Friday, May 22, 2020

Interview with Keegan Bonds-Harmon


Keegan Bonds-Harmon is an artist and high school student born and raised in Providence RI, whose work incorporates painting, sculpture and video. Keegan's work will be installed in the Dirt Palace Storefront Gallery for all of May, through June 6th. The gallery is viewable from the street, so check it out next time you are walking or driving by! We did a live zoom interview with Keegan - here's a transcript of our conversation!



Pippi: Can you give us a broad overview of the ideas that you were thinking about in conceiving this project

I wanted to create a landscape related work that could be immersive to make and hopefully to look at. This work, like much of my work, came out of material exploration. Last summer I was making these figurative sculptures out of wheat paste and tissue paper. When I flattened them out and they became more like paintings, shedded skins, wilted leaves, or crusts. I was interested in their translucency. Otherwise, I kept it all pretty loose and used these ideas as jumping off points. 

Xander: You had started it before Covid, can you talk about ways that quarantine did or didn’t change the course of what you had imagined making? 

I was about one third of the way into making it when we all went into quarantine and I think the biggest shift was that I just stopped working on it for a while, which felt crazy. I’ve always been the kind of artist to constantly work with whatever time I have. So to suddenly have all the time in the world and to do nothing with it felt wrong. I went into what felt like a hibernation for about three weeks. I spent more time reading, watching movies, walking, calling friends, and scrolling longer than is healthy. But that felt like a necessary part of adjusting to the strangeness and weight of everything. 

When I started to work on the piece again I felt that I should try and stick to my original ideation of it, even though the world it was entering was vastly different from the one it was first being created. I am definitely now thinking about how my practice can adjust to this new landscape as well as my own new rhythm, but at the time it felt too soon, and that what I really needed in that moment was a distraction. 

P: How did the manifestation of the project compare to what your initial imagination was?  

Originally I had planned on making the piece in panels the exact size of each window. But as I was working the sections were drying, shrinking, falling apart, and creating all new shapes that I didn't want to control too much. Eventually I ran out of flour for wheat paste and couldn't buy any at the grocery store because there was a shortage. I ended up diluting the wheat paste and the work became more sparse. So even if I didn’t intend to shift the work it had to shift, even if only on a material level.

P: Can you talk us through the process involved with constructing the piece? Where did you gather the sticks, did you do all of the paper mache first and then and paint, or did you start painting as you went along? 


During my sort of hibernation I was taking lots of walks and found Canada Pond, this really ugly, muddy, pond in the process of being drained near my house. On these walks I would collect my favorite dead branches. Those became the skeleton for the piece. I had a lot of fun lugging huge bundles of sticks through my neighborhood. 


To start, I would lay out tissue paper in my driveway, and spread wheat paste on the paper, then lay the sticks out. On top of that I would lay out another sheet of tissue paper, sandwiching the sticks in between. Sometimes I would start with a pigmented wheat paste and then go back in and paint on top of that. The pieces were all sectioned off to fit into my basement where I continued to work on them and hide them from all the April rain.

The biggest challenge in constructing it was definitely scale. My first time seeing the piece all together was when installing it. But there was something really romantic about working on something without stepping back; or chipping away at something so much bigger than your own body. This felt intensified when I was unable to leave the house and be away from the work. 


X: Through working in sculpture, it seems like there is a relationship to a history of landscape painting. Can you talk about your inspirations, both in relationship to the natural world and/or art history? 

Absolutely, to start with the natural world, I live in Providence, off of Charles street, In the sort of Bermuda Triangle between Home Depot, Mineral Spring, and I-95 and I take walks almost every day. There aren't any real forests or anything, but there are patches of trees, and ponds, and rivers. I try to travel and work from all sorts of natural, North Eastern landscapes. But it is here, in Providence, that I spend most of my time and gather all of my natural materials. There is something really strange and difficult to place about the little fragments of the New England landscape that we get here. I find that making its way into what I make more and more. 


