Clare Gatto

Clare Gatto is an image-based digital artist from Columbus, OH. After receiving a BFA with a specialization in photography from the Ohio State University in 2012, Clare worked as an artist assistant to Ann Hamilton. Clare is a cofounder of MINT collective, a collaborative, multidisciplinary artist-run space in Columbus and is both a frequent collaborator and a contributing editor for Refigural magazine. Clare is a recent graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art, receiving an MFA in Photography in 2017.

Read below the interview our Art Director, Finn Schult, had with the artist!

Finn: Looking at your work, it has obviously changed a bit over time. I'm wondering where the work started conceptually, and then how it changed and progressed to the video, Good Side?

Clare: Just to give you a little chronological background. I started at Cranbrook photographing fictional narratives that depicted aspirational womanhood and I was really deconstructing suburban ideals and the "American Dream". This is also what I was doing before coming to Cranbrook, working in collaboration with Mitch Mcguire, Laura Payne and later Ethan Schaefer on Tammy. I started teaching myself 3D scanning, modeling, and animation which lead to the pink work, Second Skins and the Brute videos.

Finn: So how did Second Skins morph into the red photographs and then back into abject video work?

Clare: With the Second Skins and Brute I started thinking about the primordial amniotic soup that make up my gendered identity and experiences that I have always found absurd. I am super proud of my femmeness, but feel that these societal standards and definitions are bullshit.  I started working with simulations of objects typically depicted as feminine to start to break down these ideas of gender. Then with Brute I got more personal with what it meant to be both fragile and destructive at the same time; The weight of an oversized glass monster, which really started to feel like a self-portrait.

Then at the beginning of my second year I started to think about "Red.” A color I kinda hated when I started.  Now I think I have a love/hate/obsessive relationship with it. I have a sensory integration disorder that makes it a really overwhelming color to be surrounded by, so i decided to make (at the largest 60"x128" and smallest 20"x30" but mostly in the 50"x70" range) RED prints for a lot of reasons; Red as a signifier: in terms of it being one of those colors with so much surrounding it. Historical significance [Michel Pastoureau in Red: The History of a Color, “(red) is the archetypal color, the first color humans mastered, fabricated, reproduced, and broke down into different shades.”] So within its different variations and signifiers, I am most interested in this “candy car/plastic” red, that also is internal and bloody. Which leads to the next point; Red is this super powerful color that people have strong responses to, but each person’s response might be different. Some people look at the work and are like “Wow it’s so delicious/delectable/candy/shiny.” While some are like, “Ah murder/periods/death/hell” And then others are like “Womb/hot/slippery/calming.” 

Finn: So was having such emotional diversity in terms of the viewer’s reactions to the work intentional or was is something that you started noticing after you had already began making the work?

Clare: Intentional for sure. For me it’s about taking all of the strong signifiers, blending them, and then allowing the work to exist in this slippery spot in the middle of all these signifiers. This slippery fluid in between place where the title comes from : Untitled (a study of the interstitial).

Finn: That's definitely somewhat evident looking at the work. I mean, like you said, red is such a powerful color that using that much of it, especially at that large of a scale is obviously has the potential to elicit extreme responses from the viewer. Even if those responses exist on totally different ends of the emotional spectrum.

Clare: Exactly. And I also work to confuse or muddle those emotional responses and point to this simulated, interstitial body - a body that exists in between by doing both. This leads into Good Side, the current body of work, and my upcoming body of work. I have been doing a lot of research on interstitium and different interstitial tissue structures (which is all of the tissue in the body that is in between skin and facia, or can refer to space in between cells). Here’s the process: I make 3D scans using photogrammetry software and apps. These 3D scans are of still lifes and my body. Some of these scans of 3D still lifes have the objects actually laid out to make up a specific interstitial tissue like Pulmonary interstitium.

Finn: That's so incredibly complex. What even lead you to that process to begin with?

Clare: It is and I’m really trying to demystify what I do. What lead me there... So the subjectivity of the lens is really important to photography, so keeping that in my 3D process was important, but I wanted to work with digital simulation, in a medium where I could really imagine my body as a world, and a world for my new type of body to exist.

Finn: Was the work always specifically about your body or did it become more autonomous the further the it came along?

Clare: It has gone back and forth, but when it comes down to it, I feel most comfortable talking about my own otherness than making statements about it in general. My own “inbetweeness.”

Finn: Where do you see your work going from here? Do you see yourself drifting further away from making photographic work? Or do you think the lens will continue to remain integral to the concepts you work with?

Clare: The lens will continue to remain integral to the concepts of my work, even if it is the simulated lens. I am currently starting a new video and photographic series and am leaving the red behind for a little bit. Good Side, my thesis video, explores my simulated body as fractured and fragmented. It is essentially me taking the viewer on a wild ride of my body, as a radical revision of what a body is. The new video that I am working on centers on my own personal narrative. I am a fallopian tube baby. My mom had over ten eggs drawn, one was a failed in-vitro fertilization, I was a fallopian tube insemination, and the other eggs are unaccounted for. So in my new series that I am working on I am simulating a world in which me and my hypothetical siblings are reunited.

Finn: That's such an intense and solid concept. I'm definitely interested in seeing what you do with it. Will it be through an aesthetically scientific sort of lens similar to Good Side?

Clare: I'm still in the research phase of the project and beginning sketches. I am working to be more specific with what I'm talking about. I think it is going to be similar but also moving forward into its own voice.

Finn: I’m super excited to see how that ends up. Thanks for talking with us about your work!

Clare: Thanks Finn!

If you would like to see more of Clare's work check out her website here, and if you would like to follow Clare on her adventures follow her on Instagram at gatto21