Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Art Space Talk: Stephanie Diamond

I learned about Stephanie Diamond from reading an article on Paddy Johnson’s Art Fag City blog. Stephanie Diamond has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, and has had solo exhibitions at Incident Report (Hudson, New York) in 2008, Cuchifritos Gallery (New York) in 2005, Para-Site Gallery (Beacon, New York) also in 2005, and at Galeria Sin Titulo (San Juan, Puerto Rico) in 2004.

Stephanie Diamond's work has been included in group exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art (Queens, New York), P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center (Long Island City, New York), The Sculpture Center (Long Island City, New York), The Studio Museum in Harlem (New York), The New York Historical Society (New York), The Katonah Museum of Art (Katonah, New York), The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York), The Newark Arts Council (New Jersey), The Light Factory, (Charlotte, North Carolina), La Fabrica del Vapore/Open Space, (Milan, Italy), Contemporary Art Center (Vilnius, Lithuania), Andrew Kreps Gallery (New York), Ramis Barquet Gallery (New York), Art In General (New York), Artists Space (New York), Gallery 400 (Chicago), Kevin Bruk Gallery (Miami, Florida), Reg Vardy Gallery, (Sunderland, England) and Jan Mot Galerie, (Belgium).

Diamond was an artist in residence at LMCC Swing Space, Art Omi, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, and M and M Projects in San Juan Puerto Rico. She is the recipient of a Puffin Foundation Grant (2002), Athena Foundation Grant (2003), and a nominee for The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2003). Her work is in the permanent collection of Bank of America, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Francis Greenberger Foundation. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Time Out New York, the New York Post, and MoMA Magazine. She received her B.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design (1997) and her M.A. from New York University (2004).

Brian Sherwin: Stephanie, you studied at RISD, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and at New York University. Can you briefly tell us about your academic years? Did you have any influential instructors? Do you have any advice for current students?

Stephanie Diamond: As a student, I learned how to critique very early on in my freshman year. I took a class at RISD during a semester called Wintersession; a time when we were encourage to not focus on our major. I cannot recall the name or kind of class I took; all I remember is not making any artwork. I only took part in critiques. I learned the art of critique so to say, and this led me to learn the art of idea making and object making.

Later in school I went to Mexico during a Wintersession, and this proved to be fruitful as well. Stepping out of what I know and what is “safe” never ceases to provide me with the best opportunities. Advice… learn where your ideas come from, learn how to give and take critique, learn how to write a resume and artist statement, and learn how to verbally articulate what it is you do visually.

BS: Tell us about your process as a photographer. In your opinion, what is the ‘perfect image’ as far as photography is concerned?

SD: As an obsessive image-maker. I began photographing as an artist at the age of 13, and since then, I have documented my -- and everyone who comes in contact with me -- life. I use a small and compact 35 mm film camera, and all of my photos are amassed in an archive of over 100,000 of my images (image above).

As far as the perfect image I do not suppose any photograph is a “bad” photograph, and I believe there is no such thing as “low” or “high” photography. I use photographs to help me articulate that the whole universe is connected. For me, photographs render what I see in the world into objects. This translation aids in my understanding that everything is energy, and capturing something or someone with a photo is making an object out of that energy.

It is my desire that the photo as an object holds this idea as well, and with this object we are capable to experience the subject matter in real time, in the now. It is my wish that through these visual representations one begins to realize and feel that there is really no separation between the subject in the photo, the object they are holding, and themselves. Photo for me, is proof that we are all connected as one.
BS: I understand that you were attracted to photography at a young age. Do you ever reflect on those early experiences within the context of the work you create today?

SD: I remember taking, and still have, my first photograph; it was taken in “It’s a Small World” at Disney Land (image above). I was 4 years old when I took it. The image is of a genie with her head resting on her hands. It is blurry, and was taken with an instamatic. I also have a photo timeline that is made up of my photos that mark important milestones for me. It consists of: 4 years old, my first photograph taken in “It’s a Small World” at Disney Land. 13 years old, the first photograph I printed. Also 13 years old, the first photograph where I realized that I was a photographer. Junior year in college, the first photograph where I visually articulated my reasons for creating, and a few images thereafter that do that same. The most resent image that was added to the timeline is of my niece and her two friends (image below). This image is part of my series on my family.

BS: What about other influences? Where do you draw inspiration? Any specific artists or events?

SD: One major influence is my dance practice. I dance the 5 Rhythms; which I have been taking classes three to four times a week for the past two years. The 5 Rhythms is a moving meditation practice founded by Gabrielle Roth in the 1960’s. It borrows from various forms of trance and ecstatic dance modalities, and is a modality within itself. The practice works with the idea that people flow in and out of waves throughout their life; the 5 Rhythms make up a wave. They are: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness.

