Nikki Scioscia: Interview

"Coexist"

“Coexist”

“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: www.nikkiscioscia.com

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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.

gardenshow005

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.

gardenshow006

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.

gardenshow010

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.

 gardenshow002

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: http://www.autumnjordan.com

Kelly Gilleran: Food! Interview

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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.”


5_TVDinner_Small

“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.

13_GentlemensClub_Small

“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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

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“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.


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“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.

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“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.

 

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“Broken”

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.
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“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.
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“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.
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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: jillianmedugno.com

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.

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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: http://www.mariamataphoto.com/

Catalina Piedrahita: The Middle Gray Interview

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.38.17 AMAs a featured artist of the very first and most recent issue, I am extremely happy to introduce Catalina Piedrahita, co-creator of The Middle Gray. Celebrating its one year anniversary, The Middle Gray is an arts organization that continuously strives to promote artists of all kinds by using its quarterly magazine and weekly blog posts. These featured artists are not the typical ones you already hear about in the news, because face it, those artists do not need any more press. The Middle Gray aims to feature amazing work from the underdogs and lesser-knowns who are looking to expand their fan bases, and/or show their work for the very first time.

Catalina Piedrahita is a Colombian American artist who now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. Born and raised in Cali, Colombia, her art education began at a very early age learning a wide range of artistic media. Catalina received a BFA from the Miami International University of Art and Design, and later graduated from the New England School of Photography. When Catalina isn’t co-managing The Middle Gray, she works as a fine artist and as a freelance commercial photographer and videographer, among other things.


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Laura Knapp: As such a positive and opportunistic organization and magazine, The Middle Gray remains as one of my favorite local creations. The Middle Gray was actually a big inspiration for the creation of “She is Sure”. What was the thinking and creative process behind bringing it to life? 

Catalina Piedrahita: Thank you, Laura! I believe I first started contemplating the idea of creating an arts organization around 4 years ago. I always thought it would be great to manage or be the curator of a gallery, but I never felt completely comfortable with the status-quo of the art establishment, so I never saw myself working for an existing gallery. On the other hand, after working for several companies/organizations, I realized why I became a fine artist in the first place; I am creative, and I can’t stand doing mindless tasks for too long, especially if they don’t allow some kind of growth. Finally the idea of being an independent curator came to mind, but I really needed to come up with a model that worked for me. You know, we all need to pay bills, but how to do it in a way that’s reliable and enjoyable at the same time? This idea stayed in the back of my mind while I was still in school, and somehow one day, probably while sitting in a café and looking at the neglected and crooked art on the walls, I decided that’s how I was going to do it; a multidisciplinary art space subsidized by a food establishment. It sounded doable.

After sharing these thoughts with my partner in crime, Álvaro, we began to think about the concept behind the project, and we agreed that it would be more meaningful to us if it were dedicated to people like us: emerging young artists looking for opportunities to grow.

The idea has always been to create a physical space where all kinds of art come together in a collaborative manner, but we decided to give the concept a try first, and this is how MiddleGray Magazine was born. This online zine has been testing the waters for almost a year now, and it’s had a great response. Now it’s time for the real-deal to come to life.

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LK: Why was it so important for you to create a place for artists to show their work? Did you ever imagine that it would include such a dynamic range of artwork (music, writing, visual art, etc.) when you first started?

CP: It’s important for me mainly because I can relate. As a young Hispanic female artist it’s always been a struggle to find places to showcase my work. Most of the time my work just “doesn’t fit”, which to me is a sign of lack of diversity. I believe our specific experiences (Álvaro’s and mine) can help create more options and contribute to the growth of the art scene here in Boston, and to the growth of young promising artists. It is also important for us to create a place that allows accessibility to the arts. It’s always been thought that art is a luxury, but I believe it is as important for the human experience and intellectual development as any other discipline, and everyone should have access to it. 

The thought of having a multidisciplinary art space was present from a very early stage. Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis are artists working with different kinds of media, and we all agree more artistic opportunities wouldn’t hurt anyone! And even though all these artists work in different artistic disciplines, we all enjoy and consume all kinds of art forms. This means that if we all share one space to showcase our work, we’ll bring together more options for artists and art consumers, thus attracting more people to the community and making it stronger.

