Living in Venice, I’m around a lot of artists. Musicians, painters, poets, filmmakers, photographers, and many that do it all. I dabble in the world of creation so I feel like I can speak on behalf of artists when I say, “letting your art out is SCARY!”
Imagine writing a song about getting your heartbroken then going on a stage with the lights shining in your eyes and a silent crowd waiting for you to share your emotional state with a bunch of strangers. Stage fright or no stage fright, that’s an anxiety attack waiting to happen. Think about how tough it might be for a poet to respond to “what do you do?” with, “I’m a poet”. At what point do you decide that your words that sometimes rhyme makes you a poet?
Art can be extremely personal. It may be the difference between and actor reading the script and the writer who believed the script was worthy of reading. The difference between the musician who sings someone else’s lyrics and the one who believes their songs should be sung, or a photographer who takes a picture someone hired them to take versus creating an image and allowing it to be open for interpretation.
This is Nicol. She’s my friend, mentor, fellow traveler, and we yell “good morning” to each other everyday because she lives across the street. She’s an incredible photographer and she’s taught me a lot about sharing my art. She’s been working on a project called Between Two Worlds. It started with an idea to photograph people holding taxidermied animals in public spaces, poetically referencing the loss of our primal connection in the speed of industrialized society. She’s spent time with so many cultures around the world who focus on this idea, but to some it might just appear to be a dark photo of a person holding a dead animal. So, going back to the importance of sharing your art, it’s SUCH A GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT to even move forward with an idea without convincing yourself it’s not a good one. We’re all guilty of that, right?
Next she had to rent these animals, find the people to hold them, drop them in busy areas, and hold space for the positive and negative responses this scene provoked in passerbyers. I was honored to be one of the subjects and it was amazing to watch her capture the moment using what feels like the long lost art of film, finding the focus and waiting for all the variables to flow in the right direction. I think she only took about 15 photos and of course had to wait until she developed them to see if she got what she wanted. After doing this multiple times with different people, animals, and locations she had a stack of photos and wondered what, if anything, she would do with them. They sat in her house.
After months she decided that even though there were positive and negative responses to the subject matter, she wasn’t ready to stuff the project in the back of her closet. She considered showing them in a gallery with some of the photos she’d shot for NGOs. All of her work is beautiful, but I don’t think she’d correct me if I said that idea was more doubt seeping it’s way in to her very personal piece of art. Finally she sucked it up and decided just to show some gallery owners Between Two Worlds to see what they’d say…. Or didn’t say. She explained her project while she laid out all of the photos at the fancy gallery in front of the owner and his intern. Crickets…… more crickets. No really, he didn’t say a word, the epitome of snobby gallery owner. It could have been yet another opportunity to turn back, but she didn’t. Finally she found a wonderful gallery owner in the neighborhood who’s committed to giving space to artists he’s inspired by whether they’re represented or not. Her photos had finally found a home to be shared with the world.
But the artists opportunity/challenge doesn’t stop there…. There’s the published poem, the album release, or in this case the exhibit. I’d compare this step to the feeling of throwing a party and being afraid no one is going to come. Some artists might have enough mind control to not even let that thought pass through, but most of us are a little more human than that. Between Two Worlds opens on Friday and it will be a must see event. Nicol feels like it’s not even “hers” anymore, it’s a community project.
It was amazing to witness this whole process with Nicol. It was the first time I REALLY understood how precious and personal work can be and the natural debate we have with ourselves about what’s just for us, what should be shared, and how much our art is worth. Between Two Worlds is a perfect example because 99% of people would look at it and say OF COURSE YOU SHOULD SHARE IT!!! It provokes thoughts about life, death, and our societies reaction to it. It beautifully forces us to face our comfort level with nature, what we’re loosing, and how we’re a part of it. Plus it’s always inspiring to see an artist make an idea come to life! We have more ways than ever to share our art these days and there’s a possibility someone out there wants or even needs to hear what you have to say through art. I know there is more art in me to be shared, what about you? Let’s let our art out.
As an artist and photographer, Nicol Ragland travels the world in search of stories that evoke images of truth and the art of being human.A love of photography and the wisdom of the indigenous has taken her to work as a photojournalist in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, India, Nepal, Thailand, Belize, Costa Rica, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Peru, Indonesia and Timor Leste. Her current documentary project is focused on The Hadzabe tribe of Tanzania, one of the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers in the world.An avid environmentalist advocating for social justice, she aligns her work to serve numerous non-profit organizations including St. Jude’s Hospital, Global Service Corps. of Tanzania, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Millennium Village of Rwanda, World Neighbors and The Cine Institute of Haiti.For the past ten years, Nicol has been influenced and informed by her time spent with the Indigenous and continues to engage in a long term photographic exploration into humanity’s relationship to culture, the wild, sustainability of the planet and how best we can, collectively, navigate a way out of the disease of disconnection that plagues modernity.As a fine art series, ‘Between Two Worlds’ is meant to subvert separatist thinking by poetically reflecting back the destruction of life amongst the speed of our industrialized society.Nicol aspires to push the dimensions of visual possibility, personal meaning and metaphorical potential while questioning the boundaries of rule.