How everything started
For the final project for Integrated Studio 1, I had the opportunity to choose within a list of artists that touches upon their personal or collective memory to replicate one of their pieces and get inspired from their work to create one. When I was looking at the list of artists given by Professor Charlotte Schultz, I found Giorgio di Chirico, Sophie Calle, and Lorna Simpson particularly interesting.
Research: Giorgio de Chirico
After researching on each of their work, I decided to work on Lorna Simpson. Her work is contemporary, direct and truthful. She is a based in Brooklyn photographer born in 1960, and most of her work touches upon the stereotypes of women in color in America. To have a final product, I had to pass through a long process of understanding the project, and its purpose. I also spent time a significant amount of time researching Lorna Simpson thoroughly before starting to replicate, and make my inspiration piece.
Research on Lorna Simpson
The based in Brooklyn photographer, Lorna Simpson touches upon the stereotypes of race and gender in America focusing on her work mostly in portraying how that affects African American women. Lorna tries to find different ways to get the viewer to think of an issue with her work. Whenever she gets knowledgeable with a particular medium, she begins to challenge herself to learn about and work in different ones. Her work is conceptual, current and direct. Although she does mostly photographs, Lorna also creates videos, collages, and paintings. Lorna Simpson has been on the scene since the 1980s after she graduated from School of Visual Arts and began to work on her installations. She gets inspired by her surroundings and presents big format of photographs and collages in which she not only plays interestingly with light, but she also makes us reflect on a social issue of the time.
Between 1985 and 1988, Lorna Simpson created series of photographs in which she would remove the details of the person being photographed such as “Twenty Questions,” and would use words to give the piece a bigger meaning. Most of the time these pieces were black and white silver gelatin prints. The following year, she continued with these series of photographs and included some Polaroid prints as well. During the 1990s her works begin to feel like poetry, due to the words that she includes next to the photographs, and she tells stories of people she might or might not know. In 1991, Lorna experimented with photogravure with silkscreen photographs as well as with diffusion color Polaroid prints as her famous series “Same.” For her it was crucial to move to another material when she felt too comfortable with one, we can observe this in how in 1992 she continued experimenting with photo linen panel, lithographs, and photo linen glass. By 2001, she sticks to series of Gelatin prints under semi-transparent plexi with black vinyl lettering. Most of these works were untitled and represented portraits of women’s faces looking at different directions to tell a story. In the previous years, from 2014 and 2016, Lorna Simpson has explored with photo booth portraits, and with found collage on paper.
In her photographs, Lorna played with the use of lighting to create emphasis on specific figures and to take importance to others. Her use of color was limited when she began her work since the photographs were mostly black and white gelatin prints. Nevertheless, in her most previous work, Lorna uses color sporadically to bring emotion to a particular part of the photograph. In her collages of “Reunite and Ice,” she uses different colors for each black women’s hair as to give importance to the beauty of that part of their heritage. Her compositional strategy is most of the time having the figure centered, and creating a dialogue with the prints that accompany each series. Due to her lack of interest in analog film, Lorna Simpson did not start creating videos until the medium became digitalized. In her video work, she plays more with color as she does in“Momentum” or “Corridor Still.”
Lorna Simpson is a contemporary artist that has and will continue experimenting with different mediums and techniques to convey messages that are not touched upon enough. Her work is simple, but complex, and is at all times connected to the truth she perceives around her.
Twenty Questions (1986)
Reunite and Ice – Collage #11 (2014)
Corridor Still (2003)
Replica of Lorna Simpson’s Piece ID
Identify – Replica
Replica of ID
When I was exploring her work, I was particularly compelled by the series of photographs she made from 1985 until the 2000s in which she removed the details of the person being photographed, and used those mysterious photographs to create a poetic meaning by the side with words. I was fascinated by these types of oeuvres such as “Five Day Forecast” (1988), “Stereo Styles” (1988), and “ID” (1990). For my replica, I wanted to make one of these three and ended up deciding to replicate “ID,” which I thought seemed to be the rawest and to the point photograph of the three. Coincidentally, I have already seen this piece in person displayed at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, which was very helpful for me when recreating it. It made me want to make my replica as big and impacting as I could.