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LK: Speaking of dynamic, can you tell us about The MiddleGray Cafe? What inspired you to include culinary arts? Also, extremely important, where can our viewers/food enthusiasts purchase your delicious food?

CP: As I mentioned before, the idea of creating an art space subsidized by a café was a reasonable possibility for me. I worked in the food industry for a while when I was in college, and food has been a big tradition in my family, if not the only one. My maternal grandmother was a very skilled cook, and to this day I haven’t tried anything that can compare to her dishes, especially because she mainly cooked authentic recipes from a very specific region of Colombia called El Cauca, and I believe that generation is gone, and no one took any note… I’ve come to understand the importance of the culinary arts, and how they can create identity and bring people together. Eating may be my favorite pleasure, and making food is as enjoyable as creating a painting, so it seems to me like a good complement that can support the rest of the organization, at least to give us the fuel to start up. Cooking is just another art form I’m very familiar with, and I also know the right person who can help us make it work in a business environment maintaining an authentic approach. 

Right now the only place where people can find our food would be on our Etsy shop, or directly through me. I don’t promote this too much, because we are not licensed yet, but all we sell are cookies! Oh, but if anyone is on Etsy they can go on and favorite the shop and/or the items. This creates more visibility for us, which is the main reason why we’re on there. https://www.etsy.com/shop/themiddlegray

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LK: Unfortunately, I’ve never had the chance to try food from The MiddleGray Cafe, but from the incredible photos you have posted online, I can only imagine how delicious it all must be. I think I have dreams about the pastries and sandwiches on your blog…..

Getting back on track, how has your study of photography affected your food photos for The MiddleGray Cafe?  

CP: Hahaha I think we need to fix that and hook you up with some MiddleGray goodies! 

Being a professional photographer has been key to the online success we’ve had so far. All the imagery that forms our identity has been created in house, and even though I didn’t explore food photography at school because I was all about people photography, I feel like you can treat food as people. Just make it look interesting and sexy! I believe I have a strong idea of what things should look like because of my artistic education and all the technical training at Nesop, but I know I still have a long way to go when it comes to food photography. I’m learning as I go and I think we’ve been refining MiddleGray’s identity more and more. It’ll click at some point. These things never stop evolving anyway.

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LK: Did you originally plan for The Middle Gray to have so many components, such as the magazine, blog posts, and cafe?

CP: Yes, we needed to come up with a strategy that would let us test out our concept first on a very small budget. The café/gallery came as a concept first, but we didn’t have the resources to start a project of such scale right away. So I came up with the idea of creating a quarterly online magazine that would represent what the physical space would eventually showcase, and a blog to create weekly content and maintain a constant dialog between the artists and the public. I pitched this idea to some very close friends who decided that the project was worth giving it a chance, I guess for the love of art. 

Again, I had some great minds at my disposal to make the idea work, which is very rare. I’ve been friends with our letters editor Dariel Suarez and assistant editor Alina Collazo for around 8 years, and they were kind enough to volunteer their time and expertise to manage all the literature content related to the mag. This includes the submission process and the writers’ interviews that go on the blog. They also proofread every single mag before they’re released to ensure quality. Same with our music editor Álvaro Morales, who I’ve know since… forever. He handles all the music submissions and also manages our website’s back-end, among other responsibilities. These artists were the backbone of baby-MiddleGray, and I probably wouldn’t had gone forward with the project without their support. More brilliant minds have been joining the MiddleGray family since then, and the organization only gets stronger and stronger.

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LK: What is your favorite part of working on MiddleGray Magazine? 

CP: To me it’s a privilege reading, seeing, listening to and choosing outstanding art first hand, and curating it is intellectually stimulating and enriching. I also feel like I’m helping create this whole collaborative art piece every time an issue is released. Each mag is a multi-sensorial performance that gets to live in the World Wide Web forever with the potential of infinite interaction.

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LK: It’s incredibly impressive to see all of the hard work and intricacies that go into each issue of your magazine. How long does it typically take you and your team to create an issue? 

CP: At this point it’s very hard to say how long it takes us from the moment we start collecting the material till the mag is approved for publication, since the process has become ongoing. We just have a few deadlines and every person manages their time at their will. All I care for is to have all the material in my possession one month before the launch, which has been the case so far. When we just started it took us around 6 months to set everything up (to create the submissions process and our online presence, to get on social media platforms, to submit call for entries, etc,) collect the work, edit and curate the material, design the mag, and approve it for launch.Issue04CoverLK: What does The Middle Gray have in store for us in its future?

CP: Right now we’re getting ready to find a location for the MiddleGray Gallery/Café, which we’re very excited about. We finally have the resources to move along with the project, and we are ready to contribute to the Boston art and food scene. Once the space is open and running we’ll start planning shows, gallery openings, readings, music performances, etc, and MiddleGray Magazine will be modified to better fit the model of the gallery/café, since the digital space will be replaced by a physical one.


To see the newest issue of MiddleGray Magazine please click here: http://www.middlegraymag.com

Laura Knapp: La Ura Interview

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As creator of She is Sure, Laura Knapp has provided a platform for up and coming female artists to speak about their creative pursuits. I thought it would be only fitting therefore that her inspiring self portrait series La Ura be showcased here on She is Sure. La Ura documents Laura’s self expression and creative journey as a young woman, and emerging artist/photographer. Laura grew up in a small town in Connecticut, but fancies herself a Vermont girl at heart. Laura attended Bennington College for two years, but left to pursue a strict photography curriculum at the New England School of Photography (aka NESOP) in Boston. Laura recently graduated from NESOP and is currently working there, interning at Panopticon Gallery, continuing with her multiple photographic projects, and writing this blog, She is Sure. 


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Lyn Freeman: In one of your self portraits in the series La Ura you appear noticeably younger (on Laura’s website). How old were you when you first started La Ura and how do you think you’ve grown as a person and artist since then?

Laura Knapp: I’ve been taking self portraits since I was in middle school, but I don’t think the photos had any substance (besides tween vanity) until I got to 10th or 11th grade. I definitely started growing as a artist once I began taking photography classes in 11th grade because I had never taken the time to think about what I was photographing before then. I’ve also definitely grown as a human being as I transitioned from high school into my first few years of college, where I felt a little out of place and uncomfortable with all the new people around me. The past two years of school have increased my confidence and made me realize that I need to have fully formed ideas behind my self portraits or else they’re just photos of me.

_DSC2079LF: Can you discuss how you approach taking one of your self portraits. Do you usually have a preconceived idea of how you want them to turn out or is it more of a spontaneous process?

LK: I have a very spontaneous process. I have a hard time planning photos out beforehand because I love the element of surprise and seeing where the process will take me. Getting dressed up and putting lipstick on is typically the most planning I do before a shoot. I take photos when I’m excited. Forcing myself to take self portraits when I’m in a mediocre mood usually results in photos that I never want to show to the world because you can see my lack of enthusiasm. I have to be excited to take photos that I will be proud of.

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LF: I’ve noticed that throughout La Ura, there are only two portraits where you have direct eye contact with the camera. Can you explain why that is?

LK: I actually take a lot of photos of myself and others with direct eye contact, but when I edit photos I am almost always more attracted to a photo where someone is looking away. When it comes to my self portraits, I think that I like to choose the photos where I’m looking off because the viewer is already staring at me. I take self portraits because I’m not comfortable with strangers looking at me, and I want to be more comfortable in public. Making direct eye contact all the time would be too easy, it would show that I’m already 100% comfortable. Knapp_SelfPortrait_7

LF: I notice that you don’t use the more traditional portrait angles and perspectives. What influences your decisions when choosing the angles and perspectives to shoot at? Do you ever feel self conscious or concerned about how you look in your self portraits?

LK: Whenever there’s something wonderful looking above me, I decide to put my camera on the ground, face up. I want to showcase the world above me and warp the viewer’s perspective of what a human being can look like. I love seeing my distorted limbs and overdramatic body length compared to trees and buildings that are far larger than I will ever be. I have a good sense of humor about life and I try not to take it too seriously, so I am always a fan of photos that might make people look unflattering or bizarre because it’s really just a different way of looking at them.

If you were laying on someone’s lap and looking up at their face upside down, would you tell them that they look ugly from below? No, you wouldn’t, because that is an angle you’re used to looking at people from during those particular moments. So, why can’t photography be like that?

