6 Questions for Kallie Cheves

Kallie Cheves, the winner of the Triskel 40 Photo Prize, is an artist who lives and works in San Antonio, Texas. Her series Pageant Wounds is currently on display at Triskel Gallery Space until April 28th as part of CPF18.

Who introduced you to photography?

I grew up shooting with polaroids and disposable film cameras, however, it was my high school photography teacher, Bonnie Gatlin, who encouraged confidence in trusting my “eye” and vision. When I started my undergraduate degree at Trinity University, my professor and mentor Trish Simonite opened up the whole realm of what photography could be as a valuable medium within art. She taught me the power of the tool, and how to wield it to create personal narrative tableaus. In graduate school at UTSA, my advisor Libby Rowe cultivated my artistic voice, and helped me establish my mode of working that I use today.

Which single photographer interests you most and why?

This is a hard question, I’ll admit I had to bracket my choices to come up with one single photographer, and even then they’re technically a working pair. Robert and Shana Parkeharrison’s work carries a stunning gravity. Each photograph explores individual stories, threads of relationships, and ties to so many visceral emotions. (Honorable mentions: David Hilliard, Nick Cave, Ann Hamilton, Sandy Skoglund, Gregory Crewdson, and Ana Mendieta).

Do you have an artist network that you connect with when developing projects?

Absolutely. My grad school colleagues and I have critique brunch, which is so helpful in guiding, editing, and encouraging new work. It’s so important to my practice to have people who understand my work, and are able to challenge me to create new pieces that validate my artistic voice.

If you weren’t a photographer what other medium or profession would you gravitate towards?

I love creating costumes and props, and often dabble in sewing and hot gluing. My mom is an interior decorator, so I had the pleasure of growing up around a wide array of fabrics and visiting fabric stores. There’s such a textural history woven into fabric, the way it is styled, passed down within families, touched and experienced.

Your series Pageant Wounds, introduces us to elaborate scenes featuring numerous characters. Could you describe the process of developing these constructs?

My artworks evolve in three phases.
The first phase: often, these stories come to me in flashes of daydreams mixed with personal stories of relationships with my family and friends. I like to walk the in-between of unreal and real, as I find the confrontational moments that we experience so often in life to be so theatrical. The way we remember fights can be so emotionally charged that they feel like such a weight is literally hanging over us. The way our words can get jumbled and we are not clearly understood (or seen) by another.

The second phase: I work hard to infuse these feelings into my tableaus by creating physical properties on my props and costumes that elicit similar connotations (their sharpness, the amount the veil or reveal, their tangles). I then set up the scenes in an actual place and direct my models, very similar to theater. All of the models in my photographs have personal ties to the stories they are sharing. This brings an authenticity to the emotions they are declaring and a charge to the photo shoot.

The third phase: Within Photoshop, I re-construct these scenes from individual photographs (moments) to make the completed scene. Sometimes, these manifold depictions of the experience comes together quickly within an hour or two, while some take weeks to work and rework, balancing from the original conception to what (through the photo-shoot) it has become.

You’ve created a short film, Touch Me Black and Blue, is moving image something you will continue to explore?

Yes. I am very interested in my still frame work to challenge the traditional four-sided frame as well as where photographs are traditionally hung. I am interested in corners with my mani-fold work, also exploring where the corners meet the ceiling and the floor. I think it’s fascinating in a metaphorical sense how these spaces force my characters to interact with each other even more while at the same time having viewers approach the work in a different way. With this theology in mind, I want to investigate the moving image in the same way. The films allow me a little more time with a character, to share a little more of a story than in a single image/scene/experience.

kalliecheves.com