Natasha M. Helms
Interview with Artist Deidre Ford on Nov. 29, 2016
Beneath the Surface of Artist Deidre Ford
Do you think of time as an element of your artwork?
I guess stuff from now will evolve. It will evolve into the future, so I can look back on it and reminisce. Now that I am in Thesis II with the artist statement and everything, which I have finished, I can take a step back and see what I am doing. I can look back on it. I think I might keep on going. My work could be a documentation, as it is there forever. My work was more for myself until my professor said “Stop. Now your work is in a gallery, and it’s for other people.’’ And I’m just overwhelmed, even the first day at the reception, my work was out there for everyone to see. My work is more personal. I don’t even have a website— I’m under the radar.
Is the work you do planned from the beginning or do you just run with it?
I find my materials and run with it. My art is based on emotion and where my mind is. If I walk next to something and notice, “wow, I feel like that right now,’’ then I take it and construct something with it. I ask “why is this this way?’’ And try to figure it out through the construction process.
What sort of a role does post process editing play in your practice?
It plays the same role as finding the objects does. To photograph, if I need to push the work more to the extreme, if I need to draw on something more, or if I see that one thing needs to be connected with another (representing neurons, in one case), then I will. I do what ever it takes if the work needs to be pushed further. If I have to draw on the works, or photoshop them, or burn something right quick, then it’s going to happen! I am just trying to find meaning in certain things like in emotions and how I feel. So, if something needs to be burned or something like that, if something needs to happen, then it does.
When was the last time you felt inspired?
It was a long time ago, it was actually when I first started at Texas State. I saw Michael’s Thesis show. He is actually one of my inspirations, too. All of his photos were black with one piece of rice on them. I walked in the gallery and some guy was irate that Michael had done that. He commented that it wasn’t art. Looking at them, the works were proof for me that art can just really be anything, and that I don’t have to follow the crowd and do things just to do them or get them over with. I realized, through Michael’s work, that I can do whatever I want. That was in 2014, and after that I told myself I would do whatever I wanted. At first I was working with portraits of people, and the process I am doing now is still sort of the same, but before Michael’s show, it was about the subject and their actions. It hit me that I didn’t want to realize my work in someone else. So I decided to just work with objects and make it about me. Everyone tells me that it’s not about me, but I still feel it’s about me a little bit. My works are for the viewers now and are displayed in public places. I just didn’t want my work to find meaning in other people… in the subjects I photographed. So I chose to turn the camera on objects which represent my emotions.
If you like your work, is it difficult to part with?
Not really. It’s just that this thesis show is the first time I have had to part with my work. I had a different artist statement before which said things about me. I even had different names for my photographs. But then my professor looked at my work and said “no, this is not for you. This is for people. For audiences. Just give it up.’’ She completely changed my artist statement around. It went from “Where is my mind?’’ to not being about me. When I part from a work, that means it is in a gallery or something— where it is on display for everyone else to see. It’s out there. It made me uncomfortable for the thesis show to have all of my work exposed, because I was worried if people would like my works or not. But with other galleries I expect to have just one photo in the exhibition, which would be okay. The big body of work in the thesis show did make me a little uncomfortable. People just come up to me and say “is this inspired by the Beatles’ cover?’’ and I reply “No, I’ve never even seen that.’’ People just ask you random stuff. I like when people have their own interpretation of my works, but not when they tell me what the work should mean to me. They don’t know what it means to me. I am a little bit of a perfectionist, so if I see a spec on something I want to panic— but it doesn’t matter and the work is already out there. I guess it’s just not knowing what is going to happen that gets to me the most. I don’t know how people will confront me. It makes me anxious. I just have to get over it all because the work is already out there.
What has caused your work to progress?