Each rhythm pertains to a different way in which we move, express, and understand ourselves. By dancing these rhythms we allow our bodies to be danced, step out of our heads/ego, and enter into a meditative state of being. The dance is a physical, emotional and spiritual curriculum that systematically leads us to retrieve the instinctive movements of body, heart and mind.
There are many artists and projects that have influenced me throughout the years as well. A few of them are:
Jacob Riis
Helen Levit’s color photographs
Fred Wilson’s, Mining the Museum
Daniel Martinez’s, Consequences of a Gesture, a parade that brought together Mexican American and African American
groups in Chicago who do not generally join forces.
Grant Kester's writing on dialogical based art practices
Miranda July and Harold Fletcher, Learning to love you more on-line project
BS: Tell us more about the thoughts behind your work. Is there a specific message that you wish to convey from one series to the other?

SD: My passion to present and discuss photography across many vistas, as well as my critical insight, comes from my desire to connect communities and people. My process is not simply to take photographs but to use photography as a vehicle for understanding and knowing. It is my hope that my work changes the way in which people view photography, themselves, and the world.

Traditionally, the snapshot is a way to record fleeting moments and recall memories. The snapshot is also a symbol that can replace, store, release, ignite, erase, capture, prove, discover, and uncover memories. For years I have been reading my images in this way; with my camera I capture moments that are often overlooked or fleeting. My personal art training has taught me another way to give words to the long standing visual language of photography, and to transform it.

In terms of dance, like photographs, the body is also a place where these same actions take place. Through dance I have learned that experiencing my body in this capacity has effected my movement and my approach to image making and viewing. Through my dance training I have come to see that body memories can be unlocked and read just like my photos.

BS: Can you give our readers any insight into your future projects?

SD: My current work is created with an attempt to publicly bring dance and photo together. When I do this, I apply my experiences and interactions with other bodies that occur while dancing and sharing photographs. When this happens, I not only gain access to my own stored memories, but those of others as well. A piece that embodies this idea is the triptych "The Three Graces" (example below) on view at Ramis Barquet Gallery , November 13 - December 23.

BS: Which project have you enjoyed working on the most? Does one stick out, so to speak?

SD: I find that a community brings out my best self and as a result, my best work. When I am not working and living with community I am creating projects that evoke it. Projects of mine that “stick out” for me are:

Family Series . This series is the first time I focus on my photographic interaction with my birth community; as opposed to another.

Mi Memory es Su Memory .Visitors to the gallery created memories using my memories; they made personal photo album of photos, but could only use my photos to make them.

This Is What I Eat . “This Is What I Eat” is a single edition newspaper/cookbook created with residents living near and around Corona Plaza, Queens. Designed to look like a supermarket circular, the project was displayed and distributed for free in and around Corona Plaza and the Queens Museum.

These Are the Men Who Hit on Me on the Street . A series of over 300 photographs shot of the men who hit on me on the street. Through this project I achieve an equal exchange between myself, and the men who hit on me.
Community Search . A photo compilation of all the group photographs I have been part of.

BS: Stephanie, you have stated that you feel that photography is an art medium that non-artists are more apt to understand and relate to. Can you go into further detail about this opinion?

SD: Photography and photographs bridge gaps and provide access to places and people that would otherwise never converge or be seen. Almost anyone can own or use a camera, and the average person has widespread access to photography, whether it is simply walking outside on the street and looking at a billboard, or possessing a driver’s license. This is powerful to me.

BS: Can you give us some insight into your recent activity? Have you been involved with any recent exhibits or projects?

SD: I currently have work in, "Red Badge of Courage Revisited" as part of an exhibition sponsored by the Newark Arts Council , and last month I had a solo installation of my project "Framing the Family" (image above) at Incident Report in Hudson, NY.
In September I took part in the RISD Biannual at The Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn, NY where I showed a project I created with my archive and my mother's cookbook archive called "Passing the Baton" (image below). I also curated a photo essay called Do Attempt This art Home for the Art Fag City summer series IMG MGMT, and run an email project called the "Listings Project" where once a week I email a list with information about work and live spaces for rent, sublet, swap, and sale to 1,400 people.

BS: I find it interesting how intuition has woven itself so clearly into your artistic practice; this is apparent in all the work you do. Is there anything else you would like to say about your work or the goals that you have?

SD: I would like to thank you for this opportunity and for your interview. Articulating my work beyond the visual is a challenge that always provides me with inspiration, insight, and reflection. I hope your readers experience the same.

You can learn more about Stephanie Diamond by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

No comments: