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Creativity and Turmoil, Part 2

  photo-eye Gallery   Creativity and Turmoil, Part 2    Anne Kelly, Amanda Marchand, David Trautrimas       Is turmoil fuel for an artistic process?

Throughout history, people have suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually during pandemic and quarantine, and through these shifts, many great works of art have been made. Recently, Gallery Director Anne Kelly asked a few photo-eye Gallery artists their thoughts on the belief that having a little turmoil can be used as fuel in the artistic process. 

In part two of this series, we hear from artists Amanda Marchand and David Trautrimas.  

Amanda Marchand

“Death cannot harm me more than you have harmed me, my beloved life.”  
                                                                                            — Louise Gluck
We’ve grown to accept the myth of the “suffering artist,” Van Gogh who cuts off an ear, the young Francesca Woodman who jumps from a window at 22, and Kurt Kobain, as a trade-off for “great” works of art. This question of having “a little turmoil” as fuel is universally accepted. While there are many examples of artists past and present who suffer for art’s sake, I think this idea does a disservice to creatives today. The artists I know are all wearers of many hats — and emotions. They are generally incredibly hard workers who have their act together and create from a place of pain as well as contemplation, curiosity, passion, joy, humor, intelligence, compassion, and intuition. If creatives feel life’s intensity to a greater degree and work from that place, I think it’s likely that they’ve simply given themselves the space and time to feel.

Right now, 2.5 years into a global Pandemic, with massive inflation, various democracies on the brink, women’s universal rights denied now even in the U.S., and glaring racial inequity, we are at a pretty intense point in history. For me, making art is utterly personal, intuitive, experimental, and from the heart, but taps into societal undercurrents. My work has always come out of an emotional register first, before anything, compelling me to create (photograph, edit, write, tape, cut, sew…). Sometimes I am working from a place of deep calm and contentment. I have been exploring breath and meditation as a creative path for the past few years. But the path of creation contains galaxies. So yes, drawing on a range of sources and emotions, “a little turmoil’ also fuels my practice, though I would never seek it out.

An upheaval or shock, a difficult truth, can be a galvanizing force: My mother’s terminal cancer, for instance, propelled me to make a body of work in her garden at night. The harrowing fact that we are losing 150 species a day on the earth, set in motion a project I am working on, a contemporary Field Guide to endangered birds, ferns, and flowers. Similarly, Trump’s inauguration, causing such radical divisiveness and upheaval, revealing a new world, gave way to a new way of working photographically for me — abandoning the camera to work camera-less. And again, the sudden pandemic generated 2 pandemic projects (still in progress), and then a third isolation-born long-distance collaboration, all a response to the heightened urgency and alarm we’ve been collectively experiencing.

As I spend more time making art, I see the importance of balance, nurture, self-care, and slowing down, as being simple but radical acts. I use art/photography and its many processes as a tool to —counter turmoil— in its various forms. What is so important and incredible about art, and throughout history, the way humans are drawn to it, is that it can be a register through which we synthesize, understand, or emote, pain, longing, beauty, loss, fear, and love. It’s a channel. Turmoil may go into the funnel or it may not, but something entirely different and often extraordinary will come out on the other side.

Amanda Marchand, Henslow's Sparrow, Unique archival pigment print, 2020, 18x15", Edition of 3.

As part of our video series photo-eye Conversations, Gallery Director Anne Kelly interviewed Marchand. They discussed her photographic practice, the process of creating The World is Astonishing With You In It, and other bodies of work, like The Lumen Circle Project. Watch this enlightening conversation in the link below. 

Portrait of artist Amanda Marchand
Amanda Marchand is an award-winning, Canadian, New York-based photographer. Her work explores the natural world with an experimental approach to photography. 
Recently, Marchand has been working with an unpredictable, camera-less process also known as sun-prints or photograms. Each particular paper brand, photo finish, and paper type, combined with different exposures, produces a spectrum of colors. Because the lumen colors are fugitive, the exposed papers act as negatives which are fixed by scanning, although they also continue to change color/darken due to the light of the scanner. 

