Featured artists. 

                 ******Maizy Broderick Scarpa******                 

                             May, 2021                              

 

Maizy Broderick Scarpa is a human who tells stories.  Her plays have been produced  on both coasts of the USA and in Sweden.  As a performer,  she has worked in NYC and regionally, and her voice can be heard on WBUR’s Circle Round podcast. With degrees in drama and creative writing, Maizy trained at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and  the Experimental Theatre Wing of NYU/Tisch. She has taught throughout theatres in the Northeast United States, and online through her consultation business Bloom Creativity. She likes tea, children’s books, and breaking the fourth wall. 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on Mohican land which is now the Northeast United States (upstate New York and Western Massachusetts, specifically). Which is where I live again now, in Pittsfield Massachusetts. Although I currently live in a small city, the geography of the area,  and therefore of my childhood, is very rural. 

Can you describe a bit about creativity in your childhood? How has it influenced you as a professional artist?

 I feel very lucky that creativity was woven into my daily life as a child. My mom used to mix washable paint with soap and let us paint all over the walls of the shower. She’d also buy old canvases at art sales and gesso over the paintings so we’d have framed canvases to paint on. I was homeschooled for preschool and again in second and 3rd grade, so these activities were just a part of life and learning in a very organic way. My siblings and I were very supported in exploring our own make-believe and artistic projects. We took playing dress-up to the next level, making a theatre with our friends in their barn attic and conducting what we thought were very professional productions every summer. We took the whole thing very seriously, and though we didn’t know it at the time, we were essentially learning how to produce live events. I remember choreographing a dance with croquet mallets for a production of Alice and Wonderland when I was about 11. I don’t think I’d ever even taken a dance class at the time. But I had a total lack of external comparison, so I never thought “who am I to do this thing I have no business or experience doing?” I just was like “yay, croquet mallets!” and played the song and made something up with other kids in our friend’s backyard.  

Your art practice has had such longevity! Why would you say that is?

 That is such a nice thing to say. Thank you! I often feel like I don’t have a great system for creating,  accumulating, documenting, and  disseminating my art––even making long-term projects is difficult for me if I don’t have some kind of accountability, so that’s really nice to hear. But if I take a step back, I guess I have continued to create in one form or another over many years. I read a Regina Spektor interview once where she said that her songs were  a byproduct of living. I love that idea, and it rings true to my experience! If art is a byproduct, it takes away the pressure of creating a product  of a certain “caliber.” Instead it’s just a happy accident of process. Or maybe not even a “happy accident.” We breath and eat and live; therefore we exhale CO2, we poop, we make art! 

Who do you create for? Why?

 The answer changes with each thing I make. Outside of a professional setting,  I frequently create for very specific contexts, for audiences of one or two or three. This isn’t commercially viable, but it’s just kind of embedded into the way I interact with the world and my community. For instance, a song written to express a grief I’ve been holding might not need to move past my own ears. A home-made birthday card is a tiny piece of art for an audience of one; a song to help conjugate verbs in French might just be for me and a few fellow classmates; anything made to celebrate a milestone, express care, joy or comfort in a very specific context is not necessarily for wider consumption. It’s not that no one else should ever experience these things, but they are created to resonate in a particular environment and may or may not land elsewhere. On some level, all art is created for a specific context, but it’s easy to forget that in a desire for my work to be “universal” or “successful,” whatever that means. I sometimes become paralized at the thought of sharing imperfectly in a larger context. I carry this idea–which I don’t agree with at all by the way– that anything I put out in the world as an artist needs to carry a level of presentability, of curation. That these things represent me and have to align with that, in an almost branded way. Not that all my work has to be similar, but that it needs to meet a certain standard so that I don’t diminish the reputation I’m building as an artist.  I’m realizing I have built up a lot of fear of imperfection, based on conflating “professionalism” “marketability” “quality” and “perfection.”  I’m sure that a  lot of this comes from the intersecting systems of oppression––capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy etc. Even as someone who walks through the world with many privileges, the ways these systems weedle their way inside us insidious.  It’s related to an idea that certain kinds of sharing is deeply embarrassing and even shameful. Vulnerability is good and to be celebrated in the arts but only when it’s the “right” kind of vulnerability. This paralysis  is in direct conflict with my natural inclination to share (almost) everything (almost) all the time. Getting that hit of dopamine from sharing my work and connecting with others is actually essential for me to stick with a project. That’s one reason I love collaborating-–I have built-in people I can share it with during development so I don’t feel the need to over-share with a wider audience too early––and live performance, which by nature only exists in a certain moment, and “mistakes’’ are not immortalized. 

How does teaching influence your work?

 I believe that teaching makes me a better artist, and making art makes me a better teacher. Whether formalized as “teaching” or not, I almost can’t help sharing what I’ve discovered with others, and creating an environment where their creativity can thrive. It’s a treat to be able to help someone else by offering what that I needed to hear at one point (and maybe need to be reminded of right now!) My business, Bloom Creativity, where I work as a dramaturg, teach classes and coach artists one-on-one, has the tagline “Cultivate Craft, Unleash Creativity,” because having skills specific to a craft frees us to connect with more elusive “inspiration.” And part of that craft is a life-long, ever-shifting process of creating space for your full self and your creativity. So when I teach, I incorporate both traditional skills of the craft along with the sometimes more elusive skills of how to be nice to yourself for long enough to create something and enjoy it.  So not only am I constantly inspired by the imaginations, perseverance, and generosity of my students, but I also benefit from thinking about those things on a regular basis, on a conscious level.  I also thrive off the person-to-person connection and exchange. I feel a similar rush when a new writing exercise I’ve designed is fruitful for a student as I do when a scene is read for the first (or sixth!) time and really works. (With my own art, that exchange is often delayed months or even years, and  it’s great to have something more immediate in the meantime!)

