Much of your work involves deconstructing something and re-presenting it in a new way. How does this concept of reinventing play out in your own life?
I feel my work has always engaged with an aspect of social documentation and commentary even when it is staged. As I reflect on my work, I notice that what has been recorded over the years are subtle changes to the way we live, the way we appear. And this applies to the images I have made in my own home—it’s a kind of visual history of our house.
Sadly the images that I have made are few and far between. But I’m constantly looking at images from the past and always interested in how we see ourselves through this lens today and the differences that exist between the two.
This idea of looking to the past… You rework a lot of historical pieces to represent contemporary life in your work, and I think that there’s an element of responsibility in that. What is it that you feel responsible for in your art?
Working with historical images can be tricky because of the attachment people have to them. Seeing them subverted and parodied can be affronting to some, especially when the pieces represent very different social, cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Not only do they occupy a space reserved for these revered characters, they, in fact, replace them. This puts considerable burden on those stepping into the place of these historic images and to perform there publicly.
I try to make sure that my models understand the role they are playing and what it might mean for them and to others. It is often about trust, but sometimes it is difficult to know how the work will be understood. I feel a responsibility to give voice to these groups and individuals, and to present them through familiar and powerful images of the past.
One of the ways that you re-present these images is through your use of mixed media. What is it about photography and mixed media that you’re drawn to? Has this changed over time?
I’ve always loved the way photography can condense the world into a single frame so seamlessly and faithfully, recording its minutiae. But so much rests on what is presented here. Realism can be a burden because of what it reveals, and sometimes I want to escape from the veracity of the photographic image and incorporate other materials and ways of working. While the photograph has incredible depth it is also very static and flat, and I find this frustrating at times. So sometimes I try to make my photos move or introduce sound in order to layer the image.
I began working with photomontage in my very early practice, cutting and pasting photographic images together to make an image and using historical reproductions. I’ve come full circle, except that now I’m doing it digitally.