Going back to my being a perfectionist, it was last semester, when my professor came by and told me to leave the extraneous things in my works. In my “Spacelab’’ photo, the clouds are actually footprints, which I intended to take out. But everyone has been telling me during my entire thesis career that I should leave these attributes there. That I shouldn’t edit them out. I shouldn’t take that speck out. It makes me anxious but I leave them now. I have grown to like this, because nothing is perfect. I’ve actually stopped photoshopping things all the way. I’ve started going a little bit more extreme. One work has visible erase marks on it. I was going to scan it in and remove those marks but kept them in so people could see my artist’s hand. Ever since then, I’ve liked this. It’s helped my process. It helps me make things how I see them in my mind. Just finding things and working with them is undefined anyways, so I like this unfinished quality, as it’s what I am going for. The photo with the building in my show, for example, is also not finished. So, yes, just not editing things fully has really been crucial in the progression of my work. I have to let things go and allow my unfinished works to be the finished version.
What is the relationship between your thesis work and your practice as a whole?
The work in the show is what I have been working on for years, so there are many photos in this series of work. It helped me look through things and get deeper in my goals by pursuing the same thing each semester. I never really switched it up with anything. The only exception was at the beginning, when I took portraits of friends and things like that. But since I’ve had studio class, I just kept on going until I was finished. I have been working with the same concept for a while, which has been weird, because it finally evolved in my last semester. With the artist statement, I was able to see what I have been doing my whole life in undergraduate. I just want to keep on going.
What lays at the core of your work?
Is there a concept in which you place most emphasis on in your work? If so, what?
Yes: absurdism, abstraction and emotion. All the pieces are really different. They are orchestrated. Absurdism has to do with the meaningless questioning of the world. However, the works are also a force with which I want to contend. We live in a chaotic world. I just try to define things, even if it doesn’t get anywhere. I still helps me a little bit. My art is very therapeutic for me. I work with my emotions. During the process, when I feel something, it causes me to stick a certain thing in a certain place. It causes me to throw this knife into an apple because it shows how I feel in the moment, and then I photograph it. Later, I look back on my works and reminisce on how I felt at the time. I can still feel those past emotions.
How is absurdism related or relevant to you?
It is how and what I think about everyday. As I walk along, I wonder why the sky is blue. In our artist statements, for example, I wonder why they want us to be inspired by someone. Why can’t we just do our own thing? Why do we always have to be inspired by dead people? I’m just kidding. My work just questions how I feel and explores my personality. It’s cool that people can look at my art and guess how I am thinking.
How do you want your art to affect your audience?
That is a newer concept for me, as I normally just think about myself with my art, but I want them to feel something. I want them to have their own opinion about my work. If they look at my balloons and think back to their second birthday, or can reflect on something, then I am successful. Everyday objects are used in my work because they help me derive meaning in my work, but also because people can relate to them. They can look at that apple with a knife in it and think about what that means to them. Maybe it will trigger a memory of eating that same apple. I just want them to form their own opinion, really. I want my art to evoke feelings for the viewers, their own emotions via the ready-made objects. I want them to relate to these objects.
Does your artwork say something about you?
I am not an offensive person, so my art is literally how I think and feel. Obscenity doesn’t come out in my artwork, even if the emotions behind the objects are deep and upsetting. In stabbing an apple, my emotions are conveyed in a way that delivers the feeling without being obscene. It’s an apple, not an animal, for example.
What is the most important thing you want your audience to feel from your work?
I want them to ponder what art is and realize that they don’t have to follow the crowd. I want them to feel that they can do whatever they want. I don’t want to conform, I don’t want to write about a dead person, I want to do my own thing! I don’t want to conform. If you have your own idea, then it’ll be obvious and you should run with it. People should say what they want and revolt against the government if they want. These things should come across in their artwork. They shouldn’t just continue in their artistic processes because they are comfortable there. They should revolt! They should do what they want! There are a lot of constraints in art. It’s cool if you are inspired by someone, but if people are making you be inspired by someone random in your artist statement, then don’t do it! Fuck them! Don’t do it! Just be your own person! Don’t do something just to follow the crowd, because you won’t be happy! You will just be a machine like everyone else.
(2000 words exactly!)