Carissa Meier is a Chicago-based artist, curator, and archivist. Originally from Portland, OR, she earned her BFA in Studio Art from Pacific Lutheran University (2004) and MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago (2017). She has recently exhibited at Mana Contemporary, The Overlook Place, Filter Space, The Hokin Project, and has been selected for the upcoming Ground Floor 2018 exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center. Meier’s work explores materiality, reveling in the hybridization of processes including drawing and photographic methods. Her work is part of the permanent collection of Pacific Lutheran University (Tacoma, WA).
In 2015 Meier founded SHIFT Queer Art & Literary Magazine to promote, foster, and build community for emerging queer artists in Seattle, WA. As a Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), Meier co-curated re:collection in 2017. She is currently the Registrar at the MoCP and Assistant Director at Schneider Gallery.
The term “terra incognita" describes uncharted areas on a map, an unknowable and imagined landscape. In my series Terra Incognita, I construct photographs that explore the interplay between abstraction and representation; works that teeter between the photograph itself—a material object—and a representational world that conjures imaginary depictions of unexplored places. I purposefully reveal the remnants of my artistic process to undermine the sense of familiarity created through the suggestion of geological forms. I intend to challenge the viewer’s cognitive perceptions and assumptions about the photographic medium. These photographs aim to trigger collective memories of the external world and simultaneously question our expectations of how a photograph should look and be looked at.
Ultimately the final object is photographic, but the physical act of making my images involves multiple tactics. I apply materials generatively with iterations varying from the use of liquid cyanotype and Van Dyke brown photo-chemicals, charcoal, and instant film. I physically crumple, fold, and crush to create additional textures. Residual imprints resemble geological fissures and striations, yet in reality, these cracks are physical recordings of the absence and presence of light. These layers create variations of color and form that, when photographed, lead to new associations of referential likenesses and question what is real and imagined as they map dripping chemistry, abrasions and markings.
As an artist who delights in experimentation and process, I am intrigued by light, and how when its qualities of absence and presence, color, form, and shadow are harnessed, a photographic reality of its own can be made visibly tangible and expressively deployed.
Below, Carissa answered a few questions about her series and photography practice!
Why did you choose photography over other artistic mediums?
I don’t define my practice as strictly photographic. My creative process employs multiple modes of making - often including drawing and performative actions - and predominantly culminates as a final photographic object. In this series I crumpled, folded, peeled off, and/or drew directly on the instant film during development. I am fascinated by instant film’s materiality and the duality between control and the spontaneity of the medium.
How did this series start for you creatively?
I started this series during my first year of graduate school at Columbia College Chicago. I had just moved to Chicago from Seattle and was adjusting to the Midwest. This project was, in essence, my way of creating what felt absent, which led me to become fascinated with how our personal geographical origins effect our psyches.
What reflections have you come to after finishing this series? If you are still working on the series, what revelations have come up while creating the series?
I am realizing that this work has become less about landscape and has much more to do with process, materiality, and the photographic object.
Do you ever get in creative slumps? If you do, how do you get out of them? If not, what methods have you created not to get into a slump?
Absolutely, who doesn’t really?! I feel like I am constantly navigating through the highs and lows of being an artist. For example, it can be really hard to start something new after a long stretch of being focused on a particular concept or project, especially if successfully executed. I struggle with imposter syndrome quite a bit and I find what helps is to try to forget about who is going to see the work and just. make. something. Focus on making work not for the end result but for the feeling of exhilaration and enjoyment. Also, sometimes taking a break is helpful. I have other creative outlets so switching gears for a bit and, for example, playing my guitar and writing songs allows me to shift my focus. Then, I can re-emerge into my photographic processes with a fresh perspective and renewed energy. And walking. Walking and getting out into nature is great.
Are there any books, movies, magazines or podcasts that you would recommend people to check out? I’m currently reading Miranda July’s It Chooses You, and recently saw the film Call Me By Your Name. I’d like to up my podcast game, but one I enjoy is Abbi Jacobson’s A Piece of Work.
Lastly, what artists are currently inspiring you?
Meghan Riepenhoff’s work, in particular her project Littoral Drift was really inspiring during graduate school. I also recently loved seeing Barbara Crane’s experiments with Polaroid at Catherine Edelman Gallery.