world. Nikki recently received a BA in Studio Art from the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina & was awarded the Tyzack Prize for artistic achievement. In 2013 she studied at Florence University of the Arts & the printmaking school Il Bisonte in Florence, Italy. Nikki currently works on a farm on Maui, where she feeds a garden, feeds her mind with rainbows, & is working on new photography projects & many drawings. She plans to start a business of naturally dyed scarves and other wares that will be screen printed with her detailed designs.

"Pull the Veil"

“Pull the Veil”

Laura Knapp: First off, who are the women in these photos?

Nikki Sscioscia: There are a lot of self portraits because I can distort my own image without the inevitable layers of feeling that come with photographing others. I set up my camera on a tripod with a self timer. The shoots become theatrical and weird. But I do photograph my friends. Their spirit adds a special element to the work. Last summer I received a scholarship to take a two week alternative processes photo workshop at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. I didn’t bring any old negatives with me, & I was nervous that I wouldn’t make good photos without a couple of models. Luckily, art camp is the best, because my new classmates felt the same way & wanted to get to work immediately, so within a few days we were running naked in a field of fireflies at dusk, experimenting & taking photos.

"Badass Bitch"

“Badass Bitch”

LK: I noticed that every image has a title, but the overall body of work does not have one, is there a reason for that?


NS: I never thought of titling it. Maybe I could call it, “What I Was Feeling Like In 2012-2014.”


LK: How long have you been working on this unnamed photo project? Do you think it is a complete body of work or have you only just begun?


NS: This project spans two years of darkroom experimentation. Right now I have no darkroom & it feels more appropriate to sit outside and draw pulsating jungle scenes and magical women. I am happy to share this project since I can’t work on it right now. But I love pushing the boundaries of surrealism in the darkroom. I want to explore more ways to sew into my photos. I’m not finished.
"My Cross"

“My Cross”

LK: When did you decide to add the extra element of experimentation (ex. sewing into or drawing onto your prints) to your photographs? Is this process therapeutic for you?


NS: I was making detailed drawings long before I gained access to a darkroom. Merging drawing & photo was a natural progression, a way to make sense of my interests. I draw crystals and mandalas obsessively. Drawing was my meditation long before I tried meditation. When I am creating, I am not my thoughts. The work is automatic.

"Shower Sadness"

“Shower Sadness”

LK: Who or what inspires you to create your work?


NS: Lush jungle, ethereal blue twilight, the fleeting moments of delicate beauty that I try to soak up with my eyes. Ideals of feminism & environmentalism. I realize that I need to share these ideals more intentionally as a civic responsibilty. I admire how Francesca Woodman manipulated her body to make photos that represent themes larger than herself. She was raw.

"Breathe Deeply"

“Breathe Deeply”

LK: Do you have other bodies of work that relate to femininity as well?

NS: I have been drawing portraits of women for a long time. The screen printed items, inspired by these drawings, will surely relate to femininity. Anything that I disseminate to the public should represent strong, badass, graceful, magical females. Otherwise I am just contributing to consumerism, and that’s the last thing I want.

"At the Feet of the Divine"

“At the Feet of the Divine”

LK: Lastly, what made you decide to uproot and begin working on a farm in Maui? How has moving there changed your artistic ideas?

NS: I graduated from the College of Charleston with a Studio Art degree in May. It was time for another adventure. I wanted a nontraditional learning experience in a remote location. Through the pains and joys of independence, I hoped to answer the question, “When everything around me is different, what of myself remains?”


I planned on a different location for many months but at the last moment those plans fell through, & within a couple of frenzied days I decided that I would work on a farm on Maui through the WWOOF program. Maybe my choice was rudimentary, but all elements align for me here with strange synchronicity.


So here I am, tucked in a valley on a river, immersed in yoga intensives & soil up to my elbows. The soil is so alive. I dreamt of feeling this connected with the earth: rising with the sun, caring for the garden, eating kale & bananas, & moreover understanding natural patterns that used to seem mysterious but are intelligent & precise. My yearning for the natural world is evident in this photo project. Living on Maui amplifies the themes that I have been working on, like the interconnection all beings & the archetype of the divine mother, & I plan to elaborate on these themes.


When I work outside I have ample time to think about what I want to make of myself. I have a plan to begin a line of scarves & clothing, which I will dye using plants & screen print with my hand drawn designs. These wearables will relate thematically to my photo work, & you will see that the intricate lines I layer atop my photos have a life of their own. On Maui it gets cool at night. You see these beautiful men and women with light scarves in vibrant patterns & colors wrapped around their shoulders. I would like to make work that becomes intimate with wearer, something special that can be worn every night.

To see more of Nikki Scioscia’s work please visit:


FOR SALE: Kelly Gilleran’s Valentine’s Cards

We know that you all experienced an overload of holiday cheer this past month….. so why not keep the party going and start planning for Valentine’s Day!?!? This would be a scary thought if it wasn’t for the fact that there are some wonderful Valentine’s cards for sale!

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Previously featured She is Sure artist, Kelly Gilleran, has crafted some punny (yes, this is the correct spelling) Valentine’s Cards. Please check them out, and who knows, maybe you’ll buy a card for every special someone in your life?

Kelly’s Items for Sale:

Christine WK: To Remember Feature


Today I am very excited to show an artist I truly admire for her intense passion & dedication to photography & self discovery. Christine WK is a photographer & artist from Malaysia who recently graduated from the New England School of Photography (NESOP) in Boston, Massachusetts. Christine is a great friend of mine & she recently came to me asking if she could be featured on the blog. “Of course!” I answered immediately, but then I began to wonder what project she would want to showcase. Christine has never been known for limiting herself to one specific realm of photography… in fact, she was quite notorious at school for trying out almost every class NESOP had to offer. When Christine told me that she had personal photos that she had been working on since graduating in June I was instantly intrigued to view this somewhat secret project.


Christine had created a project that she titled “To Remember” in order to honor her last months in America before returning home to Malaysia for the first time in more than two years. Most of the photos are of Christine’s bedroom & bathroom in the apartment building she has lived in since starting school 26 months ago. At first glance, some of the photos may seem mundane because of the subject matter, but once you realize the comfort & importance most of these objects & rooms hold for the artist your mind forever sees the images in a whole new light. When Christine asked me to help her narrow down the hundreds of photos to create a concise project we quickly noticed that many of the photos were meant to be diptychs because of the extra information that attributed itself to the artist’s personal backstory.

The following words are Christine’s personal thoughts about her project “To Remember“:


“This project took me 4 months in total & it’s still going on. I take a photo when I feel like I want to record this down, I don’t want to forget this. For example, I have a pair of orange color sock & every time I wear them, for some reason, I just think it is funny. It reminds me that I am not in Malaysia. In Malaysia, I was not used to wearing socks everyday, but after I came to Boston, I had to start wearing them every single day. I impressed myself by wearing socks everyday.”
“I took the photo of things that I don’t want to forget. I want to record down how it feel like every time I was sitting in the bathroom, sitting in the bath tub, looking at the water pouring down from the tap. I want to remember the color of it, how I live, what clothing I wear, how my room looks. I am losing all of this soon, so I want to record it down. It is sad to think that I have to leave Boston soon, to leave this room. It is a small room, even though sometime I think about moving to a more quiet place & a bigger room.”
“I left my house when I was very young, I never had a permanent place that belonged to me. But this time in Boston, this place feels special to me because I came from so far & have been alone in this room. Things changed a lot from the start. What I am doing in the room was different from when the first time I just got here. I just want to record them down.”
“Life is random, my work is not about perfection. The way I lay them out is random, uncertain, just like my life.”

If you go to her website, do not be surprised when you see fashion, architecture, documentary, editorial, & fine art photography all coexisting in a way that makes perfect sense once you know Christine WK.

Happy Halloween: You are NOT the Father!

“When you’re a new mother there is nothing better than daytime TV to hit you with the reality that life is indeed beautiful. That and my kid’s face… he’s awesome.” – Theresa Tuite

Here at She is Sure we are celebrating Halloween and we hope that you are too! In order to celebrate the day, we have asked the lovely and talented photographer, painter, artist, new mother, and silly woman,Theresa Tuite, to create a little special something while her baby sleeps.

In honor of Halloween, here is Theresa’s petite painting,

Memento Maury: You Are Not the Father!

memento maurycolor001

P.S. Theresa’s husband IS the father.

To see Theresa Tuite’s photography please visit:

Autumn Playlist 2014

It’s that time of year again when She is Sure puts together a playlist for the current season. With the weather getting colder, & hot apple cider and tea becoming prominent drinks…why don’t you snuggle up indoors, put on your headphones, and dive into these seasonal songs picked by the most recent She is Sure contributing artists? Enjoy!

Photo by Laura Knapp from her series "Verde"

Photo by Laura Knapp from her series “Verde”

“I’m Venezuelan, so I’ve never been influenced by the change of seasons until I moved to Boston, so I’m more about the way I’m feeling at the moment, but it definitely affects me.”

– Maria Mata

Autumn Jordan:

“I Found a Reason” – Cat Power

“He Woke Me Up Again” – Sufjan Stevens

“Festival” – Sigur Rós

“Uncantena” – Sylvan Esso

“Bridges and Balloons” – Joanna Newsom

Jillian Medugno:

“Pumpin’ Blood” – The NoNoNo

“Let it Be”- The Beatles

“Latch” – Disclosure

“What Doesnt Kill You” – Jake Bugg. 

“Where I Want to Be” – The Dangerous Summer

(Jill says, “RIP. They aren’t together anymore, but it has been such an inspirational song & really relays some struggles I have had.”

Kelly Gilleran:

“Telephone Line”-E.L.O. 

(Kelly says, “I listen to this one driving home at night a lot, which is a very dark drive especially as days get shorter. This one is just dramatic, sweeping, and pretty.”)

“Limelight”- Rush

“Touch Myself” -The Divinyls

“Lion in Coma”- Animal Collective 

(Kelly says, “I’ve been working on a lot of stuff other than my artwork lately, this is fun to scream out loud when you just want to paint.”)

“Little Red Corvette” – Prince

Maria Mata:

“Amalgamados” – C4 Trío

(Maria says, “C4 Trío is a traditional Venezuelan band, and it brings me back to my roots. I listen to it every now and then, and actually got a surprising visit from a friend who’s also a musician. He was doing a clinic for Berklee and played this song. It’s a reminder of where I started, where I come from and what I love the most.”)

“Aguanile” – Hector Lavoe 

“Linoleoum”- Pain of Salvation

(Maria says, “Gets me in touch with my darkness, it’s the best way I can put it, and some of my best work comes from darkness.”)

“Adolescent Sex”- Japan  

“Sleepy Time Time”- Cream 

Happy Listening!

Autumn Jordan: Domesticated Interview

domesticated (5 of 5)

“Searching for refuge from cold cities & cold shoulders I found my way to greenhouses. These manufactured landscapes offered a safe haven from the volatile environment beyond the glass panes. Amongst the flowerbeds and foliage I discovered my own suppressed potential & yearning to be taken care of. Like these flowers, I am constantly uprooted: my desire for stability thwarted by revolving seasons and temporary living arrangements. My constant shuffling and need for stability further propel my own state of fragility.” –Autumn Jordan on her project Domesticated

Autumn Jordan is a visual artist currently living in Somerville, Massachusetts. Her work explores themes of domesticity and presentness through the mediums of photography, sculpture, and performance art. In 2014, Autumn graduated from Bennington College with a concentration in Visual Arts. She enjoys hand processing, slow mornings, plastic cameras, origami, the ocean, and greenhouses.

greenhouse 8 of 29_o-2

Laura Knapp: How did your interest with manufactured landscapes begin? Was the relationship between manmade & natural creations a topic you focused on before this project or was this a recent fascination?

Autumn Jordan: It was born out of a rut. Last winter, I was living in New York City, something I had always dreamed of. After years of dreaming of this magical city of opportunity, I found myself in a gray spectacle of anxiety. My desire to get away from the city lead me to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, weekly, sometimes daily. I found refuge in these controlled landscapes, mini utopias hidden among the chaos outdoors. I guess you could say that my infatuation with manufactured or controlled landscapes was born out of a desire for stability. Much of my work has always been focused on harnessing some sense of control while graciously welcoming the uncertain.


LK: I noticed that, despite the topic of manmade creations, you made the decision to showcase the flowers as beautiful objects in the photos that are more close up. Other than the lighting and occasional fence in the background, I didn’t realize right away that these photos were of well maintained plants that are contained in a manmade structure. What made you photograph some of the flowers as if they were growing naturally in the wild?

AJ: I’ve always had a distinct fascination with the beauty of flowers and foliage. This, coupled with my desire for solace, is what brought me to Vermont for school in the first place. My work is speaking to that, a desire to bring some honesty to the things I keep so hidden. Despite uncontrollable circumstances, these flowers continue to grow. I believe some of the more close-up, distorted photographs of these flowers bring honesty to the beauty of the will to flourish.


LK: Due to the quality of light and/or the selective focus, these photographs have a very dreamlike personality to them. Was this a conscious decision? If so, what were you saying about the location and plant life with the added ethereal elements?

AJ: The dreamlike quality of the photographs reflected my desire for elsewhere. I couldn’t have presented a photograph of roses as rose or agave in a desert-like landscape and felt content with what I was doing. I wouldn’t have been inviting the viewer to question anything and I certainly would not have brought them elsewhere. For me, the photographs become most ethereal at their printed size, it is only then that these miniature utopias become fully encompassing and finally depart from their original state of being.greenhouse 17 of 29-2

LK: Who and/or what were your biggest inspirations for creating this project?

