23 January 2009

Spotlight on.....Amy Meza Luraschi

Laundry, Photo by Amy Meza Luraschi.

I am very excited because some of my interviewee's answers are now starting to roll in to my inbox! Here is an interview with my friend Amy Luraschi: talented photographer, teaching artist and friend since high school. Amy and I spent countless hours in Mr. Morris's Photography class and hanging out in the darkroom and studio during study hall and after school. We lost touch for awhile but the craziness that is Facebook put us back in touch with each other-- and I am so thankful for that!!

How has your career in photography and teaching unfolded? or How did you get to where you are today?
I have always been fascinated with art ever since I was a little girl. One of my earliest memories was sitting at my grandparents’ desk for hours with a box of crayons and scrap paper. They were very encouraging of my artistic side and proudly displayed my scribbled creations on the refrigerator door. I like to think of this as my first official gallery showing! In high school, I took a photography class on a whim and so began my love affair with it. I was drawn to how empowering a camera can be. It gave me a voice and enabled me the ability to express myself through images. My teacher had a huge influence on me. He was really passionate about photography and encouraged us to explore our ideas to the fullest. He taught me that photographs are so much more than pretty pictures. They can have meaning and tell a story.

I went on to get my BFA in photography and then moved to Chicago. I worked at an art store there for 4 years. I loved working there because I got to meet a lot of creative people. It was fun to help customers with their art projects. However, I started feeling really restless. I knew I didn’t want to work at the art store for the rest of my life. I wanted to start developing a career. That job helped me realize how much I liked working with people one-on-one and that I wanted to become an art teacher. This way, art could still remain an essential part of my life. I wanted to motivate and inspire people just like my high school photography teacher did. I decided to go to graduate school for Art Education and get my teacher certification. After I graduated, I ended up coming back to Buffalo and got involved with CEPA Gallery and MUSE, Inc. I worked at both organizations as a teaching artist. I’d go into public schools and do photography and video projects with kids ranging from 5th grade to high school. Now, 3 years later, I’m the Lead Teaching Artist at CEPA. I do in-school residencies, after-school and summer programs and I absolutely love it! I get to work with kids from all over the city and introduce them to the magic of a camera. It is constantly inspiring. I am always so amazed at the images my kids create. I think it’s so important for them to have a voice and an outlet to express what it feels like to be growing up in the current state of the world. I couldn’t be happier with my career right now!

What photographers, other artists, mentors, teachers, books, artworks, etc. had an influence on your creative development?
The writings of Albert Camou and Rainer Marie Rilke, the music of Jason Molina and Songs:Ohia, and films by Woody Allen and Jean-Luc Godard. The photographers that have inspired my work the most are Cindy Sherman, Nikki S. Lee, Nan Goldin, Adrian Piper, Francesca Woodman, and Lee Friedlander.

How do you get through artist's block?
I try to have a variety of creative projects going on at once. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming to work nonstop on a body of work. I never want it to be forced, so I always welcome the opportunity to do something crafty. I love crocheting, embroidery and sewing. Sometimes, I use these processes in my work. I was obsessed with clouds for a while started making crocheted sculptures. I also embroidered song lyrics about love onto the pockets of sweaters and shirts. Something I’ve found to be really important to avoiding artist’s block is trying to take pictures every day. I’ve been using my cell phone as a way of documenting my daily experiences. For example, I was walking down Elmwood Ave and saw a heart-shaped puddle on the sidewalk. I like how easy and accessible a cell phone camera can be. It’s like having a tape recorder in my pocket,
recording my daily encounters.

What's on your reading list right now?
I’ve been reading J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.

What artists or artworks are you currently looking at?
I am currently enthralled with the work of Francesca Woodman. Her self-portraits are absolutely stunning and haunting. Her story is tragic because she committed suicide when she was in her early 20’s. Her images always depict her merged into her surroundings.

(Photo: Self Portrait by Francesca Woodman)

What inspires you?
Honestly, my students are the biggest inspiration to me! I am always so amazed at the images they create with black and white disposable cameras. For many of them, it’s their first time using a camera and they want to document every aspect of their life. It’s very inspiring to see through their eyes! My favorite part about teaching is hearing why they took the pictures they did. There is always a sense of genuine pride and excitement.

You just had an exhibit, Apt. Noir, at Big Orbit, how did it go? Did you come away with new insights or feedback on your work?
The show went better than I could have ever imagined! I was so humbled by the turn out at the opening and the number of people that went during the time the show was up. What I enjoyed most about the experience was hearing people’s interpretations of the work. That made the work a success to me. People found humor in the images and others felt it was very emotional. I like that such a duality exists in the work. One of the most interesting comments I heard was that the images seemed provocative and lured the viewer in for more, but they were only allowed in so close before the figure in the image (me), stopped them.

The work you are currently making turns the camera on you as a subject. What are the challenges of making this kind of work?
It is a very vulnerable position to put yourself in. I think that was one of the original reasons why I cropped my head out. Technically, it was difficult because I used a self-timer and had to run back and forth between the camera and my place in the image. I have always been a believer in the happy accident and definitely think chance played a role in these images.

What is your dream project??
Recently, I have had an opportunity to do some curatorial projects. I would love to do more projects like this. I have a friend that takes phenomenal pictures on his walk to work every morning. He sends them periodically and that is as far as they go –my inbox. It would be so exciting to make prints of his work and have them on display or invite others to participate in the same morning ritual that he does. I’m working on trying to make this dream project a reality. Stay tuned!

What are you working on now?
In Apt.Noir, I am in the safe confines of my apartment. Now, it’s time for me to go outside into the world… It’s a gradual submersion for me, so blending into my surroundings seems like the natural next step. Recently, I was inspired by the lyrics in an Iron and Wine song (Love and Some Verses), “May I be weaved in your hair”. I began shooting hairscapes (this is definitely a working title). In these scapes, I have enlisted friends to photograph my hair in various landscapes (The ocean, snow, on concrete steps)… I like the idea of trying to blend in to or becoming a part of the ground.

Do you prefer working with film or digital photography?
For a long time, I would have answered film… I’ve always felt that before you can start making abstract paintings, you must first learn the fundamentals of drawing. Beginning with how to hold a pencil. This enables you to make lines of varied density and thickness. I think the same applies to photography. Before you can really explore the medium, it’s important to learn the process: the history of how it came to be and also the chemical process of how an image is captured on film and how to enlarge a print in the darkroom. I will admit that I am working primarily in digital now because it’s more convenient and accessible, but I am definitely adamant about the importance of teaching black and white film photography.

What is your creative process?
I am always doodling in notebooks or jotting down ideas on scraps of paper. This is usually how my work originates. An important part of my process comes form sharing experiences, bouncing ideas and generating discussions with my friends. I am grateful to have a lot of creative people in my life, especially my boyfriend who is also an artist and teacher. He has been a huge support of my creative endeavors this past year.

Amy Meza Luraschi is a native Buffalonian who received her BFA from the University of Buffalo and her MAT from Columbia College in Chicago. She is currently pursuing her MFA in the Visual Studies Department at the University of Buffalo. Amy is a certified Art teacher for grades K-12 and has taught in Buffalo and Chicago Public Schools. She has also served as adjunct faculty at Niagara University and the University of Buffalo. Amy currently lives in the city and is the Lead Teaching Artist for CEPA Gallery's Education Programs.

Thanks Amy!!!!