Interview / Kay Erickson

My goal is to create an overall avoidance of the mundane, emotionless and non-reflective image. I want the piece to stir some emotion. I want the spirit of the place or object in my photographs to come through.

-Kay Erickson

Aswan Temple

Aswan Temple

Kay is a second generation photographer who, as a child, watched her Mother hand color photographs. Once she received her first camera at age 7, she was hooked. Kay went on to study at the University of Minnesota, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, Summa cum Laude, in Photography and Sculpture; and subsequently earned her Master’s degree.Her work has been exhibited in various cities throughout Europe, including Amsterdam, and Stockholm. Her images have been licensed worldwide. Kay has exhibited her work locally in Southern California in the Long Beach, East Village artist’s community. Kay has been awarded a Mayoral Proclamation from the Major of Santa Monica, California for her work as an artist in residence with the Santa Monica/Malibu School District, teaching math standards through the art of photography.Having just returned from India, where she attended a photographic workshop with 9 other photographers who used their skills to create photographic presentations for various non-governmental organizations in Calcutta, she brings a photographic series of her train ride from Calcutta to the holy city of Varanaasi photographed through the train window.Through her extensive travels, Kay captures images of the people in local communities around the world in their cultural surroundings. Through these images, she hopes to convey the humanity that we all share, and in the process, hopefully eliminate some of the present stereotypes that are contributing to worldwide unrest.

Kay

Could you tell us about yourself?

My name is Kay Erickson, and I was born in Minneapolis, MN; where I earned a BFA in Photography from the University of Minnesota, then later a MS degree from Minnesota State University – Mankato.  I have worked in a lot of different fields, but photography has always been my first choice.  I’ve always been interested in creative endeavors since I was a child.  I used to watch my Mother hand tint black and white photos when I grew up, and when I was 7 years old I received my first film camera, and have never stopped shooting photographs.

Citroen

Citroen

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?

I took a lot of art history courses for my BFA, and was exposed to classic forms from early Greek art up to Impressionism and modernism.  My art professors at the University of Minnesota were also classically trained and my photo professor, Allen Downs, (Lila Downs’ father) also taught us to crop in the camera, and to always print full frame. One photographer that I’ve always admired was Edward Steichen, who used to etch his negatives to give a more painterly look to his photos.

There is your artwork you prefer?

My style has been constantly evolving from basic black & white film sourced photographs, to hand-tinted black & white photos, then onto sepia toned photos, and finally the jump to digital photography.  Several series that I really still enjoy are my sepia toned photos from Egypt from 2005, and my hand-tinted, sepia toned series: Painted Lady taken of a heavily tattooed, semi-nude model.  I also like my series of digital photos taken with a Holga lens, mounted on my Nikon SLR.

Karnak Holyman

Karnak Holyman

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

What’s the best thing about being a woman artist?

Being able to benefit from the women artists who broke ground before me. Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Tina Modotti, Diane Arbus, to name a few. I think of the devastation of Camille Claudel in conjunction with her work with Rodin, and feel a responsibility to take full advantage of what the earlier artists had to go through in order to be able to be free to express myself through photography and freely display them in exhibitions.

What is the most difficult part of being a female artist?

There aren’t too many disadvantages in the 21st century that I’ve experienced.  There are so many successful woman artists now, that I think as a whole, women have more than proved their worth in the art world.  As long as I keep up on the technical aspects of photography, like everyone else in the photo world, then I have the confidence to communicate with photo labs, galleries, and photo supply vendors.

What has been your solution for that?

As I mentioned above, in keeping up with technical innovations in photography, and viewing new and historical photographs in museums, galleries, and periodicals.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

There are times when I didn’t sell photos at an exhibition, or win a competition, where I felt that my work may not be as good as it could be, but then I realized that I was using markers to success that weren’t realistic. I think that as long as I feel good about my photography, and continue to evolve as a photographer, that I am succeeding. I think it may be important not to tie success to monetary goals, and to look at your photography as statements and interpretation, rather than a means to a financial end.

Aswan Woman

Aswan Woman

How do you look at your previous pieces?

Looking back always makes me see my earlier works a little different.  The more distant I get from the point of creation, the more I can look at the pieces in a purely objective manner.

How does your cultural background affect your work?

Coming from the relatively stable Midwest, I can certainly appreciate different cultures and struggles that other people in different parts of the world are going through.  I was lucky to be able to travel as I was growing up because my Mother worked for the airlines, and we traveled someplace new each year.  That got me interested in other places, and different cultures, which I am still pursuing today.

Clinic Ketchen

Clinic Ketchen

Which project are you dreaming of?

I have worked in India with NGOs in order to provide them with photos for fundraising and marketing.  Any project where I can help a group of people along with getting great images for exhibitions is a win for me.

What is up and coming for you, as projects?

I am currently working on a project with the Ojibwe Nation in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The Native Americans have an oral history, and many of the stories that have been passed down may be lost if the current generation doesn’t record them for future generations.  There are also herbal remedies, and healing ceremonies that need to be kept alive.  I have taped some interviews already about growing up on a reservation 60 years ago, and want to continue to record more stories, creating an archive of interviews and portraits, housed in one of the reservations in the Midwest.  I would also like to provide cameras to the children who live on the reservations so they can continue to record their experiences and add them to the archive.