AJ: I think my constant admiration of other people’s gardens & desire for a controlled environment of my own lead to the making of this work. As for the photographs themselves, they are printed 36 x 36” on three 12 x 36” strips of Kodak Color Negative paper in order to fit through the color processor. This entire project was a desire to harness control in a point in my life where I felt I had none. To flourish beyond my limits one last time while I had unconditional support & the facilities to support the work. The making of the work itself, from greenhouse to garden show to printing & installation enabled me to regain control in the chaos.


LK: I would love to see more photos like these with maybe more climate specific plant life. Is this a finished project or do you hope to visit more greenhouse locations in the future to expand your project?

AJ: The work is still evolving. I recently discovered my new favorite greenhouse; a small oasis attached to a family-owned grocer. I am always admiring someone else’s garden, and I am hoping to grow my own someday. I’m starting small, with houseplants and fresh cut flowers. The illusion of the natural harnessed within an interior landscape. I don’t know if it’s so much about the different environments as much as it is about the different places I look to for solace and stability.


LK: Is there a specific photo in this body of work that speaks to you the most? 

AJ: The two works I printed for the Senior Show are visually my favorite, the amount of days and hours I poured into making those prints certainly aids that. Not entirely related to the body of work as it stands conceptually, but on one of the rolls of film, is a photograph of my best friend at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. She was the first one to make the trek to the greenhouses with me from the Upper West Side, and a photograph of her gazing up in awe of palms and vines, the entire frame slightly hazy from the humidity of the hothouse.

To see more of Autumn Jordan’s work please visit:

Kelly Gilleran: Food! Interview


My Fair Ladies

“Itʼs funny, itʼs playful, itʼs kitsch,” says painter, Kelly Gilleran, about her series of paintings entitled Food! While going through an artistic identity crisis Kelly found herself pining after advertisements in old mid-century magazines. She would look at traditional media illustrations of idealistic scenes, & sheʼd feel nostalgic for an era she never lived in & a job that no longer existed. So Kelly pretended she had the job of nameless illustrator & started painting food, but not just any food: perfect food. What started out as a catharsis & a temporary escape from “serious paintings” has been going on as a fairly exclusive habit for a year & a half now. Kelly Gilleran is still shooting for that immediate response, because food elicits a reaction from everyone: itʼs comfort, yet nostalgia for something that doesnʼt exist.

Kelly Gilleran grew up in Redding, CT & stayed there until she was 23. She attended Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT because “my dad worked there and I got free tuition. It was actually an excellent small school.” She left with a Bachelorʼs in Art & Design with a double concentration in painting & illustration. Before she graduated she started working as an artist assistant for a commercially successful painter, which “paid well but made me hate myself”. Painting is her way of controlling the world, & after graduating she felt as if everyone was trying to take it from her. So, in June of 2013 Kelly ran away to the mountains of Colorado. She currently works as a table games dealer in a casino four days a week, & she paints three days a week. She plans on returning to school in June for a Masters in Art Education, so “I can hang out with actual kids all day instead of gamblers, and I get more time to paint.”


“TV Dinner”

Laura Knapp: I think it would be best to start with the birth of this project. How did your “Food!” paintings come to fruition? How long ago did this obsession with food begin?

Kelly Gilleran: I think the obsession with food came when I became a fat kid as a child.  The visual obsession started with Cheeseburgers. I had a project my sophomore year of college where we had to do an editorial illustration about eating disorders, domestic violence or war. After my concept of “military use of dolphins” was turned down, my next thought was obesity because I wanted to paint an obese person in a power chair & a giant cheeseburger. Usually when I was given an assignment in college the first thought was, “What do I want to paint?” & the second thought was “How can I make this fit into what I’m supposed to be doing?” After struggling with paintings that were very material driven, I wanted something that I could feasibly turn into a collection while holding down a day job. I was looking for something that would be leisurely to illustrate, that I could do more efficiently, & not get bored or frustrated with. I had dabbled with food before and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I decided to go in that direction. Food is very fun to paint because it has lots of textures and colors, it’s easy to paint convincingly, and everybody responds to it.


“Gentlemen’s Club”

LK: I’m a huge fan of the kitsch, playful food work, but I’ve always wondered if you had a secret stash of completely different paintings that a viewer might not recognize as a Kelly Gilleran. I suppose my question is, do you exclusively create food paintings or have you dabbled in other subject matters?