What is your relationship to working in different mediums?

In terms of my personal need to look at the world in a particular way, to process things, or even just to get my chattering brain to quiet down for a few minutes, medium is primarily a means to an end. If you told me I couldn’t write for a year, I’d draw. If I couldn’t draw, I’d write songs, if I couldn’t write songs, I’d dance. Each of these mediums have their own flavors, things I miss when I’m not engaging in them, but the essence––for me at least– is the same. Of course, there are certain mediums where I am more confident. In terms of professional impact, I am much more equipped to teach playwriting than I am to teach guitar! But I love how, when working in a medium that I am not as “skilled” in, I lose my ego because I know that I’m a beginner. I love how it quiets my brain to focus on something that requires every iota of my attention. I took an intermediate ballet class when I was in high school––I was a total beginner, but they didn’t want to put me in with the toddlers; I was in over my head and had to  focus my mind and body on the same task 110%, just to keep up. I’m sure I was flailing around like a marionette having a seizure, but it felt great.I should add that I am a big believer in studying a craft - in any medium -  because structure really allows the imagination to soar. It is empowering to say “this piece isn’t doing what I want it to, but I have all these tools I can use to change that!” Craft is like funnel guiding liquid into differently shaped containers; the liquid is all the same even though it manifests in infinite different ways! 

Anything else you would like to share with Look at This?

My goal as an artist and teacher is to create space for fullness and wholeness, but it’s easy to slip up when it comes to myself, to feel like I’m not allowed to be a full person if I want to be respected professionally. Of course, that isn’t a fully-developed thought (once I can name it it loses some of it’s sway); it’s more a felt sense of the high-stakes of needing to present only the “finished” presentable parts of art and process. And as someone who has training in several mediums and dabbles in several others, I also feel like I’m supposed to specify and specialize, to “focus.” This process of figuring out how and what to share with Look_at_This!, and this interview itself has been such a fulfilling opportunity for me to reexamine my relationship with these things, to parse out where I stand at this particular moment in time, and how I want to move forward. It brought all these gunky beliefs up to a conscious level for me to examine and reckon with. I’m feeling a lot of gratitude for that right now. So thank you.  It’s also been fun to rediscover all this forgotten art I created!

Songs: My friend Annie and I have an as-of-yet theoretical band we have named Undercover Ghost. She is one of the few people around whom I am not nervous singing or attempting to play music. She lives in Chicago and I’m in Massachusetts––and we’re all in the middle of a pandemic––so we haven’t gotten a chance to see each other since conceiving of our band a few months ago. But we HAVE developed a concept that is silly and fun and brings us both delight. After talking with her several weeks ago, I had this idea of ghosts bumping around my head and this song just kind of emerged. I loved the sense of just allowing the song to happen that I experienced. I did not sit down with a concept or desire to write “about” something. It just emerged and I made space for it. Sometimes I feel like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel with my creativity or trying to squeeze out an empty toothpaste tube. This was a good reminder that that isn’t always necessary. I need to make the space, but it takes care of the “making” if I hold up my end of the bargain. 

Movement: My life is better when I move my body. But often, it’s the first thing I detach from when the going gets tough. Last summer, I decided to conduct an experiment where I’d move my body for at last a few minutes each day and film myself for accountability and to track my patterns and explorations. I made myself a private Instagram account (it has no followers and I do not follow anyone), and I’d upload short clips sort of like journal entries. (Full disclosure: Like many aspirational daily habits, it only  lasted a few weeks before I completely lost the routine. I started it up again briefly in the fall and in the winter. Maybe I’ll start it again this spring.) These clips were never intended to be shared, but the whole project was an experiment, so…

Poems: Sometimes I make things and then forget about them entirely. Once,  I had a blog called Unpolished Creation where I posted in-progress poems, musings and some photographs. The impetus for was to have a space to save, store and share work that might otherwise slip away. Some of the poems I’d use or share elsewhere, but mostly that blog was their final resting place. Some were too rough to be shared in other places. Sometimes I’d find forgotten poems in old notebooks, and I posted them too. Then I forgot about the blog itself for about 5 years. But it’s still there. I even still like some of the poems.

 

INSTANT SORROW

Instant Sorrow (just add water) 

Packets are for sale

      Mama’s Sick

       Sister Dead

       and Daddy Went To Jail.

 

Instant Sorrow (just add water)

Blues song just for me:

       Baby’s left me

       With a Baby.

       Sorrow Soup for Three. 

Instant sorrow. 

Instant pain. 

Instant poetry. 

Dehydrate the salt of life and

Sell if for free. 

HYPOTHESIS

Although I’m told that I have grown 

From cells and DNA and bones

From sperm and eggs and chromosomes

In all the ways that science knows, 

I most secretly suppose

(and fear a little that it shows)

That I sprung up from Earth in rows

The way a sprouting carrot grows. 