On a painterly level, I started working with the landscape about two years ago. I was really into painting, I knew I was interested in abstraction, but I didn't know where to start. I found that skies, trees, water, dirt, and grass could create a great framework for the painting I was interested in. Initially, the grandeur and majesty of the American landscape tradition and the Hudson River School painters really drew me in and acted as an inspiration behind some of the earlier paintings I was doing. But there is also this weaponized, and colonial history behind those paintings, as their beauty was used to promote or justify the colonization and claim ownership over Indigenous land. That dynamic has had me question and adjust the way I work with the landscape. I am definitely more interested now in the idea of being inside of, or a part of a landscape rather than to look at or represent a landscape. 


X: Yeah, I think that the tension as an artist between living inside of something versus occupying a space of representation, is a really important tension to hold because it has everything to do with subjectivity and positionality and the relationship to the thing that you are representing. So it’s really interesting to hear that that is something you're processing in a very tactile, crafting kind of way. 

P: Do you listen to things while you work? Would you be willing to tell us about what you’re listening to? Does music play a role in how you engage with your process?

To be a total nerd, Pippi, I’ve been listening to that 2017 Bonedust release Fruit of the Ash a lot and have been very very into that. That, and Kali Malone’s The Sacrificial Code, this hour and a half long album of straight up organ and nothing else. Also, Robert Rich’s soundtrack to the movie Stalker. Those two are very ambient, which is great because I can totally zone in, but I am also finding that my decision making gets more free and interesting when I’m barely paying attention to what I’m doing. Especially if I’m doubting it or becoming overwhelmed in some way. So for that my friend has had me start listening to the sci fi novel Dune on audio. I can already feel that working its way into things.  
X: You’ve spent the year applying to school and making plans for your year. How has all of this affected your thinking about the future? About planning? About the potentials and limits of artmaking as a communicative medium?

This past year I’ve totally been in a weird state trying to plan for and anticipate the future. I was trying to make work without thinking too much about it which proved to be impossible because it was all I could think about. 

I ended up getting into Cooper Union, and decided to go, which I am ecstatic about. I also decided to take a gap year in hopes that NYC/the world can adapt and begin to recover before I move into such a new and already fragile part of my life. So for the first time in fourteen years I’ll be living completely outside of school. I’m realizing I need to be living and making work in ways that are more present. For so long I’ve felt like I'm working towards or waiting until the next thing, whatever that may be. Now no one knows what’s next and all we can do is take things a day at a time. That is definitely what I need to do right now to stay sane and I also know it’s what's best for art making. 

It definitely has me questioning art as a means of connection as well. My practice has been a great way to learn to spend more time with myself. But even before all this, I was feeling a need for more shared connection and ritual-like activity in my life, and that art could be a place to seek that out. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about work that exists in the physical realm and could promote both shared experience and distance. Possibly something mailable, tradable, and zine like, or some sort of quasi-public sculpture made for others to visit and contribute to. I'm brainstorming!
X: Your paper mache in this piece, as well as your other work has elements that feel both ethereal like clouds or sea foam, but then there are other aspects that are carcass-y or like dried out flowers in a bouquet that’s been on a desk for longer than intended. In this there is an allusion to both time and the body. Can you speak to this? It also feels like when you make references to death or the remains of plant/animal life, there is a reverence. The gestures are quiet, rather than violent. Is there an ethics around representation that you’re working with explicitly or feeling your way through? 

For sure, I've definitely stumbled into these areas. I had this really great critique maybe two years ago when I was making paintings of friends in fields of flowers. I felt like the work was really joyful and all about friendship but the cold read I got from others was all about how the figures were either zombies or they were hiding from zombies. This initially felt like something I could ignore. But as I continued working I realized how present birth, growth, decay, death, and rebirth were in my work. Maybe not in a “zombie” sort of way, but definitely in a way that hints at some larger narrative or cycle. 


I am trying to examine these themes and make work that can move fluidly along those cycles rather than getting stuck on one end. Like for example, I made a lot of sculptures this past year that have corpse-like elements and sit or lie on the ground. More recently I have felt that it is important that the sculptures begin to stand up or have some sort of responsibility to themselves, like to point at a spot in the sky, or to carry water. I hope something in those actions lend themselves to a greater, more hopeful, and generative narrative, rather than just an ending. I certainly want there to be hope in each piece.  

P: What things feel most hopeful to you at this moment?

Knowing that we’re not going back to normal. Which is difficult and feels a little empty to say because we have no idea what that is going to look like right now. We know there will be great change, and much of it will be upsetting for a while, but I am optimistic that there will be positive and unexpected shifts to look forward to. 