KG: I don’t exclusively paint food, food has just been something that I have been able to produce a lot of without getting bored or frustrated. Prior to the food illustrations, I primarily painted in oil, & I painted on a much larger scale. I was working on a collection of layered epoxy resin painting/collages that featured ferris wheels, people & space symbolizing existential issues & one’s authenticity. Those paintings are for sure more personal, narrative, and conceptually interesting. The problem with those paintings is that they take a very long time to produce, I don’t have the facilities to produce them (pouring resin requires a well-ventilated dust-free area & use of a respirator, & being highly allergic to it doesn’t help either) & when they are finished, they are damn near impossible to photograph.

I love painting big, & I love complicated images; but I’ve learned that being prolific can be just as important as being conceptually thought provoking. As fun as it is to be completely in your own head & entirely self-serving with your artistic ventures, there’s still that part of me that wants the recognition of knowing if someone Googles “Kelly Gilleran” you can see a lot of different works. The food is accessible to a wider variety of people, & you don’t have to be an artist to understand or appreciate them. I ran into the problem of having a lot of people who were fans of my artwork, but were not in a place where they could afford to buy a $2000 painting. With the food works I can paint more, reach more people, & ultimately get the name recognition. The big plan being that when I do have the time & facilities to paint the bigger ones again, hopefully there will be a following who are interested in those paintings too.


“Cake Walk”

LK: What’s the process for creating one of these paintings? How long does it typically take to finish a piece when you factor in the idea process as well?

KG: If I have an idea, the first part is finding images; I scour thrift stores to find old cook books or magazines with bright Kodochrome pictures; etsy & ebay are a big help too. You really have to find a perfect picture.

Once I have an image I really like, I usually do a layout in Photoshop, which is usually where I experiment with different legs if it’s going to be a lady. I do a sketch from the layout where I can figure out the rest of it; everything gets changed a little. I then take the sketch & use a projector to get my outline onto the board, so when I’m painting I can focus on just the illustration & not proportions & drawing stuff. Then I paint the central image first; this is the most enjoyable part, some artists struggle through this part just to get the final product, but I genuinely just love illustrating sitting and painting. Then I cover up the whole board with frisket film, (basically a big, clear low-tack sticker) draw out my background and then cut it out with and xacto-blade, paint, and peel off the film. I scan the finished piece, and then I get to do all sorts of fun computer work of editing, resizing, isolating, formatting, sometimes reproducing a background digitally, or making it into a pattern. The computer stuff is my least favorite part, but it makes the image available for consumption on a lot of different products.

All in all, I would estimate maybe 8-12 hours from conception to finished painting, give or take a little depending on what the image is & how complicated the background is. I usually have 2-4 going on at various stages at any given time. On a good week, I can get about two done on my days off from work. It’s really sustainable which is why I’ve been able to stick with them for so long.


“Ice Cream Novelties”

LK: Since you lived in Connecticut for the majority of your life, how has your move to the opposite side of the country been for your artwork? Have you found a community in Colorado with similar artistic values & interests as you? 

KG: I moved to Colorado to protect my artwork, but not specifically for artistic inspiration. I was working as an artist assistant and it made me miserable, & the whole NYC/East Coast art scene jaded me. I didn’t see myself or my artwork finding it’s place in that scene, & I didn’t have the fight in me. After graduating you have everyone telling you what you should be doing & what you should be painting. I was extremely depressed.

Painting is my way of controlling the world; it’s one of the only things I consider to be mine. So when it felt like everyone was taking that control away from me, I ran away. Where I live in Colorado is woods, mountains and lots of guns. The artistic aesthetic is Native American arts & Landscapes. It’s beautiful, but no, not really an artistic community I relate to. The idea was to isolate myself for a bit, get my bearings on the whole un-fun “adult” thing, & then relocate closer to Denver where the art scene is more contemporary and fun. For now I focus primarily on social media & the Internet as a means of getting my artwork out there.


“Turkey Club on Rye”

LK: Who and/or what are your biggest inspirations for creating artwork?

KG: A lot of what I do is reverence for old school illustration. Particularly with the food illustrations, I do a lot of collecting of old advertisements, cookbooks & the like. There used to be an incredible amount of illustrators who had the job of creating these little vignettes and perfect fantasies, & for the most part they are completely nameless. Those artists knew a lot, & there’s a lot that can be learned from their techniques & applications. Now everything with advertising is done with either heavily edited photography or digital illustration, the warmth is taken away & so is the sense that someone made this.

