Studio/Seminar Bridge #4 – Artist Journal

Even though from a very young age I have been certain of the fact that I am designer, I have always been on the fence about what it is that I want to major in within the art and design realm. Having a hoard of choices offered at Parsons makes my choices harder yet exciting, and hence I have used my experiences in the first semester of my freshman year to challenge myself and explore my capabilities as much as possible. In my Studio and Seminar Integrative I have tried to put myself out of my comfort zone by experimenting with new mediums and themes.

In the fourth and final Bridge Project, I did so by working with photography. The project demanded that we thoroughly research an artist of our choice (whose work we were expected to personally view at a current exhibition) and produce a 1200 worded journal or sketchbook adopting their persona. The artist I chose was American street photographer, Helen Levitt. Born to Russian-Jewish immigrants in New York in 1913 right within the turmoil of the aftermath of the first world war, she rose to fame around the late 1930’s during the Great Depression hence lending a unique eye to the landscape before and during the second world war. For her imagined journal I created a hard-bound accordion book with a mix of her original work, and my own photographs that imitated her style of the black and white (with sepia undertones) children’s street photographs, theme of reality versus the fantasy as much as possible. The photographs were arranged in a way that every page had one on it, and that the page resembled a polaroid to give the book a more interesting feature, and the reason I chose an accordion format was so that you could open up the book to create a string of polaroids. Since Levitt does not like talking about her work much, and prefers them to be self explanatory as seen by her quote, “Since I am inarticulate, I express myself through images” (which I used like an artist’s statement at the start of her journal), I inserted as little writing as possible within the journal I made for studio, and stuck to very short and just the important phrases. Instead, I added another feature where every alternate page had a mini pull out flag book on it which featured a collage of two photographs (both which I had taken) to show how she preferred experimenting with her photographs and exploring it through visual means over verbal means.

A huge part of the process behind my work is that I extensively research about the various aspects of my work through different means. This is because I want to do complete justice to the theme that I explore, and I aim to represent it in the most holistic and authentic way possible. Hence, I read a lot of many scholarly articles about Levitt, researched interviews and visited her work to gather as much information about her as possible. Yet, it was challenging writing about her work simply because she didn’t like talking about it. So based on the knowledge that her themes dealt with the juxtaposition between reality and the imagined world, and that she toyed with appearances as a concept, I adopted her voice as far as I could and tried to get into her head to re-imagine backstories, monologues and ideas to write her journal. I kept the social and political contexts of her work in mind as well to ensure that the journal was as close to what she could write as possible.

I make art to express certain phenomena in a way that exists only in one’s imagination and to a certain level, art that reflects reality. My process lies within the will to always do better, look deeper, see further and beyond the tangible. To let the thing that fuels me, consume my creative process. That is exactly what I have done with my studio and seminar integrative. I have taken a concept that fuels me up, and let my creative side run wild with it, and push me to explore things that I wouldn’t before just to discover how far I can go with my art. Paula Scher once said that “It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow. You have to get bad in order to get good.” and I decided long ago to live by this. I believe in forever evolving as my work progresses and learning from its highs and lows.

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