05 August 2009

Spotlight on...Justine Reyes

Untitled, Vanitas, 2009, C-Print

You have done a lot of traveling throughout the world- and have been doing so since college, are there certain places that have affected you and your creativity above others?

My time in Italy and traveling throughout Africa has had a profound effect on me. I love seeking out craft and artisan specialties when I’m traveling. I relearned how to crochet from my Amai in Zimbabwe and was encouraged to really learn new patterns and techniques by my friend’s stepmother in Tanzania. I studied weaving, batik and soft sculpture at Fuji Studios in Florence in 1998 and 2000. It was there that I began thinking about ways to use traditional crafts in my contemporary art making practice.

Can you talk about your travels in general- and what traveling means to you?
Traveling is figuring out the world and figuring out my place in it.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a few new bodies of work. I began a still life series while in residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock this fall. This series is inspired by Dutch Vanitas paintings and incorporates personal objects of my own as well as objects that belonged to my grandmother. Pairing these objects together speaks to memory and the legacy that one leaves behind. Both the decomposition of the natural (rotting fruit and wilting flowers) and the break down of the man-made objects, reference the physical body and mortality. These objects bear witness to a spiritual trace or imprint that is left behind or residual.

I am also continuing my Away from Home series where I photograph my Mom and Uncle in hotel rooms around the world and I’m still shooting my Guayabera Series and will be crocheting my installation until this war finally ends.

Al, Barcelona, Away From Home, 2008, C-Print

You have worked on a few different bodies of work--images of different objects, your Uncle's t-shirts, the suitcases, how does one project transition into the next? What is your train of thought while you are making your work?
My process is very intuitive and each project builds organically. Much of my work demonstrates the power of objects to bear witness to intangible ideas and emotional truths and employs the iconography and symbols of common everyday objects as a means of communicating shared
experiences. The death of my uncle profoundly impacted me and has in large part brought me to my most current bodies of work, many of which include my family, the idea of leaving and returning home, and the longing to hold on to things that are ephemeral and transitory in nature.

What Remains, 2007, C-Print

What is your dream project?
I’d really like to be able to take my Mom and Uncle Al all over the world for my Away from Home series. This year we are planning to go to Morocco. Time and money are the biggest obstacles but I’m excited to see this work grow and develop over time.

Do you collect source materials? and If so, what?
I collect everything. Seriously. I have a collection of candy wrappers and boxes and even have some framed in shadow boxes. I really like packaging, especially things from foreign countries. I also have binders of images that I tear from Art Forum, Art in America and other magazines of work that I love. Linda Connor actually had us do this in school and it really helps me remember the names and work of other artists.

Untitled, Vanitas, 2009, C-Print

How does your art practice fit into your daily life? or how do you balance your art and your life?
It seems like everything I do is art related or at least 95%. Its good to have a job you love so you don’t feel bad when you’re working all the time. Finding balance is an endless goal.

How do you get through artist's block?
I am always working on projects simultaneously so I usually have too many ideas and not enough time but if I get blocked I would read more and revisit art history for inspiration or go running.

Mom, Barcelona, Away From Home, 2008, C-Print

What words and/or philosophy do you live by?
I don’t have a personal philosophy. I’m just living, making mistakes and trying to learn and grow.

Thank you Justine!!

Justine Reyes lives and works in New York. Reyes' work revolves around issues of identity, history and time; and our relationship to these themes in a post 9/11 world. Using photography and installation, she examines family, the idea of leaving and returning home, and the longing to hold on to things that are ephemeral and transitory in nature. she received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2004 and her BFA from Syracuse University in 2000.

Reyes’s recent work: Guayabera Series was included in Queens International 4 at The Queens Museum of Art. She was also recently awarded the Individual Artist Initiative (IAI) from the Queens Council on the Arts.