Featured Artist: Yolanda McMahon

Yolanda McMahon is a  self-taught photographer from Medford who describes her work as cinematic, dramatic and abstract.

How did you get started as a photographer?

I started photography once a friend of mine in 2010 got a DSLR and we would go around MA finding places to shoot. I experimented a bit with lighting and settings

What kind of gear do you use? Do you have a favorite lens?

I work mainly with my Canon Rebel. I’m not big into the technical side of photography so as long as I can capture a moment, I’m set. (Shout out to Galaxy phone cameras as well!) Some of my favorite photos in low light have been from a Galaxy phone.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the vision I see in a shot. I have a goal with almost every photo, I see the photo how I want to in my head and then work from there. I love making ordinary things look out of the ordinary

You said your work is very “cinematic” and I totally agree. Can you talk more about this? Are you inspired by film? How do you capture the world in a “cinematic” way?

I wouldn’t say I’m inspired by film (I actually don;t watch much TV or movies) I’m more in tune with music, vision and emotion. I like putting music to the mood of my photos and make up my own cinematic world

Do you plan out the entire shot beforehand or do you see what happens in the moment?

I always shoot in the moment. I wish I could plan better actually

What’s your favorite place to take photographs?

My favorite place to take photos is typically outside or anywhere that I can turn into something more than it is. Even subway stations, stairs and hallways catch my eye. It usually depends on everything being “right

Do you edit the images in photoshop once you’ve taken them?

I edit my images in Adobe Lightroom. I’ve been seeing a lot of photoshop work recently, which has its own beauty, sweat and tears. But it tends to lose its authenticity for me

What project are you currently working on?

I feel like I’m always working on multiple projects at once. I usually have thousands of photos to edit that just pop up in my camera roll.

Are there any artists who inspire you? Any photographers you style your work after?

A good friend of mine, Jen Rose @Jenniferrose has always inspired me with her photos and also due to the fact that we share a lot of the same style.

What is the greatest achievement you’ve reached so far as an artist? What are you the most proud of, and what are your goals?

There is a hint of personal meaning in my photos once I’m satisfied with my work. But, I tend not to have a connection to the shot itself, only once I’ve “perfected” it

My most recent achievement has been my first published photos in a magazine (Visual Mag Issue 006) I dont have any strong goals with photos other than doing better and better with my work for myself. Everything good tends to come after that like a cherry on top

What words would you use to describe your work?

Abstract, cinematic

I love the neon colors of the people on a dark backdrop. How did you achieve that look? What does it mean to you?

I have very little experience with all things photo, as for the past 8 years I’ve self taught myself everything. The neon photos were shot in my basement with a little color changing light bulb from my room!

From these images I feel like you spend a lot of time capturing your life with a camera, is that a fair assessment? Do you find value in capturing moments or memories?

I originally would always take photos due to my short term memory being not so great. Being a visual person and having photos of certain moments would jog my memory of the feeling I had when I went to go take the photo. If it was important enough for me to capture it in the moment, then I want to keep it to look back on.

Above all, I’d like to add that depth is everything. To pull emotional depth is important. Its understanding others, I guess I’d say I connect more in negative space* with others. Creating a very real, raw, sometimes sad, special and beautiful outlook on the world. 

*negative space may sound bad but is my term for the unseen part of our world. Its kind of like that “feeling” in space around us, not us, and how we experience it. It’s fun to build around it in a photo- composition. 

Yolanda can be found on instagram @yolandamickman , on her website yolandamcmahon.com And on Facebook at Yolanda McMahon Art


Featured Artist: Jess Ferraro

Jess Ferraro is a Boston-Based artist, performer and model who works with other artists to “create something new and different”. She is involved not only in modeling but in circus arts and we are thrilled to share this in-depth interview with her focusing on her current “emotions” series.

Top left : Sadness – shot by Jen Rose Photo
Mid left : Loniless – shot by Jen Rose Photo
Bottom Left : Anger – shot by Andrew Veenstra Photography
Top right : Isolation – shot by Captured by Ginny
Mid right : Love – shot by Tori Sviokla Photogrpahy
Bottom right : Anxiety – shot by Shutter Bunny Art

How do you visualize how each emotion is represented? Do they have stories that go along with your life?

Visualizing each emotion has been a very interesting journey. I often don’t identify with many emotions, if any at all most days. So I started this project to get a bit of a better grasp on feelings and emotions. I’ve been kind of playing to how many people refer to them and the other stigmas, interpretations and figures of speech that correlate with each feeling and emotion to create some really interesting visuals. For example when shooting love, I had an underlying mood of ‘love is blind” but also other themes like toxic relationships, fake love and similar things like that. When shooting anxiety, I took from some feelings that I tend to run into when my anxiety increases in situations where I feel like my hands are tied and I can’t do anything about the situation at hand. Feeling vaguely helpless, foggy and in a mild panic. It is all a process of interpreting these emotions and feelings in as many perspectives as I can fathom and working with multiple other photographers on this project definitely helps that process.

