La Tomatera Presenta: Kad Montes on self-expression and being surgically artistic

Gustavo Herrera, a.k.a Kad Montes, was born in Medellin, Colombia. Due do the violence in the 1980s his family moved to Garagoa, a town in the region of Boyacá. He currently resides in Cali, Colombia, where he's been living for the past 10 years.

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La Tomatera Presenta: Melissa Ángel Cabrales on The Error, The Process & The Instant

Melissa Angel Cabrales is a 31-year old artist from Cali, Colombia and a graduate of the Universidad de los Andes. Her work tends towards the experimental and eclectic, which is reflected in the diversity of materials and imagery she employs in her paintings.

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Laura Knapp on Life After School and Supporting Fellow Artists

Laura Knapp is a recent graduate from the New England School of Photography in Boston where she studied fine art and portraiture photography. Laura previously studied at Bennington College in Vermont until 2012, but left after two years to pursue her photography studies. Photos from Laura have been featured in exhibitions at Stone Crop Gallery in Maine, Black Box Gallery in Oregon, The Kiernan Gallery in Virginia, as well as Photo Place Gallery in Vermont.

In this interview with MiddleGray's visual arts editor Catalina Piedrahita, the artist talked about what she is up to one year after her first feature in Middlegray, about how her artistic approach has changed after graduating school, and about her most recent project "She is Sure."

Catalina Piedrahita: The first time you were featured in MiddleGray Mag you were an art student. MiddleGray has grown and evolved over the last year, I assume you have as well as an artist who has now graduated from school. How are things different from that time when we first published your work. Who’s Laura as an artist now?

Laura Knapp:  Laura as an artist now is someone who is more concerned with giving other artists the opportunity to share their work. Graduating has ended a certain chapter of my life and thrusted me into the work world. I’ve been working really hard on my blog “She is Sure”, doing retouch jobs here and there, and working at my school. Instead of sitting on my butt and doing nothing during much needed downtime, I force myself to work on my blog. I want to give female artists the chance to showcase their work in a friendly and artistic environment, especially if they are artists who may be too shy to submit their work elsewhere.

CP: One thing that hasn't changed is that you are still making self portraits. Has your approach to selfportraiture changed? If so how?

LK: My approach has definitely changed since graduation. It’s extremely helpful to have critique while you are attending school, but it can be somewhat limiting if you’re with the same group of people with the same view on your photographs from week to week. This summer I stopped caring about what would tickle my teacher or classmates' fancies, and instead, I started doing whatever I possibly felt like doing. For the first time, I set up some speedlites in my apartment and photographed myself hiding in a polka dot sheet. It seemed like a really stupid thing to do, and I had wanted to do it for a long time, but once I started photographing I realized how fun it was to let loose. I accept others' opinions of my work, but I recently realized that the only way I’ll feel totally proud of my work is if I am the main person who is impressed with the work. It’s one thing to create a wonderful photo in the eyes of your viewers that you don’t personally contact with, but it’s a completely opposite and amazing thing when you create a photo that captures the entire essence of what you’re looking for in a particular moment. I love to explore every way I can take a self portrait. I don’t want it to be straightforward all the time.

CP: Now that you are out of school, is it more difficult for you to create artwork? How do you stay motivated to keep producing work on a regular basis?

LK: My main priority since graduating had been to find a steady job, which meant that there hasn’t been a huge focus on constant photo creation. I don’t mean to be a downer, but being out of school has made me a little lazy with my photography. There are no teachers or fellow classmates any more telling me to make work, encouraging me to push through artist’s block. It’s now all up to me. That can be very daunting so I’m forcing myself to create photos every weekend when I have free time. The transition from 100% photo creation 24/7 to sometimes having a spare moment to photograph has been really tough. I’m still entering calls for entries and pushing my work out in the world in order to stay focused and encouraged to make more work.

CP: I’m a big fan of your blog “She is Sure.” I’m always in the look for spaces that give underrepresented people a chance to share their thoughts and experiences so I can expand my knowledge. How and why did you decide to create a space like this for female artists? Why is having this space and managing it important to you?