Nature photos: I am not a photographer. I don’t even own a proper camera. But I live in a beautiful place––and have been lucky enough to visit many other beautiful places–– and enjoy taking pictures on my phone of nature around me, usually just for myself (and the occasional Instagram post). Sometimes I’ll text a picture to my partner or a  far-away friend to share the moment from a distance. The following photos were taken on the cellphones I’ve owned over the past 4 years  (iPhones 5 and 6), The photos are unedited, as far as I can recall, and I didn’t use any filters. Not considering myself to be a photographer, I have zero ego invested in whether or not they are “good photos” and what that says or doesn’t say about me as an artist. I hope to bring that mindset to other mediums too…

Screen Shot 2021-06-27 at 9.26.55 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-27 at 9.27.03 PM.png

                 ******Ricardo Bouyette******                

                             March, 2021                     

My name is Ricardo Bouyett and I’m a filmmaker, writer, and photographer. I create work that’s informed by my recovery from sexual trauma in an effort to engage viewers with an honest ritual of introspection and healing.

When did you know you wished to become an artist?

As a kid I always wanted to be a film director but growing up I went through a series of violent and sexual traumas for which I used choir and musical theatre to escape from. During college I moved away from performance art and into visual art and writing. I discovered different mediums help me not only express but understand different parts of my life better and in turn allow me to understand the world better. In short, it was never a desire of “I want to be an artist” more so an understanding that “I can’t help but be an artist”.

How do you approach vulnerability in your work?

A lot of what I make is emotional and an authentic reflection of where I’m at in my own personal healing process. Reactionary, even. But it also depends on the type of project: If I’m writing a short film and planning a production for a while then it becomes a matter of approaching vulnerability through story structure, production team building, and fostering a safe atmosphere on set. Checking-in with my team, making sure everyone feels heard and respected, and ensuring that when we’re filming everyone feels like they can voice their needs. In terms of the art itself, it’s not something I really think about much. I just do it. I’m a very emotional and sensitive person to begin with and I use that to my strengths when creating. With any kind of project I just think about “what am I looking to get out of this?” or “what do I want people to get out of this?” And then I go from there and figure it out.

Your work deals so beautifully with your own healing. How do you see the relationship between art and healing?

Art and healing is tumultuous. It’s like self-medicating with drugs. It can work for you for a while, and it can help you express yourself but it’s essentially putting a band-aid on the problem and pretending like it’s all fixed. I don’t heal because I make art. I go to therapy, do DBT workbooks, practice emotional management, set boundaries or communicate my boundaries, practice listening to other people more intently, work on my empathy, etc. Then when I have something to say I make art about that process, or about the emotions I needed to make peace with. People have this misconception that creating art is enough to heal one’s self. Especially when it comes to discussing mental health and the arts. If simply creating art is enough to heal a person, then I’m jealous of them. I’ve only ever found myself truly healing when having difficult conversations and realizing where I need to improve as an individual, outside of artmaking, and putting in the work to unpack my behavior and find new ways of relating with the world around me. Art, for me, serves as a retroactive diary entry that tells people “I was feeling like this, so I did this, and here’s what happened, and I healed because I chose to by doing x,y,z” but eloquently, and beautifully. While making the art itself is cathartic, it isn’t rectifying the situation and providing anything more than a momentary break from the issues. Which, sometimes is enough. Sometimes you need that escape and for a temporary amount of time, it’s enough. But it’s not the only part of the process. It’s one small facet of a larger whole especially when it comes to being a professional artist.

People want to “have conversations’’ or “start a conversation” which is great until you realize they don’t have anything more to offer than talking points. You can’t heal with talking points alone, you need to do something. For me, I share my experiences in my art to show people why men need to be encouraged to regulate their emotions and be more proactive in their own personal healing.

How do you choose your collaborators and what is your relationship to community as an artist?

Usually through social media and other networks I’m able to find collaborators. My community is spread out on the internet which always makes for an interesting experience when looking for new team members as well as people to share the work when it’s released. My goal moving forward is to foster a collaborative team I can draw on for future projects. Slowly but surely getting there.

Do you have a specific vision for what audiences might take away from your work?

It varies on the project. My main goal is to create art that encourages people to partake in their own rituals of introspection and healing as I do in my work.

How, in your view, does art interact with social change?

Art can be vague or it can be specific. Social change can be specific and can be subtle.

Anyone is an artist these days but not everyone is equipped for social change. There are thousands of apps, tons of technology, all kinds of materials and supplies to use to finesse your way into being an artist. But enacting social change? Or creating work that interacts or influences social change? That takes commitment, that takes patience, that takes being able to handle loss, rejection, and pressing forward by still creating. For example, I created my Oh, Bouy series in hopes of creating more awareness in men about the ongoing sexual violence perpetrated by men in western culture and the need for accountability and healing. That is a heavy heavy thing to want to accomplish and inspire as someone with a small following. But I made the work and I still make it because I’ve noticed that as I more openly discuss these things, other artists/other men around me started too as well. People feel more comfortable when others take the lead and share their vulnerabilities. So that’s why I keep making my art, because sure, I won’t be the best there ever was, but I’ll at least be someone people can point to and say “he’s talking about it, so I can too if I wanted”. The concern I have is that there are far more artists concerned with self-preservation and becoming brands then there are artists with genuine interests in collective action, social change, and equity. Our culture, while heavily influenced by the 1%, is also heavily influenced and controlled by the interests of the masses. People have more control than they are led to believe and I hope, with all of the socially conscious work I’ve seen coming out of IG artists in the last year, that on a social level people start to realize their power and make for effectual change for the Arts to create equity.