When you’re working with a photographer on each image how do you explain what you want to accomplish? Do you plan ahead with colors in mind? How much of the photos are edited in post?

I give the photographer’s an outline of the concepts I am trying to portray through the costume and makeup look I’ve created for the shoot. I then give the photographers the creative freedom on how to shoot and edit the shots. Sometimes there will be a few shots I have in mind and we talk about them and see if they will work with the overall vision of that feeling or emotion. I usually show up fully ready to shoot in most cases, unless I need to change or add extra elements once I arrive on set due to transportation.

Photographer: Marc Klaus
Stylist: The Style Astronaut
Makeup Artist: BaelienMUA

When you’re photographing this series, are you focusing on feeling the emotion you’re trying to represent?

I often try to embody as much of the emotion as I can when actually shooting, but mostly try and express the underlying themes and create the imagery I want to portray ior the outcome.

What kinds of reactions do your photos get? How do you feel about those reactions

I have received many reactions, mostly positive and encouraging. Which has been wonderful, but I also tend to get a few odd interactions when I create some images that are a bit more out of the box that people often think I operate in. I often read the mixed reactions as a good sign that I’m making people think about my art instead of just putting something out there and having people not be affected by it. I like that this series has the ability to make people feel something.

Photographer: Andrew MacRobert
Edited by Pengwar
Stylist: The Style Astronaut
Makeup Artist: BaelienMUA

Do you associate certain emotions with certain colors?

When I first started this project I realized that most of the emotions I had on my list were all on the sadder, bluer side of the spectrum. As it expanded and I work with more people, more emotions have connected to more color schemes and have gone in multiple directions. I also tend to correlate each emotion with specific textures and textiles, but I think that might just be the fashion designer in me peeking its way out.

Describe your style in 3 words.

Extra, unconventional, and unique

What is the weirdest thing you’ve done for a photoshoot?

I don’t often think things I do for shoots are weird, but other people probably would haha. I’ve spun fire in the snow at 1am, modeled with loaves of bread, gotten bottles of champagne poured on me in a bathtub, had my head put in fruit webbing, poured milk all over the sidewalk, balanced on abandon rocking horses in a field, climbed inside of washing machines, swam with pineapples, pretended to eat eyeballs, rode the T covered in blood, had my butt spanked with handfuls of glitter, strolled around a cemetery with no pants on. All things that I don’t find that weird, but other people probably will haha.

Photographer: Ginny Cummings
Stylist: The Style Astronaut
Makeup Artist: BaelienMUA

What artists inspire you?

I have had the pleasure of surrounding myself with artistic friends that inspire me every day.

How did you get started modeling?

When I was a kid my parents took me to a casting call for child models. I made it through the whole process and had gotten so bored of it by the time it came to the casting, that I asked if we could just go home. In my later years I picked it backup as a hobby and a way to showcase some of my work when I was still actively designing clothing. I have since expanded my modeling and honed my skills to create other things with many artists.

I know you also take part in circus arts. Does that inform your modeling and art? Can you tell us how you got into doing that? It sounds so cool!

I am a performer, so I guess I got more into aerials through wanting to explore more circus arts. I really enjoy it and it definitely brings other weird poses and mannerisms into my arsenal. I often use my character building skills to create acts and other forms of art. It often brings a fun perspective to new art projects.

What inspires you?

I often pull inspiration from many things; nature, my fellow artists, textures, feelings, fabrics, the reflections off glass and iridescent rainbows. Collaborations, working off each others ideas, creating new worlds and alternate dimensions. I also get a lot of inspiration from space and my surroundings. People watching also sparks some great inspiration, as well as roaming through museums and other public spaces.

What are you working on next?

I feel like I’m constantly working on so many things at a time, but I have a few things in the works that I can’t quite divulge just yet. So you will just have to keep an eye out on my socials to see what I’m up to next haha.

Photographer: Kermen T
Stylist: The Style Astronaut
Makeup Artist: BaelienMUA

Jess can be found on Pengwar.com . Her instagram handles are @supernova_vision and @pengwar and she can be found on Facebook @pengwarart

Featured Artist: Samantha Marcone

Samantha Marcone is an incredible local artist who creates beautiful nature-inspired colors and brightened up our week with her stunning watercolors. We are thrilled that she was able to take the time to talk to use about her work and to share this interview with you.
© Samantha Marcone

How did you start out as a painter?

I always really loved art, and got into painting acrylics a little bit when I was in college. I really started getting into painting, especially watercolors when I had to take two days off from teaching due to a cold last fall. With no much to do and an unused watercolor palette I really just fell in love with the medium and I’ve been almost addicted to it since.