LK: The reason I created “She is Sure” is probably not what you’d think. I’ve always hated writing, I absolutely love to read, but ask me to write something and I run the other way. In order to face that fear (annoyance?), my blog was born. I wanted to trick myself into writing because writing no longer felt like an annoying task when I was talking about female artists I really admired and wanted to share with the world. I love being able to share female artists who are making work, but aren’t necessarily showing it to a wide audience. I want to give these women a shout-out and let more people hear about their work in hopes that it will catch the eye of someone who really really loves it as much as I do. I don’t know what it is, and it might just be my opinion, but I feel like quite a few women don’t feel confident enough to share their work in public. I want women to feel confident enough to share their work on the internet because that is the biggest audience you can get these days. 

CP: Do you have future plans for She is Sure? Are you planning on expanding this blog somehow?

LK: I hope to feature more artistic projects that are about mediums other than photography. I love photography and it is my life, but I would LOVE to have more artists submit from other mediums so the blog becomes well rounded and involves the entire art community instead of just a specific thing such as photography. I am excited to start doing seasonal playlists where the featured artists from the past get to choose a few songs that inspire and excite them during that time of year. I am a huge music fan and creating these playlists is giving me a chance to expand the blog to feature more mediums such as music.

Susan Wicker on Hollywood and Faceless Starlets

Wicker graduated from the Arts University Bournemouth in 2012 after studying Illustration. She is a freelance artist and graphic illustrator who uses found ephemera to produce new studies of contemporary imagery. Her collaborations have been seen in shows that discuss social and cultural issues, and it has also been published in diverse magazines. The ideas behind her work are influenced by retro and vintage material that allow her to highlight socially relevant matters. Wicker is currently represented by South West Artwork in the United Kingdom.

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In this blog feature, MiddleGray's visual arts editor Catalina Piedrahita asked artist Sue Wicker about the process of creating her work and the meaning behind some of her artistic choices.

Catalina Piedrahita: When it comes to your Hollywood series, how do you select the images you use in your final pieces and how is the process of putting them together?

Susan Wicker: The Hollywood series was an extension of my work carried on from my graduate show in 2012. I had obtained quite a selection of images and had them all at my disposal. The images used for my final pieces were the ones that offered an atmospheric feeling and I felt fitted the brief of Hollywood life for young hopefuls. The process of putting them together was defined first by their shape, then their colour and lastly by how the pieces seem to fit together, much like a jigsaw puzzle.

CP: How was the process of finding your artistic media, and how do you know which one to use when working on a new piece or series?

SW: During my time at Art College, in one of the many workshops, I experimented with different media and enjoyed using visual imagery in my work. I was drawn by the impact of advertisement and graphic images seen in magazines and newspapers. When I work on a new piece or series, I arduously look through the material I hold, and I source new material that may enhance my visual idea and then file away the rest for another time. The images I use for my respective pieces are the ones that literally jump out at me when spread out on the table. 

CP: I see a lot of headless female bodies in your Hollywood series. Is this symbolic of something? If so, could you tell us more about it?

SW: I used headless bodies in my Hollywood series to give the work an anonymity, and to engage the inquisitive viewer. I tend to either use headless bodies or cover part of the faces of the women in my work. I do this as a symbolic respect of their identity or to highlight their vulnerability. 

CP: How does your freelance illustration work differ from your personal one?

SW: Sometimes my freelance illustration work crosses over to my personal work and vice versa. I believe I have grown within my work, and I've started to experiment more in a traditional way, which is more evident in my recent freelance work. This has been the biggest difference in the way I work for a wider audience.

CP: Are you working on any new projects right now? Can you share any details with us?

SW: The most recent project I am working on is for an exhibition under the heading Icons and Legends. I was drawn by the fascinating lives of strong and successful women in the limelight. I dismissed the idea of working on a piece on Marilyn Monroe and felt the need to portray other women who may have been overshadowed by the success of Marilyn in her quest for stardom.