X: As a young person circulating in ideas and images and culture as a field, are there things that feel visible to you that you think may be blindspots to practitioners of other generations? Concepts or values that you don’t think are relevant that you’d like to see let go of? 

It totally goes without saying, but just being inundated with the sheer volume of ideas and images we are is immense and at times cacophonous. We’re navigating more tools and information than we know what to do with. It's difficult to see exactly how that's impacting our work as young people, probably because it’s still and always unfolding. But what I am seeing right now is a breaking down of boundaries on social, personal, and informational levels. Some of this is excessive and leaves us raw, but when it comes to access, there's an advantage to having so much in the open. I think we are navigating access more intimately now. To pick the most obvious example, we have memes: these easily disseminated images, dense with meaning and connection, that can be experienced by tons of people. I am excited to see how these values could push our artwork and draw greater attention to the hurdles placed around art. And that's not to say there isn’t value to the more intimate connections that can be made in art, or that everything must be widely experienced to be successful. I don't think all of the solutions will be found in dematerialization, digitization, or making work that is as easy to digest as a meme. But, I am definitely hoping we can invest ourselves more in access and heart clarity, and less in over-intellectualization and total obscurity. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

orange ya glad i didn't say unprecedented times


DIRT

PALACE

APRIL 2020  


WINDOW
MARCH WINDOW ARTIST: RYAN CARDOSO

"The series is a reclamation of the renaissance art period. The classical paintings made during the 15th-16th century all exhibit Europeans as regal, aristocratic figures, completely excluding the people of color from these spaces and moments. These images are here to question and put forth a new body of work, where people of color stand tall and proud, embellished in cultural relevance. We are here to fill up gallery walls, and be mounted in your homes as decoration, because like everyone else, we belong."

Ryan Cardoso is a storyteller communicating through photography and filmmaking.  To find out more about Ryan and his work - check out this interview with him on our blog  HERE

 

This project was made possible through support from the City of Providence, Art Culture + Tourism Department

 
*****UPDATES*****


NORAA NEITHER KAPLAN



It feels surreal trying to remember what I have "done" during this month of social distancing. I vaguely remember orchestrating two elaborate photoshoots to get some quality nudes. It seems I made six voice memos of myself reading Mary Oliver poems. I've been told I wrote a poem yesterday, and some have alleged I released an EP of sad quarantine songs. But the only thing that I am sure of is that I meticulously stuck cloves into an orange to replicate the structure of the COVID virus, and then filmed it spinning in slow motion.

The days pass slowly but go by so fast. I've been finding it hard to concentrate, what with the massive collective trauma we're undergoing and all. Josephine and I agree that whoever is writing the simulation we're living in isn't even trying to make the storyline believable anymore. So it's not so much a matter of coping with reality, but suspending my disbelief.

Sending everyone love and solidarity from Olneyville, Earth, my slice of the apocalypse.

JOSEPHINE DEVANBU


The Covid-19 rendering Noraa used as a reference for the above sculpture.   

As the rest of us ask ourselves "What can I cook with what's left in my pantry?" Noraa has dug deeper. Her pomander portrait of Covid-19 begs the question: "What can I contribute to the advancement of human knowledge with what's left in my pantry'?"

Begin by noticing–without judgement– the questions that arise as you take stock of what you have left.  Here's what comes up for me:

Which departed roommate's cooking oil offers the lowest smoke point? How have attitudes towards social constructs such as “my shelf” and “your shelf” changed during the pandemic? By what mechanism does anxiety drain food of flavor? Is the growing ratio of sirens to honk-offs in Olneyville square correlated with RI’s Covid-19 doubling time?

In a pinch, it's OK to skip doing a literature review and dive right in, just make sure you are in compliance with your household's policies on human-subjects research. I'm no longer on Brown’s IRB, but I am still available if you need a sounding board to talk through best practices when living with study participants.

ANNELI SANAYE HENRIKSSON

I've reconnected with my favorite knitting book.