Walk me through the process of beginning a piece. Is each painting done with full intention? Or do you find yourself crafting new ideas as you go along? How do you pick your subject?

Almost every piece is started with me staring at my watercolors and deciding what color Id like to work with. I usually end up scouring the internet looking for whatever interesting animals, plants or fungi I can find with that primary color and I go from there. Depending on the day or mood I’m in, my artistic intent can range from being as accurate as possible, or more loose as I decide to play with colors and let go of the realism that usually drives me.

© Samantha Marcone

Your work finds a lovely blend between abstract and realism.  How do you balance these two aspects of your work?

By day I teach Biology and Anatomy, so often I go for the scientific illustration when it comes to my art work, specifically when the subjects are things I am familiar with. At one point in my life, as I pursued a degree in zoology, I had intended to pursue art to be a scientific illustrator- this ended up switching to a masters in education, where and I find myself using art to teach almost daily. If I can’t explain something verbally to my students the next thing I do is try to draw it out, and I find that’s where a lot of my practice comes from. I think that also dictates what my subject is some days, after I’ve drawn the brain 6 times on the board in expo market and erased it to draw a neuron, I start to miss the brain so I go home and draw a nice one to keep for myself. When it comes to the abstract aspect of my art, I think it tends to come out when I’m not familiar with my subject, or have a lack of resources. The giraffe, one of my more abstract pieces, was painted during one of the blizzards we had last winter, I had no internet, no good books for reference, just a doodle of a giraffe. I actually think the abstract work takes me a lot longer to paint because it is just so different from what I teach and interact with on a daily basis. It’s a fun challenge for me, and I like trying to change my perspective from the way I typically view the world.

© Samantha Marcone

In a broader context, what inspires you about nature?

Outside of work I consider myself a naturalist, and can spend hours outside. I constantly find myself  appreciating the perfection and beauty of what nature has designed, something I try to reflect in my artwork. I was a 13 year Girl Scout, something that I think made me appreciate not just nature and outdoors, but trying to protect it. I  have my degree in zoology, and have spent most of my working life working with animals (specifically fish and insects) or focusing on conservation through environmental education. One of my really good friends Sam Jaffe, who owns The Caterpillar Lab in NH got me interested in bugs because of the way he photographed them- listening to him tell me how amazing these plain looking caterpillars were. He would literally drape them on my shoulders and head when I would go hang out with him and it definitely started to change how I saw macro universe.

© Samantha Marcone

Your work is very colorful! I also adore how soft yet boldly geometric all your pieces are. Was this choice on purpose?

I love color. I think the color and line work I choose is a reflection of the ebb and flow of my personality that I impose onto my art. Growing up in New England I faced some harsh winters and found myself always looking forward to the burst of colors of spring, summer and fall. My personality I think definitely flows with the seasons, and reflects what environment I’m immersed in. My art in the winter tends to be those more geometric and lined work, with more muted and softer colors. I have seasonal depression and tend to see things as more hard and muted when I’m in those lows that I experience. When I’m in those highs, especially when it’s warm, I spend more time outside and I’m generally seeing the world in brighter color, which I bring into my art to hold on to that happy place.

© Samantha Marcone

Your work appears scientific in nature. Do you keep your pieces more accurate to the subjects or do you take creative liberties with some?

I don’t often take creative liberty with my subjects- I have been fascinated with anatomy since I took a comparative anatomy class in college and have transitioned my observation and inspection of nature to be more of a comparative approach, trying to observe and admire the adaptations that each living thing has that has allowed it to survive on this planet. I really enjoy researching why my subjects are built the way that they are and try to reflect their unique differences in my art. If anything, my creative liberties come in the form of overly bright colors, mostly highlighting the things I see as the most impressive in an evolutionary aspect.

© Samantha Marcone

Is there a personal meaning to any or all of your work?

All of my work is based on things that I find interesting… I am a bad business person in the respect that if someone wants me to make something, almost every bone in my body is like “don’t do it, go paint this ugly vulture that almost no one would want to hang in their home, just because you’ve been really into researching why they’re bald this week”. Every piece I make is meaningful to me in some way- I pour my emotion into my art every time I make it, sometimes based on my photography or my friends Naturalist photography, sometimes based on something I saw while hiking, sometimes based the subject of a question a student asked. I tend to get momentarily obsessed with the idea of something until I paint it, and then get to sit back and appreciate it.

What project are you currently working on? At any given time I’m honestly working on 3-5 things. I am not one of those artists who can sit and work on one piece for more than a few hours. I like to take mental breaks by switching up my mediums and subjects (which sometimes means I have art that goes unfinished for days, weeks or years at a time). I’m currently trying to play around with graphic design, and explore the world of Lino printing. I also have been getting back into acrylics, but using wood slices as a canvas for naturalist based art. I am absolutely obsessed with bones and skeletons and I have been working on doing more anatomical artwork.