Art can interact and influence social change, if it’s specific, but I always felt that art and social change live simultaneously with one another as art is the commentary of and for social change. It’s a mirror to our times and is a cesspool of different opposing views trying to find an amicable home within each other.

Anything else you would like to share with Look at This?

I’m currently in post-production for my upcoming film, Crybaby, and am excited to share this dance film about grief and friendships.

Screen Shot 2021-06-27 at 9.48.24 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-27 at 9.48.30 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-27 at 9.48.36 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-27 at 9.48.41 PM.png

                        ******Zola Dee******                                                  February, 2021                         

Los Angeles based Zola Dee is a poet, emerging theatre artist, arts activist and collagist from North Carolina. She believes that her work has a strong responsibility to investigate trauma and how it is passed down generationally, the black psyche, mysticism and ancient spirituality. Her most notable work GUNSHOT MEDLEY: Part 1 was Ovation Award recommended. Due to the success of Gunshot Medley, Dee received notoriety in the Los Angeles Times by lead drama critic Charles McNulty as a front-runner in “…a vibrant new era in African-American playwriting…”. Other accomplishments include: 2017-2018 Core Apprentice at The Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota & 2018 Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights Diversity Fellow. Zola is a graduate of California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in Acting and a minor in Creative Writing. Currently, she serves as the Artistic Associate at The Pasadena Playhouse, The State Theater of California.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up among the green trees and red clay mud of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s such a weird city. It’s famous for Camel cigarettes and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Maya Angelou also lived out the rest of her life there. It’s a small Southern city that throughout my entire life has been changing rapidly. The old R.J. Reynolds tobacco warehouses have all been turned into coffee shops, lofts, artist studios, shops, etc. That city has such a quaint beautiful charm about it.

 

Can you describe a bit about creativity in your childhood?

I was the only child and my parents gave me a lot of space. I was very often alone so my imagination sort of ran wild as a youngin’. My parents let me try a lot of different things and they never told me I couldn’t do something. When I was five years old, I did a piano summer camp which also coincided with me being obsessed with Alicia Keys. I loved her. I wanted to be her. This all resulted in my taking piano lessons for 6 years from this amazing artist named Minda Mulibiran. Miss Minda was half-Filipina and I think that was important for me as a young woman of color to have role models who were also strong, accomplished, women of color.  I also remember Miss Minda’s teaching studios were always in these hip converted warehouses. I guess I didn’t realize it then but her aesthetic was so enrapturing to me as a child. When you grow up in the bible belt, an artsy lifestyle is often considered weird and not status quo.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much her kickass, punk aesthetic has truly influenced me as a young artist. I’m eternally grateful. 

Do you have a spiritual practice? If so, how does it influence your art?

In some ways I believe my spiritual practice is my art. I believe that creating art is a direct connection to the Divine. To create is to be the closest to god, the universe, whatever you want to call it….that you can be while you are in this human flesh suit. I recently have gotten more interested in ancestor worship. I have a little altar for my ancestors which I actually need to get better with the upkeep of it. But I truly believe that I am most connected with spirit when I’m writing. There is a moment when you just get in the flow and the words hit the page and you realize that they came from a source beyond you. I think it’s sort of like acting too, ya know. Like you just become a channel and a vessel for the work. 

What do you think is the role of the artist in the world today?

I think the world would fall apart without the artist. During quarantine, I have learned that without hope there really isn’t a  point to life or existence. But without imagination there is no hope. We artists use our imaginations to further inspire and bring hope into this world. In bringing hope into the world, we heal the world. 

What brings you joy?

Rainy days. Soul music. Long conversations with friends and/or lovers that last till the wee hours of the night and sometimes the crack of dawn. My mama’s sweet potato pie. Hiking in a lush green forest. My friends. My dad’s dance skills that I rarely get to see, but when I do, they are great. Long car rides when I’m in the passenger seat and I get to take in all the scenery. Wine. Good fried chicken. 

Can you speak to your relationship to ambition as an artist?

I think I’m a very ambitious artist. I want my art out into the world. I want to touch people’s hearts and minds. I believe ambition is healthy. I think that sometimes it becomes unhealthy, at least for me, when I start thinking about fame. I think as artists we feel the need to get famous to increase our reach and get our work out into the world. There’s also this feeling that if I’m not famous then did the work I created actually matter??? I think secretly a lot of us want to be famous but even the act of saying that feels so superficial. But the fact is I do want to be famous. I do. I want reach. I want to impact the world. I guess my point is that actually, there is nothing wrong with wanting fame or wanting to be famous. I think when it gets toxic or tricky is when your ambition is linked to fame. See, my ambition is linked to my art. I want to create beautiful, soul-stirring works. I am ambitious to get my work out into the world because I believe my work can heal. When you are ambitious just for the sake of fame, well, then you’ll do anything. You’ll compromise your artistic integrity if it means I will have hundreds of thousands of followers, fans, etc. But do those fans actually matter if you aren’t being true to yourself and your art? Ambition is amazing if you channel that energy into the right lane. 

Anything else you would like to share with Look at This?