Contact me at ashenriksson@gmail.com if you want to join the Armadillo wrap Knit-a-long

GABY HURTADO-RAMOS
You know, everything is normal over here... But when I'm pretending everything actually is or I can focus on anything, I’m working on doing illustration and comics work (more to come). In the meantime, please enjoy this interview I gave to myself *amid these times*

You’re on a desert island, you have the essentials, what are your three luxury items? bidet, CBD horchata popsicles, and a water park slide into the ocean
Ideal grocery shopping outfit: my normal outfit but with all “blaze orange” accessories- hat, mask, hoodie, glasses, shoe laces, socks...
Song of the moment: Yo Perreo Sola, by Bad Bunny
The perfect meme: sees me, sees the world, and laughs @ me, spits on the world
DJ set vibe: Reality drama tv effects https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx9uLGbbJNI
Most hopeful thing I’ve witnessed: grassroots organizing and collaboration across state lines, especially to get people out of immigration detention centers (see #FreeThemAll)
Biggest surprise: I'm still behind on tv and movies, (and tiger king was kind of terrible)
Favorite escape: Throwing a birthday party on Sims (and then blocking the door with presents so my new friends never leave).
After this is all over I will emerge: TikTok famous ;)

XANDER MARRO 
Time, of course has not been normal lately, and a lot of people’s sentences have included the phrase “time is…..” which always makes X think of the song Christmas Time in the Mountains.  Its not Christmas Time, but this song might feel nice to listen to. X teaches in the spring and that’s been wild. She had no idea of what to do, and then a friend who also teaches suggested sending a google form, and that was earth shattering. So every time she’s felt stuck with the class she’s leaned into asking questions. Sometimes the answers were so beautiful and helpful that for a moment things felt ok. So she kept making forms until the form became the form. What is there for us to teach each other anyways other than to ask and improvise and listen? Please fill out this form. (i mean if you want to) It is anonymous - i think you can also fill it out multiple times, but i’m still learning about google forms. I think there will be more forms as form, I’ll post them on twitter (@LadyLongArms). In terms of thoughts on the quality of writing of this simulation (see Noraa’s entry); X highly recommends World on a Wire the 1973 Fassbinder 2 part mini series. It's free on YouTube: there are so many killer shots in mirrors and weird swimming pools and deadpan melodramatic lines about the nature of how the simulation works. Simulation workers on strike! Going to remember to put it on Rec World!!!


CODY ROSS

My newest isolation strategy is playing crowd sound effects underneath a playlist of Whitney Houston singles—if you're anything like me, this will be a legitimate pick-me-up. If you're not, you may find suggestions more relevant to you on Rec World, a website I put together to collect recommendations from the people I'm missing every day. A feed of asynchronous pleasures circulating through texts, sensations, and repeatable actions. Press the plus button on the bottom right to submit your own.



Pasting some mutual aid networks, resources, and fundraisers, mostly in the Providence area: FANG Community Bail FundUndocu FundEmergency COVID Fund for R.I. Dancers / FS WorkersSISTA Fire Mutual Aid Support fundraiserSISTA Fire Mutual Aid Support formAMOR's Stimulus Redistribution CampaignAMOR's Community Resources DocumentAMOR’s COVID-19 Response NetworkCOVID-19 Rhode Island Hospitality Relief FundHarm Reduxx PVDUndocuTrans Stimulus  Fund (DMV area)People's Emergency Fund (Maine)Mutual Aid Hub (collection of user-submitted mutual aid networks nationally)Artist Relief grantsRISCA Artist Relief Fund grants.