© Samantha Marcone

What is the greatest achievement you’ve reached so far as an artist? What are you the most proud of, and what are your goals?

I think the greatest achievement I’ve reached as an artist is having a few people get my art tattooed on their body. Being asked to design something they wanted to have on their body forever is truly the biggest compliment I could receive, and their happiness with the final product is just overwhelming.I’m most proud of taking the step to sell my art finally. The response has been empowering and made me better myself as an artist; I feel like I am much more motivated to make art, as well as up my game and my techniques. I truly think each piece I make is better than the last.My goals currently are to create an educational coloring book, and to start designing a naturalist art clothing line-  there is a very small niche of people I think will be interested in it, but I would honestly love to see people wearing my art. I just think that would be the absolute coolest thing I could do.

What kinds of reactions do your pieces get? How do you feel about those reactions.

I’ve started doing pop up shows to sell my art at indie-style craft markets and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments. A lot of people will sit and talk to me about why I have painted a specific piece and end up buying it once they have heard my (sometimes bizarre) backstory to why I chose a specific subject. One person visited my booth, talked to me for about 20 minutes, then came back with their parents and said “Mom this is the artist I was telling you about!”. That kind of  positive feedback blows my mind. I think the craziest thing is that the people who come to the pop ups don’t know me, and then end up buying 3-5 different pieces because they truly enjoy my art so much. I had a woman tell me that my art “brought her so much joy” when she saw saw it that she had to have it. It’s crazy. I’m still not used to it.

© Samantha Marcone

What words would you use to describe your work?

Naturalistic and nature inspired- I don’t think I’ve really found my niche in mediums or style aside from my subjects, so this is definitely still to be determined What do you try to express in your work?  In general, I think I try to express the beauty I see in sometimes unappreciated nature. I paint a lot of insects and mushrooms, which is not a go-to subject when people look for living room art, but I get to explain how amazing these things are when they ask why I paint them, and I hope it makes people reconsider stepping on them at the very least.

© Samantha Marcone

Are there any artists who inspire you?

Dino Nemec, Laurelin Sittery, and Joe Weatherly are all contemporary artists that constantly inspire me. They all are nature based artists, very different in styles but I really enjoy the realism aspect of art, mixed in with sometimes abstract linework or colorful additions to their pieces.

What is your goal as an artist?

I just want to make people happy, and maybe teach them something through my art. I would love to incorporate more conservation into my art, and help people appreciate and understand nature and our role in the environment.

Samantha can be found on Facebook HERE and on instagram at @birderincrime

© Samantha Marcone

Featured Artist: Kimmy Lola Cunningham

Kimmy Lola Cunningham is a model, stylist, art director and self-described “Sustainable Fashion Enthusiast”. Her unique, colorful vision inspires us to create on a daily basis and we’re thrilled to share this interview with her!

Photo by Sydney Claire

Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?

I think a lot of people really place me in one or two categories and that’s usually weird and colorful, and although I absolutely adore both of those, I’m pretty much open to anything and everything. To me, the whole play of being an artist/model is having the freedom to explore multiple avenues of your art and what you are really capable of. The more diverse, the better and funner in my opinion.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve done for a photoshoot? 

Oh man, either willingly allowing myself to be slimed 

or having hot wax poured all over me —- actually yeah the slime definitely wins, it was soooooo uncomfortable. 

Photo by Bob Canto
Model is Kitty Collins
Styling by me and clothing provided by Great Eastern Trading Company

Do you approach a photoshoot differently when you model versus when you are the stylist?

That’s a great question! I approach things a little bit differently but not by much. My styling is very niché and almost all the outfits I create for photographers and models are ones I’d wear on a daily basis haha. I definitely try to consider other models though when they wear my outfits, like is it 20 degrees out? Okay — how can we still make them warm but still look effortless and fun? Where as if I’m modeling and styling myself I’m way less thoughtful and will allow myself to freeze if it’s for the art. Probably not the best idea…

Photo by Chorale Miles for Verb Hotel

What things do you look for in a photographer when you plan a shoot?

I shoot with people who are generally open minded to sharing concepts. As much as I love modeling, I also love being able to collaborate first hand with the photographer on ideas and also being a ‘director’. Some of my best shoots are with people who are willing to just explore and bounce off of ideas with each other. I appreciate people who can direct me when needed but still let me do my own thang rather than just trying to tell me what I should do for everything. Not that this style of shooting isn’t acceptable or anything, but it just makes me personally feel less comfortable and less creative. 

How did you get started as a model? 

Kind of by accident! I was just doing this fun side project where I was documenting my fashion outfits in my upstairs apartment hallway, and then one day my best friend and model Grace asked if I wanted to shoot at a carnival with her and my friend Jaina, and ever since then, things were never the same again! I fell in love with the characters I could put on and the play of emotion you can really capture within a photo. Like hey! That’s my face — I did that! 

