Published on September 5th, 2012 | by Angela Son4
Interview with photographer Patricia Izzo
“When you lose almost every work of art that you created over 30 years,” photographer Patricia Izzo said, “including very personal items like the voice of my father telling jokes on a CD and all the artwork of my only daughter during her school years, you can go one way or another.”
In 2011, a fire in her studio destroyed 30 years of works, and Izzo “began at the beginning.” Right after the fire she stood on the precipice for a while, wondering where to begin if she could begin again. Then her creative energies began to flow as freely as they did before the fire and her urge to create became abundant. Born from both joy and pain, the fire has immensely inspired her later works, especially the Fragile Awakenings collection, exhibited at Rivers Edge Gallery in Wyandotte, Mich.
Izzo’s work since the fire has had more finite tones to it as she realized nothing lasts forever.
“My work has risen from the ashes, like the human spirit does after it has been crushed,” Izzo said.
She believes all people are made of strong, indefinable soul and when they find the beginning, they simply do the next thing. This is also the reason Izzo teaches painting to at-risk children at the Opportunity Center/Guidance Center in Wyandotte. Izzo says her job is to not necessarily teach but guide the children from backgrounds of unfortunate family circumstances, such as drugs, alcohol, poor parenting and poverty.
Izzo believes that art heals; as a facilitator, she guides the children to find their own creative DNA, which, once nurtured, nobody can take from them.
As an artist-in-residence at Rivers Edge Gallery, Izzo is a member of the National Women’s Caucus for the Arts (NWCA). (The Michigan chapter of NWCA recently hosted an exhibit called “Man Up! No Balls About It” at the University of Michigan last July.)
“We tackle feminist topics, social and global, through art,” said Izzo of the NWCA. “Personally, it has opened doors to a bigger purpose of what my art can add to this world.”
Izzo’s photography has been featured in many publications. The movie Harold and Kumar 3 features a few of Izzo’s floral works, “Lush” and “Rose Herself.” Currently, Izzo works with two other artists, Barbara Melnik Carson and Birgit Hutteman-Holtz, on a traveling exhibit called The Affairs of Serpents, Heroines, and Saints.
Her latest work, Seducation and Desire, displays the delicate balance of something that is hidden but wants to escape and be seen, particularly relating to individuals from different social, racial, ethnic and sexual backgrounds.
Izzo took a few moments to talk with Art Animal about her inspiration for Seduction and Desire and her plans for the future.
Art Animal: Your Seduction and Desire images implicates that people of all colors, sizes, shapes, appearances, religious beliefs and sexual orientation are seductive and desirable; to do this, you must need to find models who are comfortable with a provocative theme. How do you recruit your models?
Patricia Izzo: I do not use professional models but people who have in some way felt a little of where my image is headed. Most of the time, the collaborators come to me. They are friends, people I know in the arts, or just someone I meet along the way.
Having said so, I — with the collaborators — record the beautiful struggle that we go through as humans. It is the proof that we were here, and something to leave our future generations to learn and enjoy from.
AA: On your website you mention that each image of Seduction and Desire began as something hidden that longed to escape or to be known. I am interested to hear your process in collecting inspirations for this specific collection. Do you begin with the image or the words that tell the story of the image?
PI: Words are huge inspiration to me! I love to define the word or phrase that conjures up an image. Sometimes the image comes first, other times the words, but they go hand in hand when I am creating. My titles are used to help the viewer along but not hinder them in their own interpretations. One of my most favorite creating encounters is to sit and have coffee with a collaborator.
AA: The subject matter for this collection is vastly diverse. For example, “Infidel” and “Artemis and her Beast” were derived from Greek and Roman mythology whereas “NO!” is a modern twist on pop art. The audience sees flowers, schoolgirls, priests, geishas, BDSM, cats, muses…The list goes on. What ties these images together into one coherent exhibition?
PI: Life ties the images together. That is to say, the search for what part of history resonates with you. What part of pop culture can you belong to? What secret desires do you have? What archetype are you? What part of nature holds the magic for you? And what is the seduction of life to you? It is wide open for interpretation. I create with as little instruction to the viewer as possible. I hope my work seduces you to explore yourself.
AA: You ask viewers to “step out of line” and break the conventions of “polite society” in order to really connect with the images. What do you think is special about these images that they allow the viewers to draw personal meaning?
PI: For me, the collection begs the question, “What is desire?” Who decides what is most desirable? I am not afraid to push the psychological barriers and bring to light the ideas we tend to keep to ourselves.
AA: “Juliet” tells the story of an innocent schoolgirl. “Got Milk?” is a humorous portrayal of a pregnant woman. “Bella Donna” and “Amante Noir” represent mature, aged, voluptuous women. How do you explore the female identity through this collection?
PI: I believe in the “divine body sacred,” which I define as all female form is beautiful, and I celebrate it from a female artist’s point of view. Not only do our bodies give life, but are sensuous, powerful, erotic without being pornographic. They are simply beautiful in every shape, color and size. The diving Body Sacred, or the elevated “art nude” is always an inspiration to me. One of my favorite images on female identity is “Savage.” This piece was just in an exhibit called “Rage at the “Soho20Chelsea” gallery in Soho, New York City. “Savage” represents the primitive instinct of a woman that is the less represented side of femininity: not the nurturer, but the protector. When her children or those she loves are hurt or in danger, she changes from lover to animal warrior pretty damn quick.
AA: The collection is also philosophical at times, seen in pieces like “Chains that Bind,” allowing the reader to ponder upon the dividing lines between beauty, seduction, desire and obsession. What do those words mean to you and how did you reveal them through your works?
PI: “Chains that Bind” represents the oppression of the beautiful, and is a perfect example of how people, born socially accepted as beautiful, have a hard time getting rid of those massive chains. They may never reach their full potential due to the preconceived stereotypes of the beautiful. This is a twist, of course, on all the other stereotypes that are just as limiting and destructive to woman.
Seduction to me is not limited to the physical. It is all that seduces us as human beings, and hopefully we can see a myriad of things for our pleasure. Desire is a relative word because what you need the most is usually what you desire the most. Obsession is a familiar word to the artist, one which I am comfortable with, and one I believe we should search out and work towards living a passionate life, not limited to just the physical world but all the aspects of living.
AA: Any artistic projects in mind for the near future?
PI: I have an exhibit coming soon called “But I am Awake Now,” which I am feverishly working on with all the passion I can possibly shoot, paint and create with! The exhibit will be a selection of classic black-and-white film prints on cold-pressed watercolor paper, hand-painted film photographs on large artist canvas and small, stretched canvases with images and words working together. The opening of this exhibit will begin at Rivers Edge Gallery on November 10, 2012.
AA: Any final comments to Art Animal?
PI: One of my favorite quotes is, “I am not afraid. I was born for this,” by Joan of Arc. It sums up my approach to working as an artist.
To learn more about Izzo’s works, visit www.izzophotography.com