PIPPI ZORNOZA
Several weeks before the global pandemic gets officially deemed a global pandemic and everything closes down, you lose a hard drive. Why isn’t it backed up? There is no answer. The drive shuts down in a such a way that the read/write heads magnetize and clamp down on the discs, physically scratching the platters every time you try to reconnect the drive to your computer. In essence, you scraped all the data off the drive, pulverized it into oblivion. You wonder why you had to wait a month for a technician to tell you that your data had been destroyed. It sounds a bit dramatic when you try and tell people that you lost all the art that you made in the past 5 years… even though it is basically true. I guess your art no longer lives in the physical world. What was lost? 
• A full length album called The Bell that Never Stops Ringing about ever present thoughts of death (your’s and your loved ones’)
• Another 60 minute album called The Sound of It Hammering Against the Skirts about female desire
• Your ongoing archive of crying scenes from movies. I guess a spreadsheet of your collection exists, so if you wanted to re-record the 100 or so video clips that you’ve compiled, you could.
• A recording of that time you sang Opportunity to Cry by Willie Nelson in the hopes to make a record with Daniella
• All of your samples…. Ranging from recordings of your own instruments to sounds collected from horror films and reality TV shows about prison (because they use the most horrifying sounds to criminalize and dehumanize real people)
• That print that you worked on for two years of the image of  lady sniffing that lambs ass with the neurotic yellow eye, in a mirror adorned with serpents
• Every source image or drawing that you scanned in the past 5 years
• A lot of stuff that you don’t even remember
This digital storage unit much like a storage unit in the physical world , housed all your dusty unused collections wiped clean like a memory. And as your memory has gotten worse and worse over the years, troubling and worrying you to no end, you always wondered who you’d be if all your memories disappeared. Feels impossible to start over. And you think maybe it’s good that you made those drawings, tracing those ladies crying over and over on tracing paper, so that you at least have some remnants of the past 5 years to sit on a shelf, the pages getting bent and ruined after years of neglect.
 
***DIRT PALACE LIBRARY HI-LITES***

MONTHLY PICTORIAL TREAT FROM THE DUSTY SHELVES OF THE DIRT PALACE
FURTHERING THE QUEST TO SPREAD FUN
LIKE GIN AND JUICE, MOSTLY GIN



The Library picked up Finding Balance from artist Deborah Spears Moorehead after her artist talk at the Dirt Palace last summer. Debbie's installation - Parcel 1 A. Providence River from 1600 to Contemporary explored the colonial, industrial, and contemporary uses of Providence waterways.
Using this time of shelter in place to read Debbie's work!
To view Debbie's installation or artist talk at the Dirt Palace - go here
To purchase Finding Balance from the artist, contact her by email 
at paintedarrow2@yahoo.com

 



 

cafe//night/// forward to a friend

Monday, April 13, 2020

Interview with Artist Ryan Cardoso




RYAN CARDOSO



This past month the work of Ryan Cardoso has been featured in the Dirt Palace Storefront Window Gallery. While the Gallery is viewable from outside, or even from a car, we know that getting out these days is rough, so we wanted to give you other options for getting into Ryan's work.  Before sitting down to begin this correspondence with Ryan, we read a great interview that the artist Paris Paris did with Cardoso for the AS220 blog. Check out that interview HERE

XThe exhibit in the Dirt Palace Storefront Window consists of five photographs. Each piece is a portrait of one of more people. They are all the same size and almost, but not quite square. - Can you tell us about each of the people/groupings of people in the photographs and what decisions were involved in choosing to compose the shots in the manner that you did? 

R - All of these photos are in reference to Renaissance painting during the 15th & 16th century. So the process started with me doing a lot of research on the period and selecting pieces from the canon that were either iconic paintings or I felt had something in there that I could bring out more of a story in. All of the people in the photos are high school friends, friends who are currently around me every day, or strangers I wanted to know. A lot of my shoots are a way into form relationships with people who I want to have in my life, even if it is for a brief moment. 

“Not Raphael’s Angels but the Brothers who Skate Together Every Weekend,” are two brothers Henchi (@justhench) & Daniel (@tanavelli) who I’ve known since high school. They are skaters so they are usually hanging downtown a lot and cruising around. “Raphel’s Angels” by Santi is probably one of the most popular paintings so I knew that I wanted to reference this piece. My challenge in making it a portrait that speaks to me is how I could add story to it that was relevant to the two brothers. I had them bring in their skateboards to the studio and put the wings on them. We tried several shots some of them moving around, on the board, and other setups, but ultimately we stuck to the classic cherub pose. In the end I feel like the image still has their story through the small details. There are scars and bruises on their arms from skating, they are much older than the classical cherub, and have brought their own sense of masculinity to cherubs. 


