Your upcoming solo show “Stranger Than Earth” at Corey Helford Gallery is an authentic representation of your transformation as an artist. You began creating this series with a sense of excitement and hope but your creative process did not go as planned. Can you tell me more about how you pushed through this difficult time and what impact it had on the outcome of your collection?
“Stranger Than Earth” started from a place of exploration, I wanted to take on some new creative challenges like shooting my reference images outdoors with background locations, and painting full figures and dresses. But as I was beginning the paintings, my personal life fell apart. My relationship of 12 years ended and a close friend committed suicide, all at the same time as the US Election. So the colorful, hopeful pieces that I had started were jarring in contrast with the darkness all around. But as I kept going with the work, immersing myself in creating, the art ended up being a salvation. The emotional upheaval lead to a breakthrough, and some unexpected and exciting new directions emerged from it. To me this series is both about loss and hope, on a personal level, and also on a more universal scale.
You collaborate with a talented team that enables you to push the limits of your creativity. For your upcoming solo show, you captured stunning reference photos. You travelled to Iceland, spent several days in the Skagit tulips and hiked through a blizzard to a frozen waterfall… Can you tell me more about this part of your creative process? Do you typically capture your own references photos before a new collection?
I always shoot my own reference imagery. It’s crucial to capture your own photographs to work from to create distinct final pieces. But until now these photoshoots have been in the studio, where I have tight control over lighting and composition. This is the first time I explored shooting on location for the source images, and it was incredibly fun and challenging! But no matter how lovely the final photos are, I’m not content to leave them there. Capturing them in a painting is where it gets really fun for me.
I’m extremely lucky to have long-term collaborations with a few other creatives that let me try these riskier shoots. For the Iceland pieces, photographer Kindra Nikole and I spent a week roaming the twilight landscape in a camper van and making different images with each other. The frozen waterfall shoot was extreme and intense – the first time we tried to reach the location was right after a blizzard and we had to turn around before reaching it and came close to catching frostbite. But when we tried again everything fell into place, and the photo shoot itself was one of the best creative experiences I’ve had. My sister Roxanna modelled in the below freezing weather, and looked like a frozen flower come to life.
The Tulip shoots were idyllic in comparison, Skagit Valley is only a few hours from where I live, and the flowers are so beautiful in springtime weather. For that shoot model Fox Chalker was also an absolute pro and a pleasure to work with, even in a huge and challenging mylar foil dress!
Your female subjects embody a sense of empowerment. Have you drawn inspiration from the women in your life when you engage in the creative process?
Yes, the creative powerhouses I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with are a huge source of inspiration to me! In my portraits, I’m trying to capture the essence and strength of these amazing women, while also transforming them into more mythic and otherworldly versions of themselves. In this series in particular I was thinking about “explorers”. Historically explorers have primarily been male and their exploits are recorded in a hyper-masculine way; braving the elements and foreign terrain. I wanted to create a feminist, high-fashion, futuristic version of an explorer. To me, the figures in these paintings are both soft and hard-edged, as they investigate and embody these environments.
You are fearless when you create, merging a variety of elements like haute couture, natural landscapes, reflective surfaces… Do you feel this mix of elements communicates the essence of your work on a deeper visceral level?
Much of my artwork is about experimentation and exploration, both in the subject matter and in the mediums that I use. Conceptually, pairing various genres like couture fashion and science fiction, creates a unique mix that’s super fascinating to me. Through using traditional and new media together, like watercolor and oil paint with the laser cut acrylic panels, that message can be reiterated in another manner. I’m fascinated by how we have reshaped the world to suit our human needs, for good and for ill, and this series explores that by depicting a world altered by climate change, as well as by using man-made materials like plastics within the actual pieces themselves.
Your solo “Stranger than Earth” will be showing at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles from July 15-August 12. What are your plans surrounding this show and do you have any inspiring projects you are planning on working on after this event?
To get the artwork to the show, we’re taking an epic road trip down the West Coast! It’ll be fun to shoot some new images to paint from along the way, especially out in the desert by Joshua Tree. The opening itself will be really over the top, fashion designer Firefly Path is letting me wear one of her incredible creations, and many of my models will be there wearing gorgeous beaded mask designs by Cryptic Nine.
Later this year I’ll have work at the “Life is Beautiful” festival in Las Vegas with the “Crime on Canvas” art show. Then in November, there’s a four-person show at beinArt Gallery in Australia. So lots of great things to look forward to.