Photo by Paige Miller
partial clothing provided by Lucy in Disguise

I love how unique your work is, how do you feel you fit into the overall trend of modern day fashion photography?

Thank you! 

I’m not too sure honestly. I definitely don’t disregard fashion trends or anything, but I do try to stay authentic to myself and what my specific taste and vision is and I hope that shows within my art. I really like doing avant-garde shoots and editorial work that kind of bends people’s brains in half because they have to try to make sense of what’s going on in the photo. I think Fashion can sometimes be taken too seriously and being able to make it even weirder than it already is, is definitely my ultimate goal.

I also have been trying to involve more vintage and second-hand clothing within my styling and modeling shoots because it’s an awkward topic that we ignore in America. Fast fashion is dangerous for many reasons but a few to name as that the people who make your clothes are treated and paid horrifically unfairly. Fast fashion also minimizes local designer’s and shop’s hard work and creations, and additionally it wastes so much material and is a further contribution to pollution. Honestly, shopping green, local and second hand too is great because you save so much more money and feel like you’re doing something to help benefit your society while still looking fabulous! 

Photo by David Morales

Do you think there is an art/fashion “scene” in Boston?

I believe in the last few years it has definitely grown from like 2% to 5% out of 100%, but we still have a long ways to go and I don’t think we will ever be like NY. I don’t see anyone pushing the boundaries. People are too scared to truly express themselves and cause a scene or stir, fashion-wise.

My favorite fashion icons in Boston are usually people who own vintage stores because I feel like they get it and I appreciate them for keeping alive quality made, one of a kind pieces! 

How do you plan out a shoot? Are there poses, compositions or scenes you plan out beforehand?

It really depended on the photographer and how they like to work! I generally like to at-least have an idea or concept or come up with them on my own that way I can piece a look together. But once I have that outfit on or a prop in my hand, the rest just falls into place. Sometimes I like to think of a back story so I can get myself into a state of mind of what this person would be like in real life, and I think that usually really helps aid me in my expressions and poses. 

Photo and set design by Ally Shcmaling

I love your use of color in your work (The all yellow piece is amazing), are you conscious of this before you start working? Do you specifically work with photographers who use bright colors?

Yeah, Ally Shcmaling is an absolute blessing to this artistic community! But no, I don’t usually seek out people who work with color, they seek out me because of my hair, I think! Which is pretty cool, because sometimes people can get a little terrified of color, I’m not sure why, but I love how it can really evoke so much emotion. 

Photo by David Morales

Are there any artists who inspire you?

Literally like every artist in the Boston community! We’ve grown SO much these past three to four years it’s insane and so exciting!

On a grander level by biggest inspiration is Nadia Lee Cohen. Like if I could marry her I probably would just because I think she is the coolest person alive. Everything she does blows me away. 

Kimmy can be found on instagram @holalalalola and online at https://kimmylolacunningham.com/.

Featured Artist: Valerie Prosper Imparato

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Valerie Prosper Imparato is originally from Haiti ,but has lived all over the world. Valerie’s aesthetic draws from the diverse cultural influences in her upbringing, with an emphasis on East-African and Caribbean art.

Valerie’s art teeters on the balance between the ethereal and the earthly; the fantasy of the whimsical and the perspective of the realist. She hopes to make art that inspires dialogue on issues of faith, race, immigration, feminism, and the plight of the oppressed.

Her most recent work is focused on the Black Woman and all of the identities folded within the intersectionality of blackness and womanhood.

Valerie attended our first Boston Visual Artists meeting at Zuzu in Cambridge, and we were all stunned by her work, and we are excited to share this interview and samples of her work.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?

 It definitely changes piece to piece, but I think that I get in these moods where a series of pieces will be about the same thing. Lately a lot of my work has been about  black women and presenting black women as holy. It has been about the godliness that lives within black women. As a Christian, there are all of these representations of white Jesus which are frankly, historically inaccurate. More than that though, I think that many black women don’t see themselves in the American Church, and they certainly are not often presented as holy or pure in American media. The golds that I use, and the Renaissance style-esque aesthetic that I  incorporate in my work all point towards that holiness. 

I see you are from Haiti, how did you end up in Boston? How do you find the art scene here? What is the most artistically inspiring place that you have lived?

I am indeed from Haiti! I have moved around A LOT. I was born in Haiti, and then spent 13 years in Maryland, followed by 1 year in Johannesburg South Africa, followed by 3 years in Nairobi Kenya, followed by college in New York (with a brief stint in Spain), law school in Cambridge MA, back to NY for work, and back to Cambridge when I got married a couple of years ago.  So I guess the short answer is that I moved back two and a half years ago after I got married because my now husband was located here. I am still learning the art scene in Boston. I have found great community here, which is wonderful, but I will say that it has been harder for me to find my art people in Boston than it was in New York. The most artistically inspiring place that I have lived is New York, but only because New York is filled with art from all over the world.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

How did you start as a visual artist?