I hope whoever is reading this is having a blessed day and also has a blessed and less stressful 2021. If you want to know more about what I’m doing this year, visit my website at zoladee.com. I’ve also taken it upon myself to create some form or art everyday for the entire year of 2021. It is such a wild & beautiful experience. I’m even releasing prompts every weekend on social media for those who want to join me on the artmaking. You can follow me and get the prompts on Instagram @musingswithzola and Tiktok @zoladee. Ashe my friends. <3

Poetic Justice a visual poem written and performed by Zola Dee, Directed by Brian Hashimoto 

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 1.43.33 PM.png

Till to Arbery. Handcut Collage. 2020 

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 1.46.01 PM.png

Photograph by Cristian Kreckler

                  ******Anthony Gibson******                                               January, 2020                             

A recipient of Chicago’s DCASE Individual Artistic Program Grant for his short Weird Valley, Anthony is a writer, filmmaker and co-founder of Familiar Pictures. His film work has appeared in festivals such as the Pasadena International Film Festival, the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood, and ZotFest. His work explores shame, identity, disability, and unconditional love. You can find Anthony on Twitter and Instagram @anthjgibson or at his website anthonyjgibson.com

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in California, splitting my childhood between various parts of LA/Orange County and then in middle school I moved up to Woodland (near Davis, CA) and finished out high school there. I’m currently growing up in Chicago. :)

Can you describe a bit about creativity in your childhood?

My mom always fostered a ton of creativity in our many homes. She used creativity to give us a language surrounding her cerebral palsy. A lot of people would hesitate around her, and I grew up involved in this impact she had on others. She had the best ways of explaining things to me. I remember one night when I was five or six she came into my room and turned the lights off. Her fingernails began to glow in the dark and I was amazed. She sat down and told me she was an alien, that people don’t always understand her but that’s because she’s from a different planet. I immediately, being the excitable person I continue to be, jumped up and down on my bed exclaiming how cool it was that I was half-alien. I look to stories like this when I think about how I’ve been influenced. Creativity is essential. Life is imagination.

What is your relationship to inspiration and/vs/or work ethic in your art practice?

Jokingly my fiancée will poke at me for how easily I’m inspired by something. I’m a bit of a labrador when it comes to inspiration. It can be for anything. If I see someone do something they love with a level of excellence, I immediately want to dedicate my life to whatever they are doing. I’m not a dancer by any means, but whenever I watch people dance I always tap into something and start moving stuff around in my head to see how I could become one as graceful and practiced as them. It’s really absurd and I know I can’t do everything. I think I just really like being around people who love and commit to what they do and it stokes my excitement molecules. I’ve been learning how to channel that stuff into what I do. Maybe it isn’t the best idea to drop everything and start ballet at 26, but there’s something in that energy that I can use to expand myself in some way. I struggle with focus but I’d like to think I’m improving…

What are the most inspiring moments of art you have experienced?

I recently just read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and it absolutely floored me. It gave me a framework to think about the stories we all tell ourselves and a lot of ideas about my storytelling moving forward. I love shit that shakes the earth I thought I stood on. I also saw Hadestown last year and balled my eyes out. That musical really touched me to some nectar. Also Kate Orff and her team at SCAPE are doing some incredible stuff in landscape architecture and global ecology. They are restoring the oyster population right now in NYC with their Living Breakwaters project and it would be a dream to meet with them and just dose myself with their influence. 

What does artistic community mean to you?

Community means having skin in the same game as those around you. Finding film and writing communities here in Chicago has been essential to my identity as a writer and filmmaker. There are so many days I feel disconnected to my pursuits and having people around me that are hitting their stride is so elevating and alleviating. It tells me that I’m not doing this on my own, especially with filmmaking. Collaboration is everything and just because I don’t have a project I’m keen on directing doesn’t mean my friend doesn’t. I’ve fallen in love with producing because it allows me to be fully supportive when I don’t have the itch to do my own stuff. I want to see everyone around me live their dreams and if there’s a role I get to play in them then I’m down.

Do you consider yourself a multidisciplinary artist? How does this factor into your work?

Most definitely. I think because at my core I’m a scatter-brained, excitable little puppy, I can’t help myself when it comes to throwing myself at multiple mediums. The beauty of filmmaking is that it opens you up to so many art forms and there’s no limit to what mediums you can involve in that process. I love Chicago because it gives me the space to explore all of my quirks. There’s something about the seasons that each pull a different life out of me and after a few years I’m picking up on how to ride each wave. I love winter and the excuse it gives this whole city to buckle down and get solitary. It’s a perfect time for me to focus on writing and mull over stuff I want to do when Summer turns us into swarms of social butterflies. Each thing I do and medium I use touches some indelible necessity in me. I don’t think I would enjoy making movies if I didn’t also work on novels and write poems at the same time. They all serve a role for me. 

Anything else you’d like to share with Look at This?

I guess I’ve just been thinking a lot lately about the way we share stories and it’s actually been one of my favorite things to listen to the way people talk about their day or listen to the way that crazy uncle weaves his crazy story during the holidays. The oral tradition is this beautiful thing that I don’t think about all the time. Sometimes it feels like the only way to preserve something or share it is to package it in some commodity. I really appreciate people who know how to reflect on their daily lives and share that with the people around them in a meaningful way. I want to get better at sharing myself like this. I think the better we can tell a story the more we fit ourselves into life. I’m also publishing my first poetry book, Lionfly, in February 2020 and I’m beyond excited to put it out there. 

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 2.00.04 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 2.00.13 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 2.00.53 PM.png

Weird Valley

A high schooler confronts his shame and body dysmorphia after his mother catches him in an awkward moment with the family dog.

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 2.01.00 PM.png

The Case for the Vampire Fern

At 3:14am the Indigo Purple Vampire Fern was stolen from its greenhouse in Arcata, California. The town’s cherished plant holds a supernatural, folkloric quality: no camera – photo, film or video – can capture its image. This means it is invisible to any screen or print. The only way to see and fully experience the Vampire Fern is to be with it in person.

