I am thrilled to welcome Cat Gwynn, an amazing woman and photographer, to the conversation. Don’t forget to follow the blog so you don’t miss upcoming features. Click on the link to the right to subscribe.
Cat Gwynn is an accomplished fine art and assignment photographer residing in Los Angeles, California. Her award winning images have been published, collected and exhibited in galleries and museums internationally. Educated in fine arts, film and photography at the Otis Art Institute of the Parson’s School of Design in Los Angeles, she has completed master workshops with such esteemed artists as Mary Ellen Mark, Joel Peter Witkin, William Wegman and Barbara Kruger.
Known for her decisively intuitive eye, Cat Gwynn’s work has been hailed as distinctive for capturing the inherent beauty and deeper meaning of commonplace scenes and events in everyday life.
The Q & A:
From where do you draw inspiration?
Observation. Everywhere I go I keep my eyes, ears and heart open to life around me. Sometimes I’ll overhear a conversation, maybe a phrase or how someone puts a twist on things and I’ll infuse my work with that vernacular. I always carry my camera with me so if there’s anything, and I mean anything, that catches my eye I will stop and make photographs of it. And because I’m constantly looking out for visual opportunities, over time themes show up and I will specifically zero in on that, be it parked cars, or Americana, or perfectly normal things I find beauty in. But my best gage of inspiration is how my heart sees things, and if it tugs at it, or makes it smile, or invokes a strong emotional response I am mindful to explore whatever it is and see where it may lead.
What is the hardest thing about your creative process?
DOUBT. Letting others opinion of my artwork and me define who I am. Sadly, sometimes I’ll buy into my nagging lack of self worth, which neuters my courage and ability to see the bigger picture. In moments of clarity I know the only appropriate response to this is – fuck that shit – I’m better than these limitations. A friend once said to me, “Cat, just shut up and do the work”. That might sound a bit harsh, but when I am mindful to get out of my way and choose to step into the flow, this sage advice has proven to be spot on.
Do you work every day, or only when inspiration/ opportunity strikes?
Many years ago I married my life as an artist. Yes, I really did. And truthfully it’s been the best marriage I’ve been in thus far. One of the vows I made in this ceremony was to ask myself every single day – “what did I do for my art?” Maybe it’s spending the whole day in process of creating something. Or perhaps in making phone calls and strategizing a marketing plan to get more work. And maybe it’s lazing around all day and being kind to myself and recharging my battery. No matter, not a day goes by that I don’t contemplate the creative process. Making art is a practice and I am fully committed to it and understand that creativity is a muscle that needs to be worked out all the time. I’ve learned that my past work informs my new work so this is the inspiration part of the equation. But ideas come much more readily with a dedicated practice, so with this knowledge and genuine passion for what I do, I look forward to the wonder and possibilities each day presents.
How do you feel about the current art market/ art climate?
It feels crappy right now for a lot of reasons. For sure the economy has dragged things down pretty badly. For me as full time freelance artist it’s hurt me tremendously on a financial level, which is demoralizing and makes the practicality of living difficult. I never dreamed after all the years of doing this and getting to a good point in my career where I was making a decent living and working on great projects and selling lots of my imagery that in a matter of a few years I would be back to living hand to mouth and barely scrapping by. But I haven’t thrown the towel in yet and actually am coming to the conclusion that sometimes wonderful things come from the wreckage, so I’m definitely in the process of recreating my career and believe ultimately things will work out. It’s just being deep in the shit and not knowing when it will shift that’s the challenging part.
Another disappointing by-product of our bad economy is the lack of chances being taken on new and emerging artists, and much of the work that is being shown or commissioned is really safe stuff that doesn’t get to the heart of what we’re experiencing as a society right now. You’d think there’d be more challenging work that questions the status quo or is filled with the outrage we all should be expressing for how fucked up things are. But no, you see a lot of the ‘same old’ stuff that’s impervious to our current circumstances. It’s almost as though if we gloss over reality somehow this will make the injustice of our collapsing economy, environment, educational system, and the out of control greed, corruption, fundamentalist bigotry, sexism, and homophobic hatred acceptable… all in the hopes that our declining physical and emotional well-being resulting in a spiritually broken down, warring world will go away. Pretending won’t make anything go away, it just exasperates our problems. However, I do have a lot of respect for the street artists who found a way to work outside of the box and provocatively point out the ludicrousness of the adverse imbalance in our world. Mark my words; the street art that’s happening will be the marker of important work documenting these times in art history.
Talk a little bit about your current project and why you decided to embark on it?
My most current project is collection of portraits I’m making called “Seen”, where my aim is to get to the heart of each subject and access an undeniable presence where each individual, no matter their age, gender or station in life, is truly seen. I needed to step away from my long-term book projects, “Hungry – The Insatiable State of America” and the follow up, “Photo Omnivore – One Nation Undervalued”, for some personal perspective and to get back on my feet financially. I thought, what can I shoot that will support my goal of making more money and bring me some joy, and it always comes back to photographing people. So that’s what I’ve been doing lately and loving it. This has also been helpful in finding my way back to my book projects and myself. I believe in balance and for me when things get out of whack I’ve found the way to reclaim harmony is trusting the circuitous path that takes its time in attending to my heart and practical matters so I can clear out the gunk, reboot and begin again.
How does being a woman impact your work?
Whether it’s conscious or not, I’m sure my female perspective has an impact on the artwork I create. My work is not necessarily gender specific, although I have a great deal of admiration for feminist work, but where I think the divine feminine comes through in my own work is in its willingness to be vulnerable and thought provoking at the same time. It’s in how I look for life’s inconsistencies yet still find resolution or acceptance for how it is. I seek out the place where shadow and light meet and find value in both sides.
If you had the opportunity to address a group of young girls, what would you say to inspire them?
You can be and do anything you damn well please. Don’t listen to the naysayers – even if it’s your family – their negativity belongs to them and you don’t have to make them comfortable by limiting yourself to their position. The only permission you need is the permission you give yourself – your life and choices in how you live it is your sovereign right. So stand proudly in your brilliance; there is no one on earth like you and your need to express yourself is a gift that gives back to your life and the world exponentially. Be magnificent…