I feel a lot of guilt if I’m not working on art. It makes me happier than anything, & it’s what I’m meant to do. I fear my ability getting atrophied, & a day where I get nothing done seems like a waste. I think most artists chase the desire to be immortal in some capacity. I wouldn’t mind being nameless so long as the artwork I make, these little bits and moments of me, are important enough that no one would ever throw them away.

In terms of artists that inspire me that do have names: I adore Shigeru Kotomatsuzaki, John Berkey, and Cheslie Bonstell. All three fall into the color explosion mid-century sci-fi space-age illustration category. I’ve probably got some space painting in my future. I’ve been told my aesthetic is “visual pornography for children” so basically anything that falls into bright, toy-like & mid-century category inspires me.


“Wonder Women”

LK: I noticed that some of the paintings feature a larger-than-life American food on a colorful and fun background, but then the project completely shifts to include sexy pastries with female body parts. In your case, what came first the chicken (food with zany backdrop) or the egg (saucy female food)? Do you enjoy one subject more than the other?

KG: Food came first. I was working at an art store & one day I was sent home with a set of gouache (which I had never used at the time) to make a little painting for a store display. I love cheeseburgers, so two hours later I had painted this cheeseburger. It was this moment where I was totally up my own ass like, “Look at this fucking cheeseburger I just painted. This is the perfect cheeseburger.” That’s when I discovered food was really fun to paint, & didn’t have all the stress of the concept-heavy stuff.

Lady foods came while I was working as an artist assistant. My boss painted “pun paintings” & made the mistake of taking off one day and saying “do whatever you want,” which really meant “work on one of the 20 that we got going on right now”… but I was just starting to get into painting more foods outside of work, so a few hours later we had a “Cake Walk.” I stared at her & thought, “This is my spirit animal,” I also immediately regretted painting it under the name of another artist. So I painted some of my own anyways.

I had an older co-worker say in passing “I now look at a delicious sandwich like I used to look at a sexy woman.” Americans covet and consume decadent food in excess & our culture completely objectifies women, so the two work together & have a similar sentiment about them. Food can be very sexy on its own, but I find it hilarious that adding legs to some food can entirely change the perception. My boyfriend was looking at the Wonder Women when I was painting it and with complete sincerity goes, “The one on the left is definitely the prettiest one.”

“…Nick, she’s bread.”

The girls make me laugh, there’s definitely a little something more to them, so I definitely prefer them over just food.

To see more of Kelly Gilleran’s current work please visit:

Jillian Medugno: No Strings Attached Interview

1_Full House

“Full House”

Photographer, Jillian Medugno, uses ten images from a series called No Strings Attached to portray her struggle with being controlled & manipulated, & the journey to break free. In Jillian’s own words, “No Strings Attached is a realization I made about myself within the last few years. I am both the puppet & willingly the puppet master, controlled by a stronger force of societies ‘standards’. I used to put on these acts of how I thought I was supposed to look, dress, & act causing myself emotional & physical harm. The climax of this series is where I find myself drowning in my own confusion of who I really was, & how I had the strength to pick myself up. I was able to cut the strings, become an individual, & act as myself. Finally.”

Jillian Medugno was born just north of Boston where she’s grown up her entire life.  In 2008 Jill moved to Tampa for college where she graduated with a bachelors degree in Arts Administration and Management, & not a clue what to do with that degree. Jill then decided to go to photography school. In 2012 Jillian Medugno started at the New England School of Photography and took her passion for photography and made it a reality. Jill is mainly a commercial photographer with a focus on food. Jill currently shoots dining reviews & a few features here & there for the Improper Bostonian Magazine, where she currently interns.


“Control Freak”

Laura Knapp: Many of these photos feature you as a puppet on a stage, but the other half feature you in an empty white room. What’s the difference between the two environments? What does each setting change for you?

Jill Medugno: The stage scenes are meant to show how my actions & how I was on the surface, to others. The image “Drowning” for example was a time in my life where I was on the verge of overcoming what I was feeling, yet I was harmful to myself at the same time. So I left it up to the viewer on how they see the image. Whether I was pulling myself out of this feeling or pushing myself deeper. However you see it, you see it.


“Puppet Master”

While the blank white wall scenes are more of a “Behind the Scenes” look of what I am feeling inside. For example with the image “Broken”, that is showing a part of me not knowing how I feel about cutting the so called strings of my life. But at the same time a sense of pride in myself with being able to let go.




LK: Were these photos a reaction to how you felt at the time of creation or was it a cumulation of all your struggles over the course of your life?