People should be less afraid of taking photos that show up their noses, or elongating and distorting the size of their thighs, etc.. It’s just a photo. Most people will hopefully realize it’s just the lens that’s giving you that funhouse mirror effect. I really just love to see all the different ways I can enlarge and warp myself in photos. I love taking photos of my models from low perspectives as well because I want everyone to feel like they are a bigger and more important part of the world than they may feel. I have a habit of seeing photography from an architectural standpoint, which is part of the reason why I like bizarre angles for overdramatizing the human figure._DSC2358

LF: You mention in your artist statement that you are “a shy woman”. However your self portraits hint at a woman who is expressive and comfortable with who she is! If anything, I sense a feeling of quirkiness in your self portraits! Is it surprising to hear how your viewer perceives you as a result of your self portraits?

LK: I am actually very comfortable with who I am. I don’t know how I got to be so comfortable, I’ll have to thank my parents for that? They’ve always made sassy and jokey comments about my style choices and ideas and I think that has kept me grounded. It slowly got me to believe in the decisions that I’ve made because I had to explain to them what I was doing all the time. I am only a shy person with people I don’t know, which is a few billion people if you think about it… I want to create photos that will make me more comfortable showing myself to the public. I’m really not that shy once you get to know me, I’m pretty strange.    _DSC3157LF: What other portrait photographers do you admire that have in some way influenced your photographic style and journey, and why?

LK: In my first year of college, I learned about Cindy Sherman and that made me fall in love with dressing up for some of my self portraits. I try not to depend on dressing up because it becomes too forced and can seem like I’m trying to become a different person. I don’t want to be another person, I just want to see how different I can make myself look by using different angles, poses, and settings. My favorite photographer is Elliot Erwitt, but I don’t think you’d see any huge correlation between our work. He just has an amazing sense of humor and I try to sneak that into some of my self portraits and other photographic projects.  Knapp_SelfPortrait_9

LF: There are some more abstract self portraits in La Ura where you tend to blend in or become a part of the environment, for example:  the fogged up mirror, shadows and reflections of yourself.  Why did you choose to include these as “self portraits”?

LK: Those photos are harder to create, and for that reason, they are some of my absolute favorite self portraits. Shadows, fogged up reflections, etc. just turn into other ways that I can distort myself and make myself look like something completely different from what I am. I enjoy exaggerating real settings and turning them into more surreal places that feel separate from reality. La Ura is a project full of various angles and ideas, but the photographs are all essentially the same to me because I created them to showcase all my different appearances and emotions.  62510022

LF: Congratulations on recently graduating from the New England School of Photography. What did you major and minor in, and how did this program influence your photographic style?

LK: Thank you! I majored in fine art color and minored in portraiture. NESOP encouraged me to create solid projects that I believed in, and that’s how I got the confidence and power to understand what I was doing with self portraiture and all of my other projects. Having teachers and students critique work on a weekly basis is something that I will greatly miss because it lets you see how someone else could perceive your image in a way you never thought possible.

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LF: Is La Ura an ongoing project and if so what direction do you think it will go in the future?  What is next for Laura Knapp?

LK: La Ura will never end! If it does, I have no idea what that will mean for my brain. I think I need to take self portraits or else I will feel like something is missing. As I said earlier, I am spontaneous when it comes to photography and I have no idea what is next for my self portraits. It all happens when it happens, you’ll just have to wait and see! 


To see more of Laura Knapp’s work please visit: http://www.laura-knapp.com

& to see the photographic work of interviewer Lyn Freeman please visit: http://www.lynfreemanphoto.com/

Jamie Rogers: Invisible Sister Interview

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 9.55.28 AMFor the past six years, documentary filmmaker, Jamie Rogers, has been estranged from her adopted sister, Kelly, for reasons that her parents refused to explain. Through a series of intimate interviews, Jamie explores the events starting with Kelly’s adoption from Peru, leading up to her eventual separation from the family. Jamie Rogers has directed and starred in her own documentary, Invisible Sister, in order to unearth those painful secrets in an attempt to find healing in truth.

Jamie Rogers is a New York-born, Los Angeles-based filmmaker, who recently graduated from Emerson College. Invisible Sister is her directorial debut film. She has also produced numerous short films including Let Go & Sugar Baby. In addition, she works in documentary features, TV, music videos & commercials. She has worked on projects that have screened at Sundance, Tribeca, as well as on PBS. She is a freelance videographer & the Social Media Manager for United Notions Film.


Screen Shot_025610Laura Knapp: Jamie, we have known each other for a few years, but I had never seen one of your films until Invisible Sister. I feel deprived, and stupid that it took me so long to see one of your movies because you are tremendously talented and have the ability to make your viewers feel as if they are right there with you. What was the trigger that made you want to share your deeply personal story with the world? 

Jamie Rogers: Wow, thanks Laura! Well, the film addresses my relationship with my sister who has been disconnected with my family for over six years. It’s a very complicated situation that I always felt troubled by, and a whole mess of other feelings, helplessness a big one. In my sophomore year of college I made a short film of my then 90-year old aunt. This was my first trek into “personal documentary.” When my aunt died soon after, I recognized the importance of documenting my family and the people I love, and decided it was something I wanted to keep doing.

From there, I think my biggest trigger was realizing that this disconnect was affecting a lot of my family members and not just me. It’s something no one would talk about, but it has been the elephant in the room for years. I decided one night I didn’t want to later regret not trying to remedy the situation, so I decided it was time and I knew that filming the experience would push me to go through with it.

Screen Shot_074007LK: How emotional was the experience of making Invisible Sister? Were there days when you felt uncomfortable sharing so much familial information to the public, or was the filming process therapeutic?  

JR: Well, when you’re making a film at Emerson College, everyone is constantly asking you about it. I got pretty used to explaining the situation so that helped. Also, we had a very small (but amazing) crew who all knew the story and were really invested in the project. They were as eager as I was to know how the story would unfold, which was so nice. For the most part during filming I was able to keep my feelings pretty muted. However, at times there were moments when interviewing my family was tough.

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LK: When and how did you start becoming so interested in documentary films? 

JR: Documentary kind of just fell into my lap. My first internship was at this documentary production company, kNow Productions. When I started working there, I was getting involved in all these really cool, interesting projects about things like internet addiction in China and the cocaine industry in Bolivia. I met some great people and became drawn to the passion it takes to drive these films to completion. Even though there’s little money in it, it’s definitely a personally fulfilling profession.tumblr_mus4bu5RUf1sjh2wco2_r1_1280

LK: Where was Invisible Sister filmed? Were you able to travel to Peru for filming?

JR: We filmed Invisible Sister at my house in New York, my apartment in Boston at the time, and in Lima, Peru. I was lucky enough that my Peruvian grandma’s surprise 80th birthday party was happening on a weekend when I had no plans, and that my mom decided we should go surprise her. I took this opportunity to film as much as I could and get some amazing footage I never thought I’d be able to have. It ended up working out so well and illustrated narratives that we were having trouble visualizing. I am so proud everyday to have Peru in my blood, and even more proud to have it in my film!

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LK: Knowing that Invisible Sister involved many personal interviews with your family, how many people were involved in the filming of Invisible Sister?  

JR: We had a crew of only four people at all times, at most. My coproducer/BFF, Erin St. Pierre did our location sound, and we had two awesome cinematographers, David Nieman and Josh Waterman. Our bud, Victor Viega rounded out our dream team and doubled as an assistant camera person and assistant editor. Pablo Calderòn-Santiago also AC’ed one weekend and was great. It was important to have people who were invested in the project and were also sensitive to the situation, so we were lucky everyone was wonderful and supportive.

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LK: How has your family felt about the creation of this film? Were they keen on the idea of sharing their story with the public?

JR: My family was very skeptical of the film at first and my parents tried to back out numerous times. It’s hard to address past issues that were painful, but I had the mentality that finally openly discussing these issues could bring us closer together and give us a better understanding of each other. While I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to say they’re completely comfortable with it all, I think they respect that I made a pretty great film from our story. And I do think we all got some kind of closure from finally addressing this issue head-on.

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LK: What are the future plans for Invisible Sister now that it is completely finished? Do you have any new movie ideas?

JR: We recently won 2 EVVY awards, for Outstanding Documentary and Outstanding Non-Fiction Editing (shouts out to the best editor ever, Erin St. Pierre). Since then, we’ve been working on fundraising and prepping the film to be submitted to film festivals around the world. We’ve received so much great feedback on the film we felt it’d be wasteful not to try our hand at the festival circuit, so stay tuned! 