“Slitty Christ at the Column” came from a piece by Caravaggio. The subjects in this photo are Sid (@slittywrists) a musician, and Paris (sirap.ltd) an artist. This one again came together very naturally. They were already friends so I just got them in the studio with the reference and we started playing around. Since Sid is a rapper I was trying to figure out how I could turn this religious event into the style of an album cover. The cigarettes happened naturally when Paris said that he needed to step out for a smoke break and Sid joined him. I immediately realized that this was the shot. It was part of their relationship and how they spend time together. Also a lot of my aim in this series was to show that these people around me living their normal lives are to be payed attention to and learned from. I feel like a lot of the times in religion and spirituality we are so focused on one god, deity, or whatever we believe in that we focus in on that one idea and forget what is around us. We are surrounded by people who come into our lives to teach us things and show us ways, even if they are engaging in activities that aren’t considered ‘proper.’ 

“Angel not Madonna” was in reference to Madonna & Child by Duccio. There were several different takes of this shot and a lot of them included Otis (an infant) in them but in the end I felt like this one told the story best. It’s a straight on portrait with Angel (@3hournep) addressing the audience directly. The light is set right on her so the viewer is forced to stare directly into her eyes and deal with your thoughts on her. She isn’t sexualized but her direct gaze still seduces the viewer making them question who she is and why she holds so much power. 




“Chelsie Brooks 2018 A.D.” was a bit more of a general reference and made to comment on how the women in renaissance painting were represented. They were usually nude, in acrobatic like seducing poses, and white. Chelsie (@ychels) is someone I’ve been friends with since my freshman year of high school, but we lost touch for a while. Once I started shooting this series she was one of the first people to come to mind. I always thought of her as this tall, strong, grounded on her two feet, and firm person who always had control over the spaces she was in. This picture is very much about her and the power she has. The styling comes naturally from how I remember her when we were younger, chilling at home watching movies with her hair-tied and nails always sharpened and pressed. 


“Bribington & Bluebington 2018 A.D.” was definitely one of those photos where I have it all planned out and ready to go but it all changes as soon as I get behind the camera. For this photo I was working with Bri (@staytender) and their dog Blue. I was around them every day during the period of this series so I knew they were definitely a group that I wanted to document. It’s the first time where I was working with a dog onset and it was a challenge to get him to wear exactly what I wanted and pose how I wanted. I think this one taught me that I have to let go of things sometimes and let them run their own course. 

X - In Not Raphael’s Angels but the Brothers who Skate Together Every Weekend Downtown, obviously you’re in conversation with a famous work from the Western Art Historical cannon. Its really funny! And the way that you’ve posed the men in the photograph replicates the pose in the painting completely. Can you talk about your relationship to humor? 


R - I think humor comes into my work naturally. I am working with friends and family where we already have this existing relationship or are building one on location where we are shooting. A lot of the people I shoot are familiar with the same pop culture and history that I am working with. We grew up watching the same films, dancing to the same songs, and spending our time going to the mall or whatever kids do in city life so we get each other. So I think the humor just comes from us playing around while we are shooting. Despite the importance and the seriousness of documenting a figure to last forever, we still try to make it feel like a time to congregate. 
I think my style just always gravitates towards humor. A couple of years ago I wrote a script with a friend for a short film and set out for it to be a coming of age drama. By the time I was done I realized it was full of humor and was absolutely an unintentional comedy. Undertones of humor in my work feel like an accessible way to invite the audience to have a conversation about the more serious topics I want to discuss. 

X - These photographs all look like they involve really precise studio set-ups, very controlled lighting etc. Can you talk about what the experience of this kind of shoot feels like in comparison to some of the other shoots that you put together that are in very specific locations, outdoors etc. 

R - For this whole series of images part of the challenge was to execute studio work. It was the first time I had open access to studio space and I wanted to see if I could push myself to continue the tradition of storytelling despite being confined to one space. I felt like portraiture was difficult because the image has to be directly about what you see coming from the subject, and not the allure of the entire space, so it pushed me to learn how to better direct my subjects. 
The lighting in the studio also unintentionally affected my style going forward. Before this project I was used to working with natural light or whatever was around. Being in the studio and having control of exactly where the lights were coming from, how it came in, and how strong it was really influenced the photos. Some of the images are made to feel more natural with an all-around flat light vs. others where I wanted a heavy spotlight to make a statement that these are the important figures standing here in front of you, so pay attention to them. This spotlight has transferred into a lot of my practice outside of the studio now. 