I have only recently been calling myself an artist (in the last 5 years), but I have always loved art. I did a lot of art work with my mom when I was a child, and drawing and painting have always been soothing for me. I started taking my work more seriously when I was in law school and the stress of life made me a true insomniac. I would paint at night since I couldn’t sleep, and then I had so much art around the house that I figured I should start sharing it with others.

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

Recently a lot of people have told me that my art makes them “feel something,” and that’s the goal. It is often difficult for people to articulate, which is great, because it’s difficult for me to articulate too. I think that a lot of my work feels intimate, even though it’s about more universal themes. I love that people feel that way.

Do you hope that your work will inspire a change in the people who view it?

I do. I hope that my art makes people view black women differently. I hope that it makes people view faith differently. I hope that it makes people view the world differently. Ultimately, I hope that people share a private moment with my work, and that that moment causes introspection.

How do you start a piece? Do you have the finished idea in your head when you begin?

I never have a finished idea in my head before I start a piece! I think that has happened maybe once. The way that I start depends on the kind of work I am going to do. If it is mixed media, I usually start with an image that speaks to me, and create the are around that. If I am working on canvas, I usually start with the figure that I am going to paint, and then create my world around her.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Are there any artists who inspire you?

So many. I have always been inspired by Dali’s surrealism. I am very into Kehinde Wiley lately. I would say that any artist that puts themselves out there inspires me. It’s a really hard thing to do, and it is sharing such a personal part of yourself.

What draws you to East African and Caribbean art?

I have always been drawn by the color and whimsy of both East African and Caribbean art. A lot of Haitian art has this ethereal quality to it, and I often incorporate that into my work. Kenyan art to me has always felt alive. It’s just so full of life and color, and I love that.

What is your goal as an artist?

I think I am still trying to figure that out. I want to make art that is true. If that truth sparks something in others, then all the better, but I never want to make art for other people.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Valerie’s work can be found on her website Valeriepimparato.com and on instagram @Vp_visualart.

Featured Artist: Tatiana Dorokhova

Tatiana is a Boston-based photographer who creates incredible eye-catching photography. We are thrilled to share some of her work and this in-depth interview about her process.

Model: Carter Pierre
Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Is there something universal that you express in your photos, or does it change piece to piece?

Beauty! It`s all about the beauty. It comes in different forms, shapes, colors and that is what excites me the most. I want to show people how beautiful they are.

Some of your photos look like they come from another world, it’s so beautiful! Do you have a vivid imagination?

Thank you! This means so much to me! Ever since I was a little kid, people were saying that I had a very vivid imagination. 

Many things can be a source of inspiration for me. Very often I get ideas from my dreams: I can see a perfect set, a beautiful color pallet or even a pose. And when I wake up I have a vision of what I would like to photograph next. 

Sometimes my inspiration comes from music: at first melodies bring up a certain feeling, and then it grows into a vivid image. 

And of course I must mention the nature. It is the biggest source of inspiration for me! And it doesn’t have to always be a forest or a scenic river. I just take a walk outside and start looking for a “photogenic” set. 
Quite often after posting a photo I get messages from people asking in what garden/forest that photo was taken. And they get very surprised when I say that “This is a giant rhododendron blooming right next to Dunkin’ Donuts in Arlington”:) 

Inspiration is everywhere! Generating ideas is a very exciting process that makes you look inside of you by being open to the outside world.   

Model: Tina Bell
Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Do you plan what a photo will look like before you plan the shoot?

I always know in what direction I want the certain project to go. Having a vision helps a lot to have most of preparation work done before the actual shoot. When you are well prepared you feel more relaxed, and that helps to boost your creativity. There’s no strict starting point of the planning process: it can be the location that a concept is based on; it can be the model, the outfit, the color pallet, the props. Each time the options are endless and I get to choose what inspires me the most.

I truly enjoy when the models and hair&makeup artists take an active part in the creative process. I discuss the details of a shoot with everyone who is involved. We do sketches, mood boards and share our thoughts.

What is something you look for in your models?

Oh this is a good one:)  

I am always in search for new faces for my projects. If it is a particular look I am going for, then in this case I am looking for someone who would fit perfectly onto the concept I have in mind. I can even ask a person on a street if they would like to be my model! In fact, the majority of people I do the art projects with are not professional models.  

Sometimes there is no concept yet, and I am simply looking for a muse. In this case I open all my social media resources and start the search. I get quite a lot of messages/emails from people who would like to work together and I am very grateful for that. However, the moment someone says “I have a big white fluffy dog/snake/big ladder/huge truck/collection of wigs that we could use…” my attention immediately goes to that person! When I see that someone is willing to contribute, to be a part of the process or simply has a desire to create – I usually can not resist! I guess that is what I am looking for in my models.