As for movie ideas, there’s a lot I want to do. I just moved to LA, so right now I’m just working on getting situated here for a while, but eventually I’d love to make documentaries in Peru about my family, but also about other social issues. I really just want to travel and keep making films about things that interest me and that I’m passionate about. Erin and I will be producing content through our new production company banner, Llama Films, so stay tuned there to see what’s coming down the pipeline. I definitely want to keep making at least a couple short films a year until I can afford to make a feature. So we’ll see how long that takes.


To see the trailer for Jamie Roger’s film Invisible Sister and to donate money to the project please click here: http://www.llamafilms.com/

Tricia Collier: Interview

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As a strong, optimistic, and creative woman, Tricia Collier has managed to produce a beautiful photographic untitled body of work using traditional black and white film. Collier has used poetic (and sometimes abstract) imagery to share the emotions she felt about her life-altering past.

Tricia Collier grew up in Wakefield Mass.  After high school, Tricia entered the travel industry, but decided to change careers and pursue photography two years ago. Now Tricia is a 2014 graduate of the New England School of Photography where she studied fine art and editorial. She is also a proud mom of a 23 year old daughter. Tricia currently resides in Lincoln, Massachusetts.


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 Laura Knapp: Tricia, your photographs have such heavy emotional content that truly makes me wonder what was going on in your mind when you shot them. Amazingly, without showing any human forms in this body of work, I can easily picture you and your family in every image. Care to explain this body of work?

 Tricia Collier: This was a journey into my past. My Mother started drinking heavily when I was about 12.  She had 6 children, I was second to the youngest. Growing up I didn’t have that emotional support that a little girl needs from her Mom. When I was in my 20’s I married a man who was mentally and physically abusive.

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 LK: Did you know your project was going to be about this tough personal journey when you first started or was it a natural evolution of ideas? Was it a therapeutic experience to create this body of work?

 TC: I never saw this coming. I started out street shooting with a twist of humor in most images.

 But then, the second year of school came and one of the first images taken was  “Mother”. This headstone inside a tree has been in my hometown my whole life and I never knew it was there. Then I walked a few feet and saw the bird wing in the lake, and then minutes later, I came across the broken pot on the cemetery plot. While I was taking these photos I was thinking about my Mom. I wondered if she was with me, providing some sort of spiritual guidance.

 Then this project changed gears a bit to my ex-husband. This happened when I photographed the bunny facing the door.  This was taken in an unoccupied home. I looked at the bunny facing the door and he looked like he was in time out, like he had done something bad. He looked ashamed. That is how I felt all these years.

 With some emotional support from my classmates and my teacher I knew I was in a safe place to open up and keep going.

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 LK: Where were these photos taken? Were they all places you felt emotionally entwined with?

 TC: At least five photos were taken in my hometown where I do have deep emotional ties. The others were taken in the town I live in now. My neighbors live in a very old house and they decided to move out. They gave me permission to photograph in their home until the new people moved in. They had 3 small children so there was a hint of children left behind which was beneficial to this project.

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LK: What photo was the most important for you to capture?

 TC: Probably the bunny. I never cry about my past, but I did when I shot this. I believe I had to go through all that I did to get to the place I am now. I have learned so much about myself. I have a beautiful 23 year old daughter and I am a good Mom. Also, seven years ago I met the most gentle and kindhearted man.

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LK: Could you explain how you created the photographs that look a little more topsy turvy and dream-like? What made you decide to use those effects to expand on your ideas?

 TC: I struggled artistically to get to those images. I wanted them to be a bit confusing. Up until then I had the tendency to be a bit literal. I had clear ideas on how I wanted to speak about my Mom but I struggled with how I wanted to speak of my ex husband, so I played with plastics and glass to came up with some images that really spoke to me.

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LK: Do you see this as an ongoing body of work or is it finished? If it’s not finished, could you expand on any future ideas you have for the project, and/or what is your dream photo for the project?

 TC: The blurred image with the house in the right hand corner has set the stage for my next line of work. I want to continue with the ethereal and abstract feel in my photographs. It will still be focused on my past. I just purchased a Holga and I am hoping that my next dream photo will come from that: an image with beautiful light coming from a dark and mysterious place.

