In this highlight of the Atelier 33 exhibition, we took a closer look at Diana Cheren Nygren‘s series, Just Another Alice. Diana’s collection is on display in the Griffin Main Gallery until March 26, 2021, and we are also pleased to be featuring Diana’s work in the upcoming exhibition Digits: A Parallel Universe at the Lafayette Citer Center Passageway. Just Another Alice is an imaginative series that reminisces on the lives we all enjoyed prior to being affected by COVID-19. We asked the artists a few questions for some insight into her work.
Which of these images was the impetus for this series? How did it inform how you completed the series?
Unlike series that develop from an image or group of images, this series started with a concept. I started by building my room with a window. The concept and the images are deceptively simple. Figuring out which furniture, the balance of consistency and change, of complexity and simplicity, that would effectively convey the concept, took an enormous amount of trial and error, experimentation, and continuous redesign. The images themselves fell easily into place, like a child playing with a dollhouse, once the format was established.
How has your photography changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic? Has the Atelier been a motivator to persevere through these trying times?
The pandemic forced me to take a completely different approach to my photography. Although, it was also the logical extension of where my work had been heading in the months just before the pandemic. While most of my work has been candid, street photography, and landscapes, at the end of 2019 I was working on a compositing project which I began while taking the Atelier class that fall. Being largely stuck in my house forced me to focus on more personal projects, and on making work using photographs I had already taken and the objects around me. I played a lot with compositing as a way of telling visual stories using the materials available to me. Irrespective of the pandemic, the Atelier has motivated me to experiment with new subjects and techniques that have been critical to pushing me forward as an artist.
What do you hope we as viewers take away from viewing your work?
With this project, as with most of my work, I hope the viewer sees both the humor and something that resonates at a deeper level. It has been an incredibly strange year. I think it will take us all some time to get our minds around what it has meant for us. But while I hope the viewer can identify with the feeling of confinement portrayed in these images, at the end of the day, this is a playful project. I had fun working on it and I want it to bee fun for the viewer as well.
What is the significance of playing with perception and a fictionalized reality in the way you have done here?
I think if it had been a real room in the pictures, the space would have been too specific and too personal. By creating a simulation of a room, I want it to have the potential to speak in a more universal way so that viewers can relate to the space and feel themselves in it. The project is also about imagination and our abilities to transport ourselves. We have very concrete coping mechanisms in difficult times, but psychological ones too. These constructions give concrete form to the process of imagining, but hopefully in a way that doesn’t feel fantastical but maintains some grounding in experience of the world. One thing I have discovered through the last year, both with the experience of relative isolation and with the political turmoil and the ubiquity of the notion of fake news in the United States, is how easy it is to become disconnected from reality, and how quickly you can start to question your own ability to judge what is real. I hope that some of that tension, and some of the surreal quality of this year, comes through in the images.
Tell us what is next for you creatively.
Honestly I don’t know what comes next. I am still working on a couple of ongoing projects. I have been playing around with hand coloring and with different kinds of paper, and I imagine whatever I do it will have a mixed media dimension. I love straight photography. But for now I am definitely getting pulled further and further into ways the artist’s hand can intervene in the image. I’d like to play with varnishes, different modes of presentation, and possibly staged imagery. That all might change, however, once things open up and I get out into the world more.