Color seems very important to your images, is that something you are conscious of when editing them?

For me it all comes naturally. I know that the color has the power to create different mood for images: it can make you feel happy, or calm, or sad. It can be used to show the contrast between the objects, or harmonize them and bring together. However, I never think of it from a technical perspective. I want the image to look certain way, and to give certain feelings to people who see it, so I make sure it represents my vision. It`s a very intuitive process to find a right color scheme, and it begins at the stage of planning the shoot.   I can find a beautiful color combination at a very unexpected place, and then use it later for a project. It can be anything – a reflection on a wet pavement, a colorful bird, flowers, paintings… Few days ago I was at a fabric store and noticed that three different fabrics were randomly put together on a sale shelf. They matched so well, that I took a photo of them and guess what, it’s in my “inspiration folder” now;)

Model: Ciara Fitzgerald
Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Do you use a lot of photoshop after the fact?

Photo editing is an amazing tool, if you know what you want from it. It provides you with yet another opportunity to express your vision. Sometimes I use it to make light corrections, sometimes I use it to create different worlds;)

Drawing, changing the mood of the entire photo by stylizing it, turning summer into winter, adding different effects – all that is a part of the editing process that I enjoy a lot. You can be a photographer and a painter at the same time! Isn’t that great?

Of course, not every photoshoot is a creative art project, so it really depends on what I am going for. I can improve every little detail of the photo and make it look impeccable. Attention to details brings the entire image to the next level. 

How did you get started as a photographer? Do you find this area a good place to work on photography?

It all started few years ago with me taking photos of… myself 🙂 Then friends started asking if I could take their photos as well. That’s how it all started. A year ago I moved to Boston and started discovering new possibilities. I think this area is a great place to work in photography.

Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Are you outside photographing in all the seasons? What is the worst weather you have shot in?

Yes, I am always outside! Nature is my biggest inspiration and I absolutely enjoy shooting outdoors with natural light. It feels like the entire world is my studio where I get to create absolutely anything I want. So much freedom!

I believe every season has something magical to offer, but things get tricky when the weather goes to its extremes. Excessive heat, cold, snow or rain are challenging. Of course you can always postpone the shoot, but if it is exactly the extreme that you are looking for your project, then you should look for a model who is equally willing to do this. Team work is essential. No matter if it is a client or a TFP model, you need positive energy at the shoot, and a mutual desire to create beautiful photos. That way you can overcome even the worst weather conditions and turn the entire process into a fun and unforgettable experience!  

I had several snow shoots at the frozen lake few weeks ago. It was extremely cold, windy and the models had to wear light summer dresses. We parked the cars as close to the shooting location as possible and kept them running in order to be able to come back any moment and warm up. We also brought hot tea and warming pads. After finding a perfect spot and making test shots, the models were taking off their winter jackets and we were shooting for few minutes. Short break. Shooting for few minutes again. It was challenging but fun at the same time!

Model: Carter Pierre
Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Where do you find the amazing clothing and sets in your work?

I consider myself a lucky photographer because I get to work with many very talented and creative people. I am proud of a network of professionals I know: everyone is a pro at what they do, and that allows making any ambitious idea come true!

Very often clients and models suggest their outfits/props/ideas and then we put it all together into one art look.  
I am also good with making props myself, starting from flower crowns to making simple dresses. This is exactly how I started doing my first art projects – making things with my own hands. 

Where can we find you on social media? Do you have a website we can promote?

Website: https://tatianadorokhova.wixsite.com/tdphotography

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TatianaDiPhotography

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tati.style/ 

Introducing Mae Horak And the Taiga

Questions by Andy Conley

Series: The Taiga

‘The Taiga is a photography series initially inspired by the Decemberists Hazards of Love album. It tells a story of destructive love, heartbreak and rebirth through handmade clothing, sets and photography. The story takes place in an ancient mysterious forest and is inspired by European fairy tales. The Taiga reminds us that nature is vastly more powerful than any individual.’ ©Mae Horak

“Her Domain” ©Mae Horak
Model: Kimmy Cunningham

How did you get into fashion design? Where was your start?

I started making clothes as a child, I remember learning to sew when I must have been 12 years old. The first clothes I ever made was a Halloween costume for me and a friend in sixth grade, and in high school started buying used clothes at GoodWill just to tear them apart to use as pattern pieces. I’ve never followed a store-bought pattern, so that’s how I learned to make my own patterns!

I studied fashion at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and graduated in 2018. Two of my favorite classes at fashion school were Couture Techniques and Tailoring where I learned about high-end clothes making, and I think those techniques of making very structured garments is evident in my work.

I love how unique your work is, how do you feel you fit into the overall trend of modern day fashion photography?