Shaman With Prayer Pole

Shaman With Prayer Pole

What would you like to do next?

Continue with the Ojibwe project and hopefully secure some grants to be able to continue my work with the project. I would also like to go back to Calcutta, India and document a temple by the Ganges, with the people who live by the temple and their lifestyle.

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For more artwork, visit Kay’s website and Women Artists of the World ;)

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Presented by International Foundation for Women Artists

 

Interview / Mary Coss

“My sculpture explores narratives that are personal, yet globally informed meditations on our cultural landscape”.
-Mary Coss

3 Graces

3 Graces

This week we present Seattle based artist Mary Coss who makes artwork inspired by life’s stories. Born in Detroit and raised in an atmosphere of politics, art, and spirituality she has lived throughout the United States collecting stories and telling them through her artwork. Coss received her Master of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and has accumulated an extensive national exhibition record, focusing on alternative venues and community and public art projects. Coss has received residencies and grants from institutions such as the Candyland Arts Center in Stockholm, the National Endowment for the Arts, the San Juan Island Museum and Sculpture Park, James Washington Foundation, and Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture. Mary Coss’s public art experience encompasses a wide range of commissioned installations and written community art plans. Her public work is in numerous collections including King County and Seattle Housing Authorities, McNeil Island Corrections Center, and Port Angeles Fine Arts Center. Coss’s curatorial experience includes exhibitions at METHOD Gallery, North Seattle Community College Art Gallery, the Columbia City Guest Gallery, Another Roadside Gallery, and co-curated projects for the New City Gallery.

My sculpture explores narratives that are personal, yet globally informed meditations on our cultural landscape. I am interested in the intersection of nature and the human made, nature and the sociopolitical. I explore issues through the universal commonalities of ancestral bones, feminist struggles, and artifacts from nature. Often my projects engage community or create interventions in nature.

I am working in the space between the real and the imagined; abstractions from our lives are reworked using metaphor, nostalgia, humor, and ultimately, reflection. Poignant interpretations use the unexpected, navigating scale or unusual material that reflects and builds on the intention of the work. The layering of text and sound has organically evolved from my use of story as inspiration. Integration of sound and story with the visual creates a third form of experience.

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?

People are my inspiration. I have done a lot of work around issues of identity, both others and my own. I’m inspired by stories and also simple things I come across in life. Strewn broken umbrellas on the street in NYC inspired my umbrella formed skirts. A long saw blade in a trash pile inspired a protective hoop skirt.

Finding an incredible overgrown tree with thick Ivy growth inspired ladderwalk- I wondered how a calculated machined wood intervention would appear inside such rich organic growth.

The Frameworks of Who I Am

The Frameworks of Who I Am

Serendipity Installation with video

Serendipity
Installation with video

How do you look at your previous pieces?

I see them in the same way I look at my memories, they are poignant, sometimes naive, sometimes worth revisiting and sometimes not.

How does your cultural background affect/inspire your work?

My recent work is a lot about this. Bloodlines is a  body of work on cultural inheritance and an investigation into my ancestral history. Blood and Water was inspired by genealogical mapping. Plotting the emigrant points of my ancestors on a map revealed a pattern; most of my family lived near the coastlines. Water has guided my personal moves from the great lakes to the east coast to the west coast. Finding I had a commonality with centuries of ancestors living near the water inspired this work. The poem Blood and Water is recorded in four voices, dialects from my ancestral countries of Ireland, Scotland, and France, layered with the sound of waves crashing. You can read the poem here. Here is an excerpt from the soundtrack.

Artist installilng blood and water

Blood and Water mockup

Blood and Water mockup

Blood and Water

Blood and Water

Blood and Water

Blood and Water

What’s the best thing about being a woman artist?

Haha well I do think women have a tendency to be able to multitask which is a required skill for artists. I think I have to think a while on this one.

What is the most difficult part of being a female artist?

Ha ha again, all the multi-tasking. because we can, we take on too much.

How do you manage in such a situation?

Lately not so well, I’m trying to say no to things. But I stay afloat by making lists and staying up very late at night.

What do you think is the artist in society?

To make people reconsider, question, it’s a way to communicate and have others rethink their assumptions on life. To understand the world in a different way to see it differently to push the culture forward socially and politically and through what we value and to keep in touch with what is important and has meaning- beauty, nature, life.

Layers of the hijab

Layers of the Hijab

Layers of the hijab

Layers of the Hijab

Layers of the Hijab

Layers of the Hijab

Did you ever feel like giving up? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given at that time?

Only say yes to the things you really want to do. No matter how difficult it is to say no to things- if they aren’t on your chosen path, say no, otherwise those very things you do not want to do will fill the path.

Once I started saying no to the things I didn’t really want to do, the things I did want to do started filling up my time.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Follow what has meaning for you. That is what keeps you going.

This Birds has Flown

This Birds has Flown

What is your dream project?

Not sure, have to think about this.

What do you want to do next?

I am working on some female imagery that is inspired by a mix of social issues and whirling dervishes.

bebés la leche

bebés la leche

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Her exhibitions are going on now in Seattle. You can check them in our blog!

Images of the Homeland by Mary Coss / January 14- Fabruary 7, 2014
Public Debt to the Suffragette by Mary Coss / January 2- February 15, 2014

Also you can see more in Mary’s website and our Women Artists of the World website.