I’m going to give this a shot now. I know I don’t know you so please forgive me if these questions are off, but the way i see it, interviews are a perfect way of getting to know someone and their work better.
Well, I tend to give very thorough answers to questions pertaining to myself (the one thing about which I know better than anyone else!) so I daresay you may get to know me quite well!
I saw your work at the Seattle Art Museum without meeting you. And met you the next day. It was oddly strange and just so very coincidental. I found your work confrontational. Do you see that self portraiture that way?
When I began the series, my intention had simply been to document everyday mundane occurrences. I’d chosen the bathroom and the daily actions taken place therein simply because I’d not seen much done with it and it felt right. (In fact, this general feeling of the right direction is the only thing that has motivated me to work in the past and has led to an occasional breakdown in productivity when that “path” is lost.) However, as time went on and I began to extrapolate on the ideas of personal, intimate moments, new realizations occurred. Like most, many parts of my life remain personal, hidden to all but a few close friends. Going further, moments of shame and embarrassment linger, hidden from all. With these self-portraits, however, I found myself putting it all out there, for all to see, without fear of judgment. So, to answer your question- yes, this work is confrontational in that I am forcing this part of myself on viewers, many of which might not be interested in what they see. This is inconsequential, however, for I simply want to be seen for who I am, and these photographs are often the only way for me to express that.
It sort of amazes me how much you can say with self portraiture about not only yourself but our culture.
Agreed. I am hoping to expound upon just that in the work I’m making now, in fact, which I hope will express not only personal moments but also lead to questioning of social roles- especially sexual- and the inherent shame often found therein.
How did this specific body of work begin?
The first piece, I Didn’t Mean To, as the title suggests, really was an accident. Which is to say, I didn’t mean to cut myself; it was a silly shaving accident! As I watched blood trickle under my nose and onto my lips, I saw the possibilities of a great photo emerge in my mind. I happened to have some 800iso film loaded, perfect for the low-light in my bathroom, and took a few shots. I held the camera at arm’s-length and pulled what some might call the Myspace pose. The results were better than I had even imagined, and as I cleaned up the scanned negative, ideas about other everyday accidents and occurrences came to mind…
When did you become truly serious with your photography?
In 2005, after a few months of seeing a therapist to work through a long bout of depression, I began carrying a camera again. In my high-school days and the first few years afterward, I was never without my Minolta X700. I had lost touch with the love in my early twenties, however, among many other things. That summer, however, I began to re-familiarize myself with the camera. An early fascination with rooftops and negative space was re-ignited and when I was given an antique medium format camera (Adox Golf), I found myself shooting with a voracity I’d not felt before. Throughout 2006, I focused (as it were) on buildings that surrounded my daily walks to and from work, and presented many of them in a series at Some Space (a venue I co-direct). It was my first show and it felt right.
Was there ever a moment when you felt the medium was perfect for you or do you still find yourself searching the use of other tools?
Before the re-emergence of photography in my life, it had often been part of a process which inevitably led to online graphic art publications. I’d scan the Target-developed 4×6″ prints and work them all into Photoshop collages. In my Buildings-era, however, it became clear to me that a photograph could speak volumes on its own.
To be sure, I experiment with other media, still. In addition to my new self-portraits, I’m also playing with guerrilla art installations, screen-printing, postcard-as-art editioning and internet-only releases. Many of this other work is text-based and includes no imagery whatsoever.
I notice through your web site www.unkardinal.com, you do a little bit of everything. How are you paying the bills, and what is a normal day for you during the week if you can describe one? Do you have specific studio time or are you sort of working as inspiration comes?
