Photographs by Lindsey Filowitz
Interview via emails, October 2018
How do your works typically come about, what motives you to pursue a new idea?
Hmm. I wouldn’t say that there is an official formula for the way projects develop in my mind, but I can state with certainty that they often come from a personal place. I use my work as a way to deal with, or even overcome, issues (or ideas) that remain stagnant and unsolved. Typically, the ideas that feel like ghosts, unable to transcend this Earth, become projects – it’s a ridiculous analogy, but it seems to hold true.
In Sentimentally Yours, what experience sent you on the journey to develop this concept?
Oh, well, that’s probably the least important aspect, but it started as a project about a break up with a specific person. I needed to use my work to get over it, and since a large part of our relationship revolved around photography, I figured I’d deal with it photographically. A lot has changed since that initial pursuit, and as for the strength of the work, I stopped feeling emotionally charged about that particular experience, so I wasn’t sure how to make the work good or passionate therefore. Yet, I couldn’t seem to let the project go and start over completely. With much trial and error, and some intimate relationships later, Sentimentally Yours grew to demonstrate my ruminations on what I believe to be the inevitable arc of love and heartbreak.
I recall the initial stages of Sentimentally Yours began as a book, what compelled you to bring the idea into an immersive, physical space?
I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive – I definitely still envision the project as a book. In fact, I feel the project is best suited as a book. Exhibiting work in a gallery setting is just one part of the whole. Presenting my work as photographs on a white wall is extremely boring - it doesn’t seem to accurately convey the emotional response that I’m looking for. I wanted the viewer to engage with me on a personal level, while also considering their own experiences with love and loss.
The most appropriate way to evoke an intimate mood was to recreate a setting that included objects and ephemera from my life - a lair of discovery - embellished with books to consider, records to enhance feeling, plants to nurture, a notebook to write in, and a couch to lounge on.
As an installation it’s less about the photographs and more about the sentiments behind them. Next time I exhibit the work, the installation will be displayed differently.
What did you learn, about yourself and the work, as the project evolved from a book into an installation?
Again, I wouldn’t call it an evolution. It’s still going to be a book, and that installation was an iteration of the work. I realized that intimate relationships last until they don’t. If not completely doomed to fail, they morph – they transform into a connection distinct from what was before, whether stronger, or more distant, they can grow, or they can close - perhaps they become less sexual. Being human is the ability to feel complex emotions for another, and these sensations often dictate the ways we navigate our worlds. I didn’t learn, but I reaffirmed, that I make work about what it means to be human.
What challenges did you face when trying to determine what physical objects would best suit the installation?
Despite how object heavy the installation was, the inclusion of images was by far the most difficult to consider. I was battling with this ethical dilemma of whether or not to include images of my ex - or more honestly, questioning: what kind of person am I since I’m releasing this work against his will? He was appalled by an early iteration of the project, mainly because it heavily revolved around our particular relationship, and he was unhappy with the way I portrayed him. All these deliberations were eating away at me - ownership of imagery and artist rights therefore, consent as a malleable concept, how differently people can experience and interpret a body of work, how a well intentioned endeavor can have an adverse effect on a person. I mean, this project ignited a battle that swiftly ended our relationship.
That was all behind the scenes stuff you’d never know from merely looking at the work, but it was this treachery that kept me persistent. I don’t like being told I can’t do something, especially when I strongly feel it’s my right. This experience, among a few comparable others, made me realize that I really like making art when thrill is involved. I’m a masochist and an adrenaline junky and I like dramatic obstacles, all the while wishing they would go away.
Anyway, the project has since greatly evolved from that initial stage - his identity is in no way obvious, there are other male bodies, and the work just plainly isn’t about him. I eventually had to stop protecting him and put the work out there.
Do you feel your art practice changing, taking new directions, in recent times? What do you see is next for you?
My art practice, or what I know it to be, is definitely changing. I’m making installations and moving into these performative directions, but at the same time I’m really resisting that. It’s hard for me to let go of the identity of being a photographer, but the truth is: I’m an artist that uses images.
There is a very real distinction between those two. I have all these ideas for videos where I’m starring, and they are extremely performative. They are humorous and peculiar, and I’m partially embarrassed, partially intimated by the fact that I have no experience acting, singing, songwriting, or making videos for that matter. I guess, in a way, I treat my life like a performance, but I’m not sure if that counts for enough.
My next project, GoLean, is a spoof on Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Jolene is a song about needing a man despite his cheating. In GoLean, I impersonate Dolly, whose well-being depends on a box of cereal instead. Specifically, a cereal with a marketing strategy of weight loss. I rewrote the song, and then filmed myself performing it. I’ve never really made a music video before.
Why is the process of making art important to you?
Because I don’t have a choice about it.