This is 5 Questions. Each week, we send five questions to an artist featured in Under the Radar, our weekly email highlighting the best art on the ArtSlant network. This week we seek answers from Natali Bravo-Barbee.
What are you trying to communicate with your work?
In my work, I like to think I communicate the importance of time via objects. I am a photographer, and for 20 years I have been capturing and hoarding memories. Snapping photos of precious moments, moments that I deemed as precious. Not everyone agrees in the moment, but I believe the phrase “hindsight is 20/20” is exactly what photography does.
So in my work, rather than creating a still life with these precious objects and then photographing them, I use the actual objects as negatives to create these blue pictures: cyanotypes. In other words, I capture the shadows of the objects. So what I hope my work conveys is that, very much like pictures/photographs can tell a story, so do objects, and it becomes really interesting when the two are combined. The stories I tell will vary from feminist views to immigrant perspectives but they share the same process. My stories are told through a blue filter and lots of lace. A ridiculous amount of LACE. Like lots of it!
Dos Mujeres, 2018, Cyanotype on watercolor paper, 15 x 22 inches
What is an artist’s responsibility?
An artist's responsibility by my views are the following:
• To research and reinterpret history relating to an idea.
• To question societal norms and challenge them to the point of discomfort.
• To be “Free Thinkers,” as Kanye West would say.
• To make with the mind, the heart, and the body and sometimes, all three won't be in-sync and that's ok—just keep on making until something comes from it.
Show us the greatest thing you ever made (art or not)?
Ok, this question made me a little uneasy, and I had to ruminate on it for a few days. Giving a piece of my artwork the title of being the “greatest,” see... that isn't something I would do. So I can't show you the greatest thing I have made, but I can show you a particular piece of work, that was quite informative and transformative to my practice and it continues to inform me till this day.
My Panties, 2015, Cyanotype on watercolor paper, 18 x 24 inches
This panty piece was the beginning of my autobiographical work. Someone told me during a studio visit that “autobiographical work is boring! You don't want to air out your dirty laundry for the art world to see!” That made me feel uneasy. In return, that's exactly what I did! I took to this historic photographic process (cyanotype) and a pair of my panties and I made this print and hung it in the display box outside of my studio for everyone to see. That moment was extremely liberating. I realized that I wasn't going to shy away from feminist work, let alone let someone tell me what I can and can't say with my art. So, I suppose one can say that the lesson learned while making this piece was pretty “great.”
Tell us about a work you want to make but never will:
See, I was born in Argentina to an Argentine mother and a Chilean father. When we immigrated to the U.S., a lot of our history was lost. Since 2014, I have been researching my ancestry and have only gotten so far. With my project Discarded Memories: Rescuing the Forgotten, I highlighted a couple important documents by making large cyanotype prints of them. I scanned the original document, printed a large digital negative from it and turned an 8-by-12-inch document into 22 by 30 inches.
Back to your question, a work I want to make but will never make is a large cyanotype print of my own death certificate. For obvious reasons, it won't be made by me, IF it is made at all.
Don’t Let My Collar Fool You, Cyanotype on watercolor paper
Who are three artists we should know but probably don’t?
—The ArtSlant Team
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(Image at top: Lace Collar Right, 2015, Cyanotype on watercolor paper, 22 x 30 inches)