Claire A. Warden interview (2015)
From the Diffusion archive (volume VIII) -- my Q&A with Claire A. Warden. Edited from a video interview I did in 2015 with Claire in Ft. Collins, CO while celebrating her solo exhibition as well as our Diffusion annual exhibit hosted at the Center for Fine Art Photography.
Blue Mitchell: Can you tell me about your background and what brought you to the arts?
Claire A. Warden: I always imagined I would be in involved in the arts somehow. I didn’t know exactly in what capacity. I started drawing when I was really young and I continued to through my childhood. When I began high school I started taking myself much more seriously as an artist and created an art practice. At that point imagined I would be a painter. It wasn’t until I took a photography class in high school that I realized that was the way that I needed to be expressing myself. It completely changed how I thought about art, how I made art. And it changed my life.
BM: What common threads do you see throughout your artwork?
CW: I think something that has been consistent throughout my art practice is the idea of constructing an image. Whether that means that I am interacting with a space/landscape or if I am making an object to be photographed or maybe I am just manipulating the actual photographic material. I think construction and control has always been a really strong part of my practice. Additionally, I also think performance has always been a really strong part of my process. That’s not always evident in the final product, but it’s always there.
BM: Can you explain what you mean by performance?
CW: In a previous body of work I strongly interacted with the landscape. In my current work, Mimesis, I feel like it’s more performative. The act of applying saliva to a negative and the actions that I do that are more intentional are very lively and energetic. Sometimes they’re very controlled—smooth and slow. It’s like getting into the right headspace or an acknowledgment of my current emotions, thoughts and ideas. I am forced to be really aware of myself when I am creating this work.
BM: What is photography’s role in Mimesis?
CW: When people ask me about the work and the first question I’m generally asked is, ‘what am I looking at?’ I think that really gets to the heart of why I’m using photography and why I think photography is the best possible medium for this work. Photography lends itself so well to clear representation. When something is easily identifiable you don’t have to ask what you’re looking at. This echoes the question that is at the heart of Mimesis; ‘what are you?’
BM: Considering that question, do you feel like this work is a self-portrait?
CW: I feel like it is more of a self-portrait than I could make by actually photographing my likeness. Not only does it have actual biologic matter embedded into it, but it also contains my emotions and specific ideas about identity. I hope the work is informative about me. An image isn’t complete until I can look at it and feel balanced and at peace with it.
BM: Are there other artists that influenced this work?
CW: Photographically, I am inspired by Jeff Cohen mixed media artists Alison Rossiter and Marc Bauer. Additionally, I’m influenced by Aaron Siskind and other photographers who have historically tackled abstraction. I think the work of painters like Robert Motherwell are quite beautiful. Generally, I try to stay really open to influences and inspirations.
BM: What are you Claire Warden?
CW: [smiles then laughs]
Claire A. Warden (b. Montreal, Quebec) is an artist working in Phoenix, Arizona. Claire's work explores intersecting ideas of identity, the other, and the psychology of knowledge and power. The constructed photograph is integral to her arts practice. She received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from Arizona State University. Claire’s work has been exhibited in the United States and abroad including solo exhibitions of Mimesis at the Center for Fine Art Photography, the Colorado Photographic Arts Center and Art Intersection. She has participated in group exhibitions at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Rayko Photo Center, Sous Les Etoiles Gallery, Division Gallery in Toronto, Agripas 12 Gallery in Jerusalem, Galería Valid Foto in Barcelona and Students’ City Cultural Center Gallery in Belgrade. She received an Artist Research and Development Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, an Individual Artist Grant Award supported by the Creative Capacity Fund and the Contemporary Forum Artist Grant. She has been named LensCulture's Top 50 Emerging Talents, Photo Boite’s 30 Under 30 Women Photographers, a Critical Mass finalist and a Photobook Melbourne Photo Award finalist. Her work has been featured in Real Simple magazine, The HAND Magazine, Common Ground Journal, Prism Magazine, Diffusion Magazine and a forthcoming publication by PYLOT Magazine. Claire was awarded an artist residency through the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists in France, completed a yearlong residency at Art Intersection in Arizona in 2015 and was a 2016 Artist-In-Residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock.
This interview originally published in Diffusion volume VIII. Digital edition available in the Marketplace.