Recently, AAU Lens featured the work of MFA student Cynthia Matty-Huber, selected for 2014 Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50. In this interview, Katty Hoover talks with Full-Time Faculty Marico Fayre. Fayre, who is an alumnus of AAU's MFA program, was recently selected in the 2015 Top 200 list for her project Cartographers of Memory. We wish her luck in the final selection!
KH: Cartographers of Memory is inspired by the legacy of your grandmother, who is known for her penchant for adventure. Has your grandmother seen these pictures?
MF: No, she hasn’t seen them yet. I spoke with my mother and one of the other sisters and though I was happy to let them show the work, we all agreed to wait until my next visit. I have created a book I will give to Tutu, either for her 93rd birthday (in November) or for Christmas. I am very curious to see what she thinks.
KH: These images were made in San Miguel de Allende, which has established a reputation as a sanctuary for artists, including American ex-pats. Nonetheless, these images say little about the tourist experience. Many of the pictures are made in interior spaces; some are self-portraits. Can you talk about how San Miguel set the scene for you to explore the subject matter this way?
MF: San Miguel has always felt like home for me. Most people who live there weren’t born there, so whether they come from America, Canada, Sweden, Argentina, Mexico or somewhere else, we all share a personal and often an artistic draw to the place. It makes for very interesting conversations - and friendships. San Miguel collects wanderers and artist. Most people end up there during a major transition or transformation, which is part of what draws me to the place and to the people.
I first went to San Miguel after getting divorced, receiving my MFA, quitting a job and starting another one (teaching for AAU), and generally uprooting everything familiar in my life. In this the space, this emptiness, Cartographers began, though I didn’t know it at the time. Every time I go back, I feel the layers slipping away. I feel more open and present. I’ve even been told that my eyes and my face change. I see differently.
By letting go of everything that was familiar, I started building a new life – and a different approach to my art. It’s definitely a work in progress, but almost four years later, I can at least start to see the pattern, piece by piece.
KH: What photographers have influenced you and your process?
MF: So many! I am always looking at work. I love teaching in part because looking for reference for students encourages me to seek out artists that I may not have seen otherwise.
I was reading the diaries of Edward Weston when working on Cartographers and I always go back to the mundane magic of William Eggleston. I am grateful to Cig Harvey for continued inspiration. She asked important questions when I first began owning the power of incorporating my own story more directly into my work and through seeing her work evolve I was also able to give myself permission to explore very personal subject matter.
Mary Ellen Mark and Todd Hido were both inspiring to me as well, though less directly. I could go on and on.
KH: You also work as Full-Time Faculty at AAU, which must require balancing your energy between teaching and art production. What advice can you give to aspiring artists who work full time or have other obligations?
MF: The question of balancing work and art (work) is an important one and honestly I wish I was able to do a better job of this most days. While everyone has a slightly different approach, I find that I do much better when I have a routine in place. So, for example, I often make coffee and journal in the morning. Sometimes photo ideas come from it, other days it's just a way of getting some of the chatter out of my head and onto paper. I also recommend planning specific days or times to shoot. This can be annoying when you’re a student and it’s a requirement, but it can be easy to get out of the habit afterward and I honestly miss having deadlines!
Unlike many artists, I went directly from being a student to being a teacher and it took me a couple years to figure out any sort of balance between teaching (online), shooting for clients, and consistently making my own work. I like to plan weekend trips every 4-6 weeks and then 2-3 longer journeys during school breaks to places that inspire me and allow me to focus (San Miguel de Allende is essentially my second home).
One of the biggest challenges for me is that I often shoot digitally and that requires editing on the computer, which means that I am online and too easily pulled into school, emails, client requests, etc. It's been important for me to develop a routine (not checking email from bed, for example) so that I still have structure around a work day - as well as time "off!"
I also make sure that I capture images every day, even if it is just on my phone. It's important to me to intentionally look at the world as a photographer - to slow down and notice the world around me. I use Instagram and my blog to share them, and also to hold myself accountable.
I also love collaboration and I am often working with artists and professionals in other mediums to create or help promote work that continues to inspire and challenge me. The conversations and energy that come from these experiences are really a key part of my life.
So, I don't have a specific formula, but I do think it is important to find what works for you. For me, it's a combination of daily routine, conversations and collaborations with artists, teaching in order to share my experiences and continue to be engaged in the developments within both photography and education, living in a place that inspires and invigorates me, traveling in order to see the world anew and remain curious, seeing visual and performance art, creating ongoing series that usually last between 6-36 months as well as shorter projects that give me a sense of completion, and continuing to build and nurture the connections I have with creators.
One last thought (this is becoming a novel). Be sure to find/create opportunities to talk with people who are working artists. Don't rely on the cocktail party type conversations; dig deep and ask questions. Students and friends alike will tell you that I never stop asking question.
KH: What’s next for you?
MF: That’s always the question! I generally work on two or three projects at a time so I don’t burn out on one. Currently I am putting together a book of this work as I think it needs to be held and touched. And I really want to get this body of work up on gallery walls! I'm in the process of submissions now.
I’m also completing another series that I also began during this same period of transformation, but set aside for the last four years. In fact, it was the first body of work I shot after completing my thesis. I'm now going back with fresh eyes. Seeing it now, Hiraeth: Houses & Hotels (originally titled You & I) became a record of my experience the past few years of making my “home” in new cities and, often, in other people’s spaces. The images explore the question of what we present to the world and ultimately how far behind the mask art can go as well as what we need to feel connected or grounded in our lives. These scenes of daily ritual reflect moments that are familiar and inviting, while also containing a strangeness that causes us to pause and quiet the rush and rumble of life. I moved from NYC back to Portland, OR in August and I am enjoying a new appreciation for place and a physical home – and the mental and creative perspective to finish another long-standing body of work.
Since I love collaborating, I am also working on a book with a good friend (a writer) and I have bi-weekly art dates with another friend/collaborator to create new work. He’s a performer and a stylist, so we’re having a lot of fun challenging each other to step outside of our normal way of making art and create something new! It also helps to have someone to hold me accountable so I can’t ever go too long without picking up the camera.