To say the town is heartbroken, is an understatement.

                      ******Sariyah Idan******                    

                          December, 2019                          

 

Jazz and folk trained, hip-hop educated, and influenced by her Jewish roots, Sariyah Idan embodies fiery sensuality rooted in cultural, social and verbal poetry. A New York bred Los Angeles/Berlin based independent singer-songwriter, producer, and bandleader, Sariyah grew up touring as a singer and dancer in the world folk ensemble The Vanaver Caravan. The sonic tapestry of her music is an expression of both multicultural urban identity and cultural activism.

 

Where did you grow up?

I mainly grew up in the Mid Hudson Valley area of New York State. It’s about a 90 minute drive from NYC, and a small amount of people do commute to the city for work,  by bus and train. It’s a strange mixture of country folks and spiritually minded artistic hippie folks who moved from urban places in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Now there are a lot of creatives moving up from Brooklyn and starting artisanal businesses in previously run down areas. As a kid I was back and forth a lot between New Paltz, Woodstock and Poughkeepsie. As a teenager I lived part time with my aunt in Manhattan.

Can you describe a bit about creativity in your childhood?

Creativity was at the center of my elementary and middle school alternative schooling. Plus my parents didn’t let me watch a lot of TV when I was a kid, so I grew up without much pop culture influence or distractions to entertain me. While I have a brother and sister from previous marriages of my father, I grew up the only child of a single mom. My own creativity is what kept me company most of the time. My mom gave me a journal when I was 7 or 8 years old, and a small guitar around the same time. I remember writing poems and songs and dancing around the living room to my mom’s Madonna and Suzanne Vega records. When I was 3 years old I started taking creative movement classes with a woman named Livia Vanaver and I began dancing professionally in her world folk dance and music company when I was 12. The Vanavers taught me so much about culture, community, and the world of non commercial performance making. Being part of that company gave me a certain kind of professionalism and discipline when approaching my own work.

How do you approach being a multi-disciplinary artist? Would you describe yourself that way?

Yes, I would. In addition to music and dance I have a background in acting, theater, and spoken word poetry. The MFA program I attended is an Interdisciplinary Arts program called “Creative Inquiry”. My BA was also interdisciplinary with an emphasis on arts and social change. My approach is always evolving, but it’s always a combination of daily practice and current projects. Currently my morning practice is a bit of free-writing, singing and guitar and/or keyboard playing, and a yoga/dance practice. My projects at the moment are music videos for songs from my album “Breaking Shadows” that released in October. Music videos are always multi-disciplinary. First there’s the music, then there’s the aspect of performing for camera, sometimes some dance, some type of narrative, and then the images. I’ve been thinking a lot about cinematography and what images evoke the moods of the music. I’m enjoying collaborating with a few different filmmakers on these, and training my body for different types of on camera performance. It’s interesting to be an actor in service of your own music. 

What do you think are some of the key pros and cons of being an artist right now?

Well, I think computers, smart phones and the internet are both the main pros and cons. As a result of these devices we all have more access to programs for making things, and with the internet and apps we also have more access for consuming art of multiple kinds. This is awesome. People with less resources have higher capacity to create and share that material with their audiences. But as a result of this the art market is over saturated and it can be hard to push through the noise. Just because someone can make a big splash on a social media platform doesn’t mean that their art is good quality. I feel like we’re in an age when mediocrity is normalized and shock value is praised over thoughtful content. I sound like such a snob saying that, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about. One of the pros for me of the smart phone internet age is that it’s much easier to be instantly connected to other artists and audiences globally. It’s easy to research arts networks in other cities and other countries, develop relationships, and then go there. There is more access for lesser known artists to travel, to be global, and to stay connected across distances. This was much harder for independent artists not that long ago. Another con of this digital social media age is that we’re constantly being bombarded with content so people’s attention spans are increasingly short. This is one reason why I’m making a series of what I am calling “taster videos” instead of doing just one or two bigger budget full length music videos. These 1 minute videos are an invitation into the world and emotion of the song that the video is for, a taste. I do hope it makes people more interested in listening to the full song, and the full album. Regardless, I’m enjoying creating multiple types of visuals and performing excerpts of these songs for camera.

Can you speak to the multicultural inspiration of your work?

Well, I’ve been told it’s hard to define my sound into a specific genre. This is probably because I’m not thinking of a specific genre when I’m creating, though I do think about a bit more when I’m arranging and recording. I had the unique privilege of being around a lot of different cultures from a young age, partially because of my time as a kid in NYC, and partially because multiculturalism was at the center of both the spiritual and artistic communities I was raised in. It’s important to me to honor both my influences and my ancestors in the music I create. Culture is fluid, but it’s important to understand where it comes from. I often say I’m jazz and folk trained, hip hop educated, and influenced by my Jewish roots. Both hip hop and jazz made me take a deep dive into soul music. But the concept of “knowledge of self” that is central in 90s hip hop from NYC, also made me take a dive into my Eastern European Jewish roots and that music, mainly Klezmer. As my mentor Melanie DeMore has said “our ancestors are always singing through us whether or not we’re aware of it”, and I do hear them in the tonality of my voice at times. For awhile it’s been my intention bring some klezmer style horns into the jazzy folk/soul songs that I write. I’ve done this a bit on previous recordings, but it’s really come together on a bunch of the songs on “Breaking Shadows”. I think the multicultural nature of my music is also a very kinesthetic thing. As I mentioned I grew up dancing folk traditions from all over the world; from Appalachian clog dancing to flamenco, hip-hop to South African gumboot, Bulgarian to Israeli folk dance. As a young adult I was in a salsa dance company, started studying Afro-Brazilian dance, and spent a lot of time at roots reggae clubs. There are a lot of different rhythms and melodies in my body and inner ear as a result of these experiences. While I’m trained in jazz and folk music there are many traditions that influence the music that comes out of me, and I try to get out of the way and let the music out. Sometimes it’s a challenge when trying to translate it to different musicians working with me because different types of musicians use different terminology, but we figure it out.