X - Slitty Christ at the Column is a portrait of a musician, and it seems like you’ve done a lot of work with local musicians, some music videos etc. How do you listen to music when you’re thinking about art directing/photographing a musician? (I know this question might seem really basic or vague...so let me dig in a little more. I’ve found that the mode through which people experience audio has changed a lot in my lifetime. Twenty years ago I would literally sit around on the floor with friends when they brought home a new record and listen to it like 8 times on repeat. More recently I’ve found that I want to wear earbuds and be on a walk when really focusing on music in an intense way) 

R - Music is definitely a very important part of my work. Often the music comes in before anything else in the project. I find and download music obsessively all the time, but I also still have songs from high school on repeat daily. Songs have been imprinted into my brain in such an intense way that a lot of my imagery is created through songs. There are songs that I have heard so many times that I come up with a photo to try and translate what that specific sound looks like visually. I have also taken song lyrics and given them to my subjects so that they can understand the feeling and sentiment behind the photos that we are taking. 
I am definitely someone who still listens to a track 8 times, before I even start to really understand and feel the song and I think that translates into my work. Looking back at what I’ve created so far I can see a lot of repetition in my style. Whether it be repeating familiar props, locations, people, etc.. I feel like I can’t truly understand something unless I am digging into it repeatedly and getting different answers every time. 

X - In the interview that you did with Paris I really love how you talk about the relationship between your planning process and how the photograph actually manifests. You write: 

A lot of the time I have drawn out exactly how I want the image to come out. The pose, the background, lighting color et al. But there’s always a magic happen that happens once I am actually at the shoot, and the subject is styled, on location, standing in the directed pose, and I look down into the viewfinder and real life is happening and the image I drew up just turns out to be so much more alive and fluid then I imagined. I usually just have to throw out all preconceived plans and move with the moment. So the final image that I usually planned out is just a mock-up to show my subject, what I am hoping to communicate, and in turn they take it and put it into their own language


Your description of the tension between excruciating planning and being able to be dazzled by the “something else” that emerges in the letting go that’s inherently part of collaboration (and ultimately life), feels hopeful in a moment when I think a lot of people are feeling really overwhelmed by how little planning is possible. Would you be willing to share some of the photographs that you’ve taken that embody the highpoint of this experience? And to follow up from that what has this quarantine time been like for you? Are you hanging in? 

R - (“Happy House,” 2019) 
“Happy House” which I took at the Wedding Cake House in 2019 is a perfect example of letting go of planning and moving with whatever is happening. This shoot was like a 9 hour day with 2 weeks of prior planning, and was a complete mess. We all arrived at the house with costume, hair, makeup, reference boards, the whole production. Half way into hair-and-makeup I got a phone call that completely stopped me from functioning, I couldn’t think about anything else but that call. Once we started shooting all of my lights fell and broke, and the camera got damaged. All of my pictures that I had drawn out were falling apart and I was ready to stop and end everything. 


Thankfully I was working with my friends and they were there to push me and support me and figuring out how to make things continue. I had to take a deep breath and throw all the planning out the window. I realized these pictures were about more than what I thought I was going to get. This shoot is what taught me that the images are more than just about me. It’s about the environment, it’s about the emotion, and most importantly it’s about the relationships I have around me. 

This whole experience has also showed me similar lessons. This quarantine definitely began as a major shock to me. I was out of the country for a while and had my access to internet completely shut off so I was unaware of how things were building up. I remember returning and getting off my flight and one of the first things I said was everything feels so colorless and quiet here. A day or two later when I finally reached home I learned how serious things were getting, and by my 4th day back to the states I found myself quarantined. At first I was very bothered by it, it felt like I was coming down a waterslide and at the end of it I fell into a pit of ice instead of water. But after a month of being in I think I’ve accepted what this time is about. 

I’ve learned how important it is to check in with everyone around me. I’ve learned to take time to reflect on what has gotten me to where I am. Learned to assess what I need for myself and what I can work on or get rid of. I’ve learned that creativity doesn’t come from pushing myself until I can’t no more and that resting is a part of it. 
I haven’t really made any plans for what’s next when this is all over but I think this whole situation has gotten me to accept that I don’t have to know what’s next for me, but there will definitely be a next. 

Website 
ryan-ac.com  IG: ryanac


This Project was made possible through support from the City of Providence, Art Culture + Tourism Department