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LK: I noticed that there is no title for this body of work. Is there a reason why you have chosen to keep it untitled?

 TC: No reason why. Maybe it will come to me in a dream.

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 LK: Thank you so much for everything that you have shared with our viewers, it means so much that you opened up about your work. It would only make sense if you left us with any parting advice for aspiring artists who wish to capture their emotional struggles in a meaningful way?

 TC: Do anything artistically.  Draw, write, paint, photograph, etc. with no agenda. If you have people you can trust with your heart, let them in to see.  Remind yourself over and over that “you deserve the best”.  Try to surround yourself with positive people and keep on making art.  If you love it then it should not be hard to do it every day.


To see more of Tricia Collier’s work please visit: http://www.triciacollierphotography.com/

Sierra Marin: “The Undressed Mind” Interview

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In any given situation, it can be extremely difficult to make someone else feel the emotions that you are feeling through words. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” at least a thousand times, but in this case, it’s truer than truth itself. The “Undressed Mind”, is a series of photographs based off photographer, Sierra Marin, ‘s own fears and phobias. Each piece in the series is meant to be perceived by a different character, and coincidentally every photo makes you feel as if you are that character experiencing it firsthand.

Sierra was raised in the small town of Bourne, Massachusetts. At 18 years old, Sierra moved to Boston to pursue a career in photography. Graduating just last week from the New England School of Photography (NESOP), Sierra Marin graduated with two fine art bodies of work, “The Undressed Mind” and “Only Human”.


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Laura Knapp: Knowing you as a person, it is a strange but funny juxtaposition that your project “The Undressed Mind” is so dense and frightening when you are very sweet and caring. What inspired you to make staged crime scene photography?

Sierra Marin: I was first inspired by an instructor I had at NESOP who was teaching his class all the different ways we could make money with photography. When he mentioned forensic photography, I was amazed. I could see myself doing that and being happy.Screen shot 2014-06-17 at 12.13.28 PM

LK: Are you still interested in pursuing forensic photography or have you found a new passion in creating your own crime scenes?

SM: No, I am more interested in seeing my work on gallery walls. I would love the opportunity to do forensic photography, but I don’t have the funds to pursue it at the moment.

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LK: The use of human bodies, props, and gore were prominent features of this project when you first started. I got the opportunity to watch your project constantly transform as you slowly took away the previously mentioned elements, and in the process, created more disturbing images. Can you expand on the transition from the beginning of your project until present day?

SM: Looking back at where I started, I feel very naive. I would put fake blood all over my legs and make my boyfriend (at the time) pretend to be a murderer. It wasn’t until I brought my work into class to get critiqued that I realized I was not getting the reaction I wanted, so I moved on to props. I went scouting almost every day and soon enough, my scouting pictures became more frighting than anything I had previously composed. That was my biggest turning point.

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LK: Who were your biggest influences when creating this body of work?

SM: Most of my pieces I thought up on my own. I either took them from something I was afraid of or something I remembered seeing in the past. However, I was very inspired by Melanie Pullens work, as well as Weegee.

LK: Is “The Undressed Mind” a finished body of work or is this just the beginning for you?

SM: I don’t believe I’m finished. I have too many knew ideas brewing.

ImageLK: The topic of self-portraiture is common on She Is Sure. Did you ever consider using yourself as a model for these photographs, or are they already self-portraits without you physically being in the frame?

SM: I have absolutely thought about putting myself in this series. In almost every shoot I create, I first picture myself as the model and then I find someone else who I think will not only make the picture better, but also make it seem more realistic.Image

LK: With your evident mastery of lighting and mood, could you ever see yourself working on the set of a horror or thriller movie?

SM: 100% I would be interested in working on a film. I think that not only would be a great learning experience but also a great ending to this body of work.Image

LK: Last, but not least, how did you go about choosing the title for “The Undressed Mind”?

SM: My title come from a song called “One Sweet Love”. The lyric reads “I undress my mind and dare you to follow…”. I was listening to the song while making my blog and the title stuck. I think it’s beautiful and in the right context, terrifying.


For more of Sierra Marin’s work please visit: http://www.sierramarin.com/