What does community mean to you as an artist?

So much. I think for independent artists community is everything. I just wish it was easier for us to all stay connected physically instead of through these screens! I could wax on about this for a long time, but in a nutshell there are two main ways that community has affected me recently. The first is in supporting each other’s process. Without sharing my works in progress with other artists I wouldn’t understand as clearly what it is that I’m creating, and I also wouldn’t have found many of the collaborators that I come to work with. Feedback and critique are also incredibly valuable to me, plus I’m inspired by the work and process of other artists of multiple disciplines and enjoy giving them my thoughts on their work. The second is how community can make the art possible. This album was in part funded through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. I relied on a lot of people’s moral support and expertise in order to launch the campaign, and then I was overwhelmed with gratitude when people contributed and we went over our initial goal. 

Anything else you’d like to share with Look at This?

I think it’s awesome that you’re doing this! It’s so cool that you highlight artists of multiple kinds and that you’re build creative community while you do it. Thanks so much for including me.

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 2.53.23 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 2.53.30 PM.png

                   ******Annaleigh Stone******               

                         October, 2019                       

 

Annaleigh Stone is a Chicago based artist exploring the grotesque, stupid, and cynical parts of her brain. Her favorite movie is Face/Off.  

Where did you grow up? 

Forth Worth, Texas

Can you describe a bit about creativity in your childhood?

I went through phases of different art mediums growing up. It started with dance, and when I realized I wasn’t as graceful as the other dancers I started putting on plays for myself and my cousins, that eventually morphed into videos, then finally to sculpture, painting, and digital art. Getting lost in my mind was in some ways the only relief I had. I’m grateful that I was encouraged to be myself fearlessly, and rarely shamed for letting my creative side shine, whether it was my performances repeatedly screaming “Cheesecake!” to no end or the payoff of a visual joke involving my own literal shit, my parents never tried to stifle whatever was going on in my brain. 

How do you approach artistic medium/multidisciplinary work?

With visual art I feel like I’ve always thrown myself into it, I feel safest with visual art versus performing in some ways. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my art, and often won’t start something until I have a complete idea of what I want. My recent digital art portraits come from a “punchline” of sorts, I feel that the art isn’t complete without the title. 

What is most exciting and INSPIRING to you about current art?

Everything right now seems to be balls to the wall, anything goes sort of thing. It excites and inspires me to be able to turn a contextless thought like “I’m having skin for dinner” into a tangible piece of art. The internet has changed the art world completely, and given so much access to so many things to experience and look at that there’s something new to see everyday and I love being a part of this wave and generation of artists. 

How have you funded your work so far? What effect does this have on the process?

Honestly I stopped buying cigarettes and turned that ~$16/week into an art fund so I’ve been able to actually get prints made which is very exciting to see something born from the digital age as a glossy 11x14. 

Can you speak to the role of collaboration in your process?

I’m very lucky to have friends that support almost any idea I have so when I say I have an idea for a series of voyeuristic photo edits about sleeping people’s teeth, they’re there to model and make my vision come to life. I haven’t had a chance to collaborate in the sense of my style meeting another artist’s style, but I’m looking forward to the day I can mesh ideas with another artist.

 

Anything else you would like to share with Look at This?

Support your friends!!!!!

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 3.12.23 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 3.12.43 PM.png

                      ******Ryan Burch******                                                     August, 2019                              

Ryan was born in 1993 in southern Vermont. Attending nationally renowned craft shows across the east coast during his childhood and teenage years, Ryan developed an appreciation for the craftsmanship and design process involved in creating well-made, functional objects. This interest caught hold and Ryan attended the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. After spending the majority of his studies focused on the technical and conceptual aspects of creating functional ceramics in the contemporary world Burch moved to Colorado after his graduation in 2015. There he apprenticed for Allegheny Meadows, assisted at the Harvey/Meadows Gallery, and was an intern for the Artstream Nomadic Gallery. This opportunity exposed Ryan to some of the most prominent ceramic work created in the past century and allowed him to exhibit his work on a national scale. After completing his internship, Burch returned to Vermont to teach ceramics at Vermont Academy where, for a living, he teaches high school students and manages Ryan Burch Ceramics. 

Where did you grow up?

Born and raised in Putney, VT! 

Can you describe a bit about creativity in your childhood?

I was lucky enough to grow up within a very creative family. My dad has been a glassblower for over 40 years; so I grew up traveling with him to shows. I would get to miss school to help set up, and we would travel to Philly, Baltimore, and all over New England. In hind sight, I think this was really what initiated the eventual realizations that: 1) You can make things for a living. 2) You can be your own boss. and 3) You can develop a skill set and your craft to the point where, if you’re lucky, you can support yourself and a family. Those are all pretty empowering things for a kid to realize, and I think that after that, I was hooked. My dad’s business also exposed me to a huge range of some of the most impressive contemporary craft being made in the country, and how can you see all that stuff and not start thinking, “man, I want to be able to do that.“ 

How do you contextualize your work within the history and future of your art form?