I knew I was limited for the replica since I did not have the exact model that Lorna Simpson used. Nevertheless, I proposed myself to make it seem as similar as possible. I asked my friend Bailee Mason to model for my replica, lighting kit, and an external flash for my digital camera a Sony a7. I set up the entire photoshoot during the Integrative Studio class. I spent around two hours with Bailee trying to get the right angle and lighting. We did not achieve the exact lighting even though we spent that long working on it. Therefore, most of my work was done in my computer on Photoshop. The photos I had of Bailee did not have a background that was pure black as the one in “ID.” I first selected the images that I thought could be the most effective replicas, and when I decided which ones I was going to use for the panel of “identity” and “identify”, I made masks and edited the background color. I also played with the levels, the exposure/contrast, and the temperature of my photographs. After I had my photographs fully edited, I included the words “identify” and “identity” on top of them to get my replicas ready.
Process Photos Replica
For my inspiration piece the process was slightly different. I thought first on what message I wanted to convey with my piece. I thought of which were Lorna Simpson’s most touched upon topics, and most of them had to with inequalities. From there, I brainstormed on disparities that I felt strongly about, and I came up with economic inequalities. I talked with Professor Charlotte about what was my inspiration for this, which was my cousin who is currently on a coma in Venezuela, and her economic stance does not allow her to be taken care of by the best doctors. With my piece, I wanted to make a commentary on how some of us are born with privilege and some are not (and how sometimes this seems to be a matter of luck).
With this in mind, I looked again at Lorna Simpson’s photographs and got inspired by “Plaques” (1986), and “Bio” (1992).
“Plaques” touches upon a sense of luck by including the game rock, paper, scissors, and how the race you are born with sometimes seems to feel like luck, and how she does not understand the way that works. Also, in that oeuvre Simpson cut her photographs in circles which I thought was interesting. I was also inspired by “Bio” because it touches upon how we are born (our biology), the way life treats us and the way we treat it back (biography), and how we are after we die (biopsy). This oeuvre was fascinating to me because I thought it related to the idea of being born as part of a lower class, and how sometimes it seems to be a game of cards, and how that game can either stay the same or vary during your lifetime.
To convey the message I was interested in, I brainstormed once again. I thought of including the element of luck by including a coin and the heads and tails gambling game. I wanted to show how the monetary privilege we are born with seems to me like a game. After having three iterations, I decided to create a photo-based piece in which the first thing you notice is the photograph of a coin in both of its sides, and the “heads” and “tails” words that go with that. Then I decided to show what would happen if you get either option. I first had an idea of taking a photograph of a window that took you to another window, and then for the tails just have a closed wall. I tried taking that idea into practice, but it was not effective. You could not tell what the photographs were; it was very confusing. As a consequence, I thought of another idea which I thought to be more effective. I wanted to have the same photo of a hotel food cover, and to have below that a photo of a plate filled with food, and a plate with nothing in there. I ended up using that idea. Unfortunately, I could not find a real hotel food cover and instead bought a microwave cover for food. I spray painted in silver the microwave cover to make it look more like the cover I had in mind. I photographed the coins, the microwave cover, and the plates (with and without food), and then I edited the colors in Lightroom and cut the borders of each photograph in Photoshop. I also found a font similar to the one Lorna Simpson uses in her pieces to make the tags of “heads” and “tails.”
During the critique, I heard mixed comments on my inspiration piece. There seemed to be a confusion as to what was the microwave cover was. Most people in the class thought it was a bottom. I was told that the message I wanted to convey was not clear enough without a real image of the hotel food cover. If I had the chance to do it again, I would try to find a real hotel food cover.
Process Photos Inspiration Piece
Making my final studio projects was an exciting task. I enjoyed studying an artist of my interest, learning from her process, trying to replicate and then getting inspired from it. I also learned from the projects that the rest of my class did. I became particularly interested in Sophie Calle and Otto Dix. I find intriguing how Calle used to follow individuals to get very personal stories from them and to make her art to talk about someone else’s truth and not only her. From Dix, I found it is incredible how he wants to show the imperfections of the individuals. Undoubtedly, I will continue studying different artists and designers in my career in the arts.
Brownuniversity. “Lorna Simpson, Artist Talk 10.8.15.” YouTube, YouTube, 2 Dec. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDD7pCLwoxg.
TEDxTalks. “Lorna Simpson at TEDxMet.” YouTube, YouTube, 18 Dec. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=xufVY0yEeFQ.
DaveVisionProducer. “Artist Lorna Simpson, Part 1: Photographer, Printmaker.” YouTube, YouTube, 5 Dec. 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2FVk10GEiw.
tate. “Lorna Simpson – Studio Visit | TateShots.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 Mar. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNk098ffjLM.
“Lorna Simpson Studio.” Lorna Simpson Studio, www.lsimpsonstudio.com/#s=0&mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&p=4&a=0&at=0.