Photographer Kellye Eisworth isn’t shy about her subject matter, which comes with a certain amount of shock value and angry feminism, some of it autobiographical. But it's designed to make viewers think and feel the pain and psychological imprisonment pictured, without filters, and it's powerful stuff. A doer with a heart of gold, Eisworth also offers a helping hand behind the scenes for Month of Photography events when she’s not creating. What’s next for this unflinchingly brave pioneer? Find out as Eisworth answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
What (or who) is your creative muse?
After reflecting on this question for a while, I can’t pinpoint a specific thing I would consider to be a muse. I’m continually inspired by the things I read, the conversations I have and the things I observe in the world around me. I think everything has creative potential if you’re receptive to it.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
My dad: The unwavering faith he had in me gives me the courage to keep going even when I doubt myself, and I would give anything for the opportunity to show him how far I’ve come.
Carrie Mae Weems: She’s my favorite artist, hands down. Her work is powerful and totally unapologetic.
Beyoncé: Because Beyoncé.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
Speaking about Denver’s creative community in general, I see artists form close relationships with each other in a really wonderful way. The wealth of support and encouragement here makes this community truly special. However, I think mixing things up with artists from other places — or giving some lesser-known local artists more exposure — would make Denver’s art scene even stronger.
How about globally?
Issues of agency, equality, visibility, inclusion and accessibility in the arts, just to name a few, are at the forefront of my mind. I think it’s impossible to speak about photography on a global scale without acknowledging the profound effect social-media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have had on the way we interpret and interact with photographs. I have ambivalent feelings — on one hand, I think there are a lot of fair criticisms. However, I do think the ease of sharing images across cultures has helped start the kinds of conversations we need to be having, even if only to underscore how far we still have to go.
What’s missing from the region's photography scene, and what would make it better?
I think the photography scene here is pretty strong. Colorado is home to some wonderful organizations, like the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, the Center for Fine Art Photography and the Denver Art Museum’s photography department, as well as the Month of Photography. Beyond our state, New Mexico and Arizona have internationally respected events like Review Santa Fe at CENTER and some of the highest-ranked academic programs in the nation. Of course, there’s always room for improvement, but I can’t say that anything is missing.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I was born and raised in Louisiana, but I’ve lived in Colorado for the last six years. I’ve stayed because of the community and the close relationships I’ve developed, and because it’s given me the opportunity to experience life in a culture so different from the one I grew up in. I’ve grown a lot since I’ve been here, but I do think I will move on eventually. Denver will always be important to me, but I’d like to explore other places, too. Ultimately, I think I’ll go back to Louisiana one day; I feel deeply rooted in that part of my identity, and I don’t think anywhere else will ever truly feel like home.
What’s your dream project?
I think every artist has a never-ending list of projects they want to actualize one day. I want to try so many things— make artist books, work with more photographic processes and maybe even experiment with projection or video. When I start a project, I’m really excited about it. I am fully committed to it, but if we’re defining a dream project as the ultimate goal you aspire to or the thing you want to work on more than anything else, I guess I would consider it to be my artistic practice itself. Above all else, I want to keep growing as an artist — learning new things, developing new ideas and becoming more self-aware in the process. I would rather continually strive toward a goal I’ll never reach than feel fully satisfied working on any particular project.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Mark Sink. I’ve never met anyone more genuinely devoted to his community, and he brings people together in so many ways. He founded Colorado’s Month of Photography, a biennial festival that connects galleries and museums across the state in a celebration of the photographic medium. It’s amazing to see so many organizations and artists work together to make it all happen. He also does a lot to support and give opportunities to young up-and-coming artists, myself included.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
This year, my goal is to break out of my comfort zone and experience new things. I want to travel to places I’ve never been and pursue opportunities like artist residences. Lately I’ve been experimenting with ways of making that are completely different from my previous work, and I want to push that further. Right now, that includes glitch collages, mixed-media collages and a zine, all using found photographs. I plan to continue developing some long-term projects, but I think it’s always good to mix things up a little.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Arthyve is doing some pretty great things.
See work by Kellye Eisworth during Month of Photography 2019 in Subject & Surface, a two-person exhibition through May 2 at Seidel City, 3205 Longhorn Road in Boulder (gallery hours: 1 to 4 p.m. March 30 and April 13, or by appointment). Eisworth’s work also hangs in the Denver Collage Club’s MoP 2019 group show, running through March 30 at Alto Gallery, 4345 West 41st Avenue.
Learn more about Kellye Eisworth and her work online.