(me takin' pictures in Iceland)
Questions by Risa Shoup for the Huffington Post.
1. Did an event/experience/person/cultural product influence you to become an artist? How?
I became a photographer haphazardly. At nine, while at my parent’s friend’s home for dinner, their teenage daughter showed me videos she’d made of her and her friends partaking in some illegal recreational activities. I decided instantly that making homemade movies about one’s friends was incredible and spent the next year pleading for a video camera of my own. After I’d worn my parents out, I received said video camera and spent several months making movies about my dog and my baby sister, and then became bored. More begging and pleading ensued and eventually I acquired my first 35mm camera. I have been photographing ever since. I grew up around a lot of art and artists, and so from a young age being a photographer seemed like a normal thing to become.
2. Describe as specifically as you can how a few of the books you selected for the show influenced the specific work of yours exhibited in the show.
WH Auden Letters from Iceland: I read this after I traveled to Iceland and so this book was influential in the editing and titling process. Auden so well articulated the subtleties of the landscape of Iceland as I had experienced them. So I extracted many sentences from this book. The title of this body of work A Strange Sound In The Deep Silence is extracted from a much longer sentence of his.
Freud The Uncanny: I also used this text in the editing process to help me better understand what it was I was reacting to in the Icelandic landscape. I could sense that there was something pervasive throughout the hundreds of photographs I had taken and that there must have been a reason I was compelled to venture into empty landscapes, but I wasn’t able to put my finger on it until reading this text and wrestling with the idea of the unknown coming to light.
3. I feel that influence and inspiration related, but not at all the same thing. What do you think about this - am I splitting hairs? Or do you too see a difference in these concepts? Discus as it pertains to your work/process.
The difference I see between influence and inspiration is we don’t have ownership of our influences. An influence is an outside force acting upon us. It is something we interpret and tuck away. Whereas inspiration is an internalized process, it comes from the inside out. Inspiration is a product of oneself, created from an amalgamation of our influences.
Being in transit or being alone inspires me. Where as a million different things, including music and books influence me. I find my best thoughts often arrive while on a train or a bus going somewhere alone. I was recently introduced to the theory of drifting, which is a poetic way of saying being alone in thought. According to this theory, artists respond well to being alone to just float, or drift along. I’m sure all types of people would respond well in this situation, but I find moments of inspiration come easily when I’m in limbo between two places.
4. In this age of intrusive but necessary technology, we can easily learn a lot about the personal lives of artists and other public figures. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue in general, but some specific questions are: How relevant is an artist's personal life to an observer's experience of their work? Do you think it is imperative that someone understand your personal life in order to fully absorb your work? Or does it merely influence their perception, perhaps even enrich it, but it isn't at all necessary?
This depends on how you want to approach or understand a work of art. I don’t think you need to know the personal background but it’s certainly my preference. I have a much fuller understanding or appreciation when I know about the personal life of an artist. Context is important, and a personal history is just one way of placing a work in context. Monet’s water lilies are technical masterpieces. But they become so much more beautiful when they are understood as a man’s means of retreating into an interior world as World War I tanks clamored by in a neighboring field.
I try to make work that stems from a personal place but expresses ideas that everyone can relate to. Much of my work deals directly with my family, so in that case, I do think having knowledge of my background helps people understand the work.
In so far as technology, I do think its often intrusive, but all of the garbage and verbiage of gossip blogs and twitter, etc.. is of little consequence when it actually comes to the biography of an artist. I am not sure how now we learn more about artist’s lives than we could have previously in a magazine or newspaper interview or expose, or in a conclusive biography; a celebrity, or the President certainly, yes.
5. Describe for me, as best you can, what it is like to be influenced by something you've read and have that influence manifest in the visual aspect of your work.
The best way I can explain my process of influence to execution is like those small capsules that become little animal or dinosaur shaped sponges I would buy with my Dad when I was little. A sentence for me is like a small capsule. It floats around and soaks for a while in my mind. And slowly but surely it begins to unfurl, and overtime it begins to resemble some familiar shape. And finally it is a giraffe that you can pick up and bend and stretch, or a fully formed idea that then I sketch and then make photographically.
If I am reading in the editing process, a sentence that resonates with me will just come flying off the page, a “ding” sound will ring in my head, and it becomes a title or the lens through which I interpret my photograph. This is immediate and totally intuitive.