Such a good question! In terms of contextualizing my work in relation to the history of ceramics; I can whole heartedly say that I’m as insignificant as the overwhelming majority of people who have ever worked with clay for a living… but not in a bad way. It’s the sum of those people that are significant; not the individuals. The history of humankind and the history of ceramics are so deeply intertwined that any individual in the field has to really break some boundaries in order to stand out. The person who made the first bowl?… yeah- they were pretty important. I see myself as a piece of the puzzle that helps progress and shift the contemporary craft world. It takes thousands of makers to uphold and push the field to new places and keep it relevant. On the other hand, the fact that I am making objects out of mud and trying to sell them in a world where people are cruising around in self driving Teslas while their groceries are delivered by a drone is a pretty strong statement about my values and perspective. I’m completely aware that what I’m doing is no longer necessary to our species’ survival. I’m not making the pinch pot that carried water from the river to keep the village hydrated. That said, I’m still doing it, and that in itself is important. The connection and intimacy of creating and selling handmade objects to other people is in stark contrast to the societal and commercial systems that make up the globalized world we live in, and I like that this is the case. In regards to the future, I’d like to have a notable impact on the field and the objects that are being created. I’d say it’s most likely that this impact will come in the form of a shift in values or an appreciation of craftsmanship among the high school students I teach, but I’m cool with that. 

Can you speak about the relationship between practicality and art?

I think that practicality within art is simply one of the many ways that an object or two-dimensional work can be deemed worthy of existing. Michelangelo’s David is deemed worthy of existing because of the incredible aesthetic impact it has on the viewer and the mind-boggling amount of talent and time it took to create. Frida Kahlo’s paintings are valuable because of their deep and powerful conceptual facets. They’re portraits that demand attention because they mean and say something. I hope to make pots are are deemed worthy of existing because they’re useful to the extent of being “practical.” Aesthetics and concept are always on my mind in the studio, but practicality is really at the forefront of my practice. 

How does running an arts based business effect your creative process? 

I try to allow it to have minimal affect on my creative process, but there’s really no way to avoid it entirely. I don’t necessarily get to make what I want to make all the time, due to the restriction of ‘what sells.’ Like all things, it’s a compromise. It’s finding a balance between giving the people what they want (ie: blue coffee mugs) and making whatever it might be thats keeping me up at night with my sketchbook, excited to get back in the studio the next day. All in all, I am a firm believer that in order to make successful pots you must have a question driving your work and not an answer. Once I learn what sells, instead of simply replicating that form day after day, I try to ask myself “how can I make it better?” or “what about this piece are people drawn too, and can it be introduced elsewhere in my practice?” Letting the financial aspect of things dictate your creative process is a slippery slope. That said, it’s important to acknowledge that through teaching and living frugally, I’m really fortunate to be in a position where I even have the option to weigh the financial and creative factors and find my own happy medium. 

Anything else you would like to share with Look at This? 

You’re some great question askers! I appreciate the opportunity to share my values and my craft with your viewers: so Thank You!! Also, props on getting things up and running- it’s always a treat to see young creatives doing their thing. *high five*

Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 3.24.46 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-28 at 3.25.11 PM.png

               *************SAnDy KlEiN*************                 

                            June, 2019                               

Sandy Klein is the Creative Director and Costumier at the New England Youth Theatre in Brattleboro VT. For 25 years she worked in Early Education before her 17 years in the the theater. Children and adults should only collaborate when the appreciation for each other’s work is mutual and not condescending. She just watched all 22 Marvel Movies in two weeks so she could watch the last one. She is almost 60.Making art together should serve as a joyful reminder of how worth-it it is to reverse the damage that capitalism has done.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up at the end of a dirt road on 22 acres of land in NH. It was bliss. I had lots of time on my hands to make stuff.

Can you describe a bit about creativity in your childhood?

One of my earliest memories was watching a guy draw on a sidewalk with a wood sliver from a telephone pole and his own spit. It blew my mind.

What have been some of your greatest influences?

I had an art teacher, Ms.Geraldine Decker, she was my champion. She was a true hippie. I  learned craft and sewing from the women in my community. My parents thought I was the shit. This helps. I grew up surrounded by literary and political people, in some ways that was a better influence on me as an artist than being surrounded by artists.

Do you choose a label for yourself as a creator? Artist, visionary, maker, etc?

I don’t use a label - I was taught in art school from day one to always refer to myself as an artist. I was taught to defend that title as capital. I don’t agree with that anymore.

Where do you see your creativity fitting into a big picture -  your family, your community, your town/state/world/cosmos?

I think we all need to be doing hard work to save and defend lives on the planet so I don’t think artists get to just make pretty and be exempt from that. Everyone should feel welcome to call themselves artists. Everyone has an obligation to care for their planet and the lives that inhabit it.

What do you value most in your creative process?

I LOVE the experience of jumping into another project with a new group of collaborators. This is the best thing about my job.

Anything else you want to share with Look at This?

I’m excited to have a platform like Look At This that appreciates the kind of art that I make. Art is for everyone.

Screen Shot 2021-07-02 at 5.48.45 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-07-02 at 5.49.05 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-07-02 at 5.48.57 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-07-02 at 5.49.18 PM.png