I’m not sure it does, I can’t say. I’ve never had my finger on the pulse of modern fashion or pop culture. I hope that there is a place for what I do in the modern art world. I try to use social media to show my work. I don’t think I’m great at it but I try. I’m doing a gallery show with this series in the summer, hopefully the first of many!

“The Rake” ©Mae Horak
Model: Charli Summers

Your work is very dark, both emotionally and physically. Is there a meaning or reason behind the tone?

I think it’s important to be comfortable with darkness. Without darkness there would be no light. That’s true of everything, it’s about balance. There’s a lot of beauty in dark things.

For me this project has been an escape from my life. In the good times, a celebration of creativity and the wonderful people who help me create each image, and in the bad times, a way for me to channel my energy and escape from the bad into the Taiga, a world I created in my head.

Like I say in the project description, nature is more powerful than any one person. It’s humbling. That humbling feeling can be terrifying, or it can be freeing. It’s up to you.

You mentioned this series was inspired by European Fairy tales. Which tale would you say you pull the most inspiration from and why?

So the original story of the rock opera “Hazards of Love” was meant to take sort of archetypal folk tale characters and tell a sort of twisted story of their doomed love. When I read that it sparked the idea of using elements of folk costume in my work. I am especially drawing from slavic tradition, as I think you will see with some of the clothing I am making right now for the shoots in the spring.

It started with the “Cranberry Witch” character, the first photos I did for this series (in a Cranberry Bog, read about that here!) Where I made her a headdress inspired by a Ukranian vinok.

“Cranberry Witch” ©Mae Horak
Model: Alana Grace

You make all the clothes for this shoot? How long does it take?

Yes! Everything worn by the characters in the photos is completely handmade by me. I start from scratch making each piece. I start by sketching silhouettes and little details. I learned to sew while I was in school by replicating historical garments in my free time so I tend to be very inspired by historical garments from Europe and Asia specifically.

“The Queen” ©Mae Horak
Model: Kimmy Cunningham

How do you conceptualize what you want the clothes to look like?

I like to work on a series around a story because I find any art that tells a story fascinating. The first full collection I did was based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Now that I take the photos myself as well, I design the clothes specifically with a photo in mind. That means a lot of the clothes are cumbersome or impossible to be worn in “real life”, like the Winter Witch’s skirt which is about 4 feet too long, or the Queen’s gloves made from real tree branches.

About half of the clothes I have made for the Taiga are made for specific “characters” from the story that inspired the project, and the others are characters that I have created to fit into my own imagination and my own version of the world that makes up the entire project.

For example, the Cranberry Witch is a character I came up with while driving through the south shore towards Cape Cod.

The project started out 4 years ago when I was listening to the Decemberist’s ‘Hazards of Love’. The album is a concept album that combines many folk tale archetypes into a story of doomed love. The thing that drew me to the story was this sense of doom, and the overall sense that nature is more powerful than all of us. In fact, the most powerful creature in the whole story is a part of the forest herself, made of tree branches. She is a character I had a really fun time creating, and can be seen in “The Queen” and “Her Domain”

I have worked in the past in theater doing costumes and the stuff I design for the Taiga is done in a very similar way to that. I sketch a lot. What I’m really looking for in a sketch is the silhouette. From there, I source fabric and drape each garment to a dress form.

“Snow Witch” ©Mae Horak
Model: Carter Pierre

From an outsider perspective, your work seems very primal and yet has royal and medieval aspects. Would that be right? How do you achieve this balance between two very different themes?

Thank you! I get so wrapped up in my own head that it’s always really interesting hearing feedback from people viewing my work!

I would guess that the “primal” emotions you’re getting from the pieces comes from what I was talking about earlier, the connection with Mother Nature as this humbling force. I love designing characters that are beautiful but fierce, especially my female characters. Alexander McQueen once said “I want people to be afraid of the women I dress”. I love that.

The more refined details are things I picked up from the historical clothing and couture designers that inspire me!

You had mentioned that the series “The Taiga” reflects ‘destructive love…’ to a ‘rebirth’. Is there a specific order these pieces are to be viewed? Is the work guiding use through the theme from piece to piece or is each a whole story in its entire image.

Yes, there is a specific order that the series is supposed to be viewed in and the passing of time is something I’ve been very conscious of throughout the series. I am planning to shoot in every season. So far I shot in early and late autumn, winter and plan to do another midwinter shoot, with the main bulk of the series being shot in the spring. It’s funny to be answering questions about it before these significant images are shot, because I know exactly how I want them to look, but no one else does!

I plan to make the final series into a photo book, which should be sometime later this year!

Which is your favorite from the series?

The ones I am in the process of working on right now! They don’t exist yet, only in my head. Those are always my favorite.

Are there any artists or designers who inspire you? How did they influence you? Did they influence the series at all?

I mentioned Alexander McQueen. I think he’s my biggest influence as a