I do, indeed, have my fingers (and toes, sometimes!) in many different pots. I work Tues-Friday at Davidson Galleries (www.davidsongalleries.com) in Pioneer Square, where I do graphic design and web development for each of their two locations. I also photograph their endless supply of antique/contemporary prints and color-adjust all those shots for the digital archive (which ends up on the site and in the publications I design). Most of the self-portraits, so far, stemmed from inspirational moments that led to camera setup. Recently, I’ve been setting aside time to create scenes more involved. In all honesty, however, this approach has not been successful for me, thus far. Only one of my recent shoots has led to a successful shot, and it was done moments after the idea came.
(please note that this is not the definitive version of this piece, merely a first-round draft)
How does a body of work start for you? Do you come up with the concept first or work through the concepts as the body of work develops?
It’s a bit of both, generally. The way I think about the Buildings, now, only developed as I left them behind. I continue to shape the way I think about my self-portraits, just as I continue to shape the way I feel about myself and my surroundings. To be sure, there are whole series of works in my brain and notebooks that have yet to be realized. I imagine the concepts behind those will shift as the work takes shape, nonetheless.
You live in Seattle currently. How did your path lead you to the Northwest? Can you describe the scene there?
In high school, I spent a lot of my free-time making experimental web designs and learning HTML. Just before graduating, my girlfriend-at-the-time told me she was planning on moving to Seattle with a few friends and asked me if I might want to join them. I took a trip to check out the city and really liked it. After posting my resume on Monster and landing a position with a progressive web-design firm, I made the move. That company folded within a few months, along with many others from the dot-com boom, but I found myself pleased with my surroundings and stuck around.
It wasn’t until years later, when I got a job at a frame shop downtown (Gallery Frames), that I experienced the art scene. In my five-year stint, I had the opportunity to meet art-folk of all types, from artists to gallery owners to reviewers. It’s a small city, Seattle, and the scene is not any different. Just about everybody knows everyone in it, and it can be difficult to move “up” within the community without getting to know the people. Perhaps this is inherent in all communities, but if you are not willing to get out and be a part of what’s happening, it is unlikely that others will do the same when the time comes to see your work. Personally, I see this as a positive thing, but I know many who, understandably, find it hard to keep up.
Additionally, one finds oneself continually competing with the people one surrounds themselves with. The people are great; the opportunities scarce and hierarchical. Honestly, I think an in-depth anthropological survey could be conducted with extensive results, so I’ll end here.
Does Microsoft actually promote the arts in the city? Or do they bring artists for their collections outside of Seattle mainly?
Microsoft’s art-purchasing budget is large. I had the opportunity to frame several years-worth of their collection and can attest to support for local art. I could not tell you what percentage of the work is local, but it was significant. As for promotion of the arts, that’s harder to gauge. From what I’ve heard from the folks who install the work, Microsoft employees rarely even see or experience the work- often there are coffee spills and various other forms of destruction found shortly after installation. Those who find certain pieces of art precious would be appalled at the disrespect given to the work adorning their walls, which may as well be covered in posters. It also drives the installers crazy, who must treat the work like porcelain babies, only to see everything fall apart once they walk away…
What are you planning for 2008? What shows are you going to be in?
My next show is in May, at Joe Bar. After that, the only thing I have planned is a duo-show with my co-hort at Some Space (www.somespacegallery.com) in October. I plan on finding more spaces to show the work in the coming months.
Are you planning to curate any shows in the future?
Several, in fact. At Some Space, I’m curating our annual Photographer’s Showcase for August. I’ve also been knocking around an idea for an installation show with a few artists I’ve encountered in the last year. I’m still considering the space and how to approach everything…
What are you working on now? What types of concepts are you playing with in your head?
With photography, I’m working on re-creating autobiographical moments often relating to feelings of sexual embarrassment. I’m also experimenting with Free art, online and tangible, and dissecting the preciousness of art.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for artists just starting out or folks who have hit a roadblock in their journey?As hard as it can be, try not to get flustered. Keep a notebook handy. If you’re into it, smoke weed sparingly. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t be afraid to show your work. Introduce yourself to people. Help them out when you can. Work. Work. Work.