The cover of our latest art quarterly features a black and white image of a woman bent backwards with electric beams that resemble crystals emanating from her body. It's the kind of image that forces you to do a double-take, rub your eyes, and examine it a little closer.
It is the work of Brooklyn-based artist Witchoria, aptly titled "Detonate" and it sets the stage for the remainder of the zine, inviting you to curiously explore the rest. Writer and photographer Amardeep S sat down with Victoria Siemer/Witchoria to find out more about her work. You can pick up a limited edition copy of the quarterly here.
Photography with a focus in surreal digital manipulation? Tumblr-esque? Evoking the spirit of a sad 27 year old girl with adult teen angst? While my immediate instinct to classify her as a photographer and/or designer was relatively accurate, taking a closer look at Victoria Siemer's wide body of work made me reconsider, enough to ask her plainly what she does.
A Brooklyn-based artist probably better-known by her pseudonym "Witchoria", her response is indicative of her nebulous "class" of work, and is likely a big part of the reason why her work has become as popular and written about as it has - there's an unspoken, implicit part of Victoria's work that resonates with a lot of people. I talked to Victoria to find out more about her multimedia art and the person behind the work.
What was your childhood like? Did you have a strong interest in the arts or is that a more recent development?
I was always creative in a sense, but I had never really applied that creativity to something tangible before college. I learned Photoshop when I was 16, but I was using it to do silly things, like put my friends faces in places they didn't belong, or doing little posters for my friends' bands. Even though I was just screwing around, learning the tool that early has definitely helped me in the long run.
Where do you think your work is most often discovered? Do you think there's a certain part of your work that people especially appreciate?
Most people find my art through Instagram or Tumblr these days. There are a lot of great art curation blogs on those platforms. Each time I am featured by feeds like This Isn't Happiness or love.watts, I get great boosts in visibility, which sometimes catch the eye of the art publications, and from there it continues.
More often than not, my art is a pretty direct expression of things that are happening in my life. It's how I decompress and process my emotions. I just make art about things that people might not normally be comfortable sharing so publicly. I threw my vulnerability to the wind, so to speak. We're all human, and a lot of experience is universal. So I think if my heart is broken, and I'm making art about it, it's for certain that there are hundreds of thousands of other people out there going through the same thing that are going to connect with what I'm talking about.
What kind of atmosphere do you find yourself most comfortably creating your work in? Which parts of your studio are the most important to your productivity or happiness?
Well I used to do most of my work in bed, but then naps kept getting in the way, so I got a studio. Technically, my laptop/camera is all I need to do what I do. It's not that I need this studio space in order to function as an artist, but this is my area where I can do whatever the hell I want. Right now I'm really content building my wall of shame; it makes me smile and think about the hilarious disaster that has been my dating life over the past four years living in Brooklyn. It also inspires me to stay vulnerable in my artwork, which is one of the reasons I think it's been so well received.
What's the most difficult part of your process?
Hmm. Actually sitting down and doing the damn work. I get excited and start too many projects at the same time, then half of them end up unfinished, collecting dust until I rediscover them months later. It's also sometimes hard to want to do my artwork after a full day of design for my agency; it's just a lot of screen time on my eyes. I'll usually give myself an hour or two break for dinner then I jump back in and make sure I get some personal work in.
Is there any kind of personal work you haven't done yet that you're aiming to do soon?
Now that I finally have a studio space, I am aiming to do more sculptural work. I love digital, but really I miss creating things that have that tangible "in-your-hands" feel. In fact, a lot of my pieces are actually high fidelity sketches of things I've been hoping to create in the real world. Now I'm at the point where I'm ready to flip it around and start taking some of those pieces off the screen and into real space. The idea is that creating them for real will help my digital manipulation work in the long run, because I'll be able to study how the things I had imagined digitally work in a real environment.
Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
I'm pretty obsessed with Gregory Crewdson right now, probably because of my love for cinema. The technical nature of his lighting is also just so beautifully insane, using crews familiar with motion picture production to light large scenes using film equipment. Some of his images have more than 32 lights set up to capture the moment. I can't wait to hit a level of skill and obsession that let's me reach a point like that. My girl Brooke DiDonato is another killer surreal photographer, also based in New York. One could say she's a surreal killer. Ba-dum-chi. (pun always intended).
What's next for you? What's the next big hurdle you see for yourself to tackle?
The next big hurdle I foresee myself needing to tackle is my fear of breaking out on my own. I need to make the leap and go full-time freelance so that I can focus more on my photography and manipulation work. New York is just such an expensive fucking city. I also have double rent now, I not only have a place where I sleep, I also have a place where my art sleeps, so I need to make sure I'm financially stable enough to support all of that.
Interview and photos by: Amardeep S.