JM: This series was about my insecurities growing up.  They tell a story & the end of the series is happening in my life right now. I grew up super self-conscious and I did have times where people would validate how I was feeling about myself, and that just made my insecurities sink a little deeper. However, I surrounded myself around people who in my eyes were perfect & their insecurities about themselves made me shoot mine down even further. I had a hard time, & the past two years I have been surrounding myself with such amazing people, much different from where I was before, and they showed me how to open up & to just be myself. Because those who care about you will like you for the person you are. I finally get that. I am so happy.

“Cutting the Cord”

LK: Did you feel like the process of creating these images made it easier to accept yourself?
JM: I kind of feel like it is a back & forth battle. I created these images because I found it as a way for me to let people in since I have never been good at expressing my feelings. But at the same time, I think to myself “are people going to look at me differently now?”
I honestly feel this is a battle a lot of teens & young adults face, & its really sad we can’t watch TV or look at a magazine without feeling there was something wrong with how we look compared to these fictional airbrushed figures we see everywhere. To answer your question though, as of today, I do feel like doing this project allowed me to be able to talk about my feelings, as well as accept myself for who I am.

“Exit Stage Right”

LK: Who are some of your biggest inspirations for creating this work?
JM: I was really inspired by Kahn & Selesnick. They are so amazingly creative & unique!
LK: I know that you do a lot of food/advertising photography. Do you see any correlation between this project and your more commercial work?
JM:  I think that my food photography is a lot more straight forward, where as this series is much more personal & deeper. No Strings Attached shows a side of me I rarely express.
10_End Scene
LK: Is this a finished project or do you see yourself continuing it in the future?

JM:  This project is finished.  I honestly felt like as I was putting together the last image, I was watching the curtains close on my struggles as well as the series.  

To see more of Jillian Medugno’s photography please visit:

Maria Alejandra Mata: Where It Hurts Interview

 02_Maria_Alejandra_MataAfter creating images based around internal and external pain, photographer, Maria Alejandra Mata, shares her concerning and vulnerable project, Where it Hurts. In the words of the artist, “This is a series of self portraits about how emotional wounds show through your skin and manifest as a physical wound. They are an interpretation of my personal experiences and conflicts through a painful and violent time. The concept evolved into a short series that depicts the inner conflicts in Venezuela and how they affected me as an immigrant. The intensity of our emotions can break us from the inside. We can see them and feel them until we finally manage to heal ourselves.”
Maria Alejandra Mata was born in the city of Caracas, Venezuela, on December 10, 1987. She developed an interest in arts at a young age. She went to Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas and graduated in Social Communications, with a major in Visual Arts. Performance arts were always a part of her life. She was a part of a theater group in college for a couple of years and moved on from being on the stage to being an observer of the stage from the front row in order to photograph live performances. In 2012, Maria Alejandra decided to move to Boston to study photography and she is a recent graduate from New England School of Photography.


Laura Knapp: First off, these are some raw self portraits. They immediately show your pain in a physical way, but also manage to simultaneously tap into your inner feelings of torture and heartbreak. What made you want to create such an emotional project? How did it start?

Maria Mata: That’s a really tough question to answer. I was going through a really hard time in my personal life, lots of self doubt and painful situations, and I got this school assignment called “Beneath the Surface”. I felt like it was the perfect time to come up with a piece that helped me channel those feelings of anger, sadness and well, heartbreak. It was a very brave decision to go with a nude self portrait, but that was the only way I could get the point across, and that ended up being my opening piece. A couple weeks after that, the protests started in my home country of Venezuela and the violence was 100 times worse. That definitely added to the feelings for the project and so I decided to go all the way with it and use it to drain all my emotional pain that I was mostly hiding. It’s a very personal series.10_Maria_Alejandra_Mata

LK: For people who may not know, what is the conflict currently happening in Venezuela?

MM: The country is in an economic, social debacle right now. Caracas, my hometown, is one of the most dangerous, violent cities in the world. There’s shortages, poverty, violent crimes, etc. It’s a major political crisis. It’s been getting progressively worse very fast in the last year. It’s very painful to watch and know that you really don’t feel safe in your own country.08_Maria_Alejandra_Mata

LK: I’m really sorry to hear that, Maria. I’m glad you’re using your feelings in an expressive and artistic fashion. On a more technical note, these are all digitally manipulated photos. How did you create life-like wounds and scars? 

MM: MAGIC! And some paper and raspberries. The preparation for the shoots was my favorite part of the whole project. I had very specific ideas of what I wanted to convey, where I wanted the wound, if it was a burn or a scratch, a scar, how deep it was going to be, how gory, etc. So I pretty much knew what it was going to look like before going into the digital process. I experimented with textures and colors to see what would make the most appealing, compelling wound. 06_Maria_Alejandra_Mata

LK: Knowing that you could create any color palette you wanted, why did you make the visual choices that you did? Why the all white background with the extremely pale skin? What does the white signify?

MM: I didn’t want anything to distract the viewer from the pain. I don’t want you to look away from the wound. It’s very direct and straight forward, there’s nowhere else to go. I also wanted a sort of blank canvas to tap into the vulnerability we experience when we’re hurt. That’s why I decided to go with the nudity. We’re all very fragile when we’re at our lowest point, and that’s what I wanted to convey.  01_Maria_Alejandra_Mata

LK: What was the most emotional piece for you to create?

MM: Definitely the open chest. Not only was it the very first image I made, but because it was made at a time of emotional pain. That was exactly how I felt during the time I made that piece. Having said that, every time I started a new piece it would almost feel like opening old wounds or playing with recent ones. Some of the images were really hard to look at because I felt so vulnerable, but I didn’t let the emotion stop me from making them. It was my way of releasing the anger. 04_Maria_Alejandra_Mata

LK: Is this a finished body of work or do you think you’ll make more? 

MM: It’s definitely finished. Which is why the final piece is a stitched wound. It was actually a relief when I was done. I cried. It felt like all that suffering had left my body and is now living in those images. I still love the horror/beauty contrast and want to keep exploring it in a different way, at a different time. It was a difficult, dark time for me and it’s not a place where I want to put myself in again. 07_Maria_Alejandra_Mata

LK: Have you ever considered trying a spinoff of this project by not physically showing your body in any of the photos? Somehow showing the pain in a more abstract way? Just a suggestion.

MM: I’m very straight forward with my approach, but it seems like a good idea. I do feel like it’s not the right time for it. This was so personal and intimate that I want to explore different feelings. Not everything has to be painful, right? 


To see more of Maria Mata’s work go here:

Summer Playlist 2014

Since we’re always so serious as artists, I thought it would be fun to loosen up & create a quarterly playlist depending on the season we’re currently in. I asked the first round of artists from She is Sure to post their favorite summer songs that get them excited to create new work and just have a great time! I hope some of these songs speak to you & inspire you as well!

Photo by Laura Knapp of Elizabeth Ireland

Photo by Laura Knapp of Elizabeth Ireland

 “Some songs, when you listen to them, they take on a life of their own inside you.”

– Jamie Rogers

Elizabeth Ireland:

“Island in the Sun” – Weezer 

“Pulaski at Night” – Andrew Bird 

“New Slang” – The Shins

“Folding Chair” – Regina Spektor

Ca Plane Pour Moi – “Plastic Bertrand”

Cori DiPietro:

“Amazing” – One Eskim0  

(Cori says, “I love the lines: ‘I have no skin, I feel everything, its amazing…’**Sigh!**”)

“Do I Wanna Know?” – Arctic Monkeys

“She’s So Heavy” – The Beatles

Sierra Marin:

“Change Your Life” – Iggy Azalea 

“Kiss Me” – Ed Sheeran

“Light Me Up” – Icona Pop

“Vertigo” – Jason Derulo

Tricia Collier:

“I Wanna Be Sedated” – The Ramones

“Ramblin Man” – Allman Brothers

“Let it Ride” – BTO

“Octopus’ Garden” – The Beatles

 (Tricia says, “I was driving early in the morning when I was about 19. I had no shoes, no license (with me) I was speeding and I failed to stop for a police officer. YUP, got into trouble for that one. But I blame the song.”)

Jamie Rogers:

“Two Weeks” – FKA Twigs

“Hunger of the Pine” – Alt-J

“Unravel” – Bjork

“Lucky” – Radiohead

(Jamie says, “It’s impossible for me to not have chills, clear my brain & experience the ultimate highs & lows of its melody. Afterwards, with a clear head, I feel more engaged with my emotions & inspired to channel them honestly through my work.”)

“Dancing Behind My Eyelids” – Múm

Laura Knapp:

“Without You My Life Would Be Boring” – The Knife

“The Secret Life of Arabia” – David Bowie

“Kate Bush” – The Saxophone Song

“Innocence”- Bjork

“Get Up Offa That Thing” – James Brown

(Laura says, “Dancing is inspiring to me. Every single one of these songs makes me boogie. Go boogie down!”)

Catalina Piedrahita:

“Empire” – Shakira

“The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” – Muse

“Com Touch” – Clark

“Latinoamerica” – Calle 13

“Le Moulin” – Yann Tiersen

Happy listening!!!