Lilla Dent

Lilla Dent is a Japanese-American artist and photographer whose multicultural upbringing and international experiences have greatly influenced her work. Lilla has always been interested in the surreal and the liminal – the intersection of opposites and the gray zones which result in subtle discomfort, pleasure, and/or humor. She received her MFA from the New York Academy of Art and currently works and teaches in Chicago.

Artist Statement
These images belong to an ongoing body of portraits called "Stillness." These works bridge the gap between posed, formal portraiture and candid snaps, between the blur of everyday humdrum life and the theatrical or surreal.  I cherish the subtle, elegant power of black and white Polaroid photography to perfectly capture these incredibly delicate, quiet moments. The viewer is drawn in gently and given a pause, breathing room if you will, to contemplate and question the scene in front of him which is both familiar and strange. The faded, often imperfect black and white medium slips these works into a foreign realm of mystery: their subjects come from our present world, but inhabit other times and places.

Below, Lilla answered a few questions about her series and photography practice!

Why did you choose photography over other artistic mediums?

Actually, I haven’t chosen photography over other mediums – I’m a passionate printmaker and draftsperson as well as a photographer and love to dance back and forth between all three mediums. However, I do really love the special way in which photography ceaselessly feeds into and inspires all of the other artwork I do. It combines the pleasures of instant gratification (the creation of an image at the touch of a shutter) with infinite calculation and possibility (the composition of a shot, the seizing of a moment).

How did this series start for you creatively?

I’ve always been interested in the surreal and subtle gray zones between “normal” and “abnormal,” “ordinary” and “not ordinary,” etc. Finding the hidden life in the seemingly hum-drum to me is one of the most magical acts of artistic creation!

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 think I will be working on this series for quite some time yet (if not my entire life!) The possibility for subject matter (the mundane) is simply endless, so I don’t think I could ever get bored. I think one of my greatest revelations so far has been to not get impatient or disappointed – either you capture the magic in the moment or you don’t, and beyond a certain point it’s out of your control. The best you can do if you fail is simply try again elsewhere.

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?

I have never, ever lacked for creative ideas (if anything, I have too many to keep up with). However, I do sometimes enter into periods of feeling like my finished products are not worthy of their initial inspirations – the best remedy I’ve come up for this is simply to switch projects and/or media and come back to the challenging item at a later date.

Are there any books, movies, magazines or podcasts that you would recommend people to check out?

I’m a massive bookworm so this list could go on for pages, but to pick out just a few recommendations: Anais Nin, Carlos Castaneda, “The Education of Little Tree,” “The Songs of Bilitis,” and “Peter Pan” (the edition illustrated by Scott Gustafson), are all on the top of my list. “Loving Vincent” and “Hell-Bound Train” were some great films I saw recently.

Lastly, what artists are currently inspiring you?

I’ve been (re)discovering some great comic artists – Winsor McCay, Bill Watterson, B. Kliban (and not just his cats). Speaking of cats, I don’t think I will ever get enough of Louis Wain!

You can follow more of Lilla's work on her website and her Instagram!