Marchand began this work by using objects and ephemera from her studio as the tools to block light— starting with utilitarian photo boxes and envelopes; then moving to reference books and artist monographs -- as visual cues. She approached each exposure as a measure of time, a meditation; in turn, the exposed papers are then cut and re-assembled into collages of multiple panels. The fundamentals of this fugitive process are an important point of departure from the documentary qualities of camera-based photography and mark an embrace of a materials-based approach that combines early photographic methods with new technologies. 

David Trautrimas

If I was asked this question a few years ago I’d find myself on the side of disbelief, convinced that turmoil was a wet blanket tossed onto the fires of creativity. But as they say, the only constant is— change, and like solving for ’X’ in a math equation, context is everything for calculating meaning.

That’s not to say I haven’t endured turmoil prior to the last few years, but to get through those challenges I did everything I could to put a wall between those experiences and my creative pursuits, leaving the latter as a place of escape. That trajectory continued relatively unabated until late 2019…

At the time I was working on a series of new works titled The Fun Never Spoils. The plan was to exhibit these works at the ‘No Name Biennale’, a group exhibition in Hamilton, Canada that playfully undermines high-value art culture by taking its name from a popular Canadian discount food brand. The idea for my contribution to the show was fairly direct: create a still-life of plastic, laser-cut discount foods.

But not long after I began work on this series, Covid-19 started its troubling sweep around the world and everything shifted. In relation to the sourcing and collection of food, grocery store panic shopping took hold. Regular food items became scarce, people started buying in massive quantities and any sense of food security was shaken. Within this context, social isolation became the norm with many aspects of our lives grinding to a halt, and my thinking around my playful 'foodstuff, still-life' completely changed.

Striving to keep a sense of normalcy I found myself still working in the studio on a daily basis, fabricating more and more laser-cut foods. The continued creation of these objects was no longer just about making a playful still-life. They become an anchor point amidst this capricious Covid landscape; an emotional self-portrait that represented my desire for certainty in that time of intense precarity.

That body of work opened the floodgates to embracing turmoil as an engine of creativity. My most recent and ongoing series, Rest Onwards, is a meditation on the traumas I’ve experienced: life-threatening injuries, loss of loved ones, and mental health challenges. In these works I use distorted objects and spaces as stand-ins that carry these injuries, providing a place for these wounds outside of my consuming thoughts. Demonstrating their burden, these stand-ins have been extended, bonded, confined, made redundant, or dangerous. And although the subjects carry a personal meaning they are nearly universally recognizable, providing room for the viewer to relate to the work without requiring the exact narrative of my own experiences.

Going forward I don’t think everything I do creatively will be connected to turmoil, personal or otherwise. But what I’ve learned in the past few years is how to open myself up to its creative potential, allowing space for all manner of plants in the walled garden of my creative space: the weeds with the roses.

David Trautrimas, Night Sweats, 2022, Archival Pigment Print, 9x13", Edition of 5, $900 

A few months ago, Gallery Director Anne Kelly sat down with Trautrimas for a conversation! In this episode of photo-eye conversations, they talk about modernist architecture, materiality, and conceptual flexibility. View the video and learn more about David Trautrimas below!

>> David Trautrimas | photo-eye Conversation <<

Portrait of artist David Trautrimas
David Trautrimas is an artist/photographer/all-around maker hailing from Toronto, Canada. Here at photo-eye, we know David for his series Habitat Machines, wherein the artist dissembled and photographed household items before using these components to digitally create architectural spaces. The importance of space continues to be important in Trautrimas' newest series, which turns the focus inward. Using Cinema 4D and the digital toolbox that comes with it, Trautrimas has spent the pandemic crafting uncanny, entrancing images of his own interior life that resonate across Western culture. 

Print costs are current up to the time of posting and are subject to change.

To learn more about these and other works by Amanda Marchand or David Trautrimas
or to acquire specific prints, 
please contact photo-eye Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Associate Jovi Esquivel.

1300 Rufina Circle, Unit A3, Santa Fe, NM 87507
Tuesday– Saturday, from 10am– 5:30pm
You may also call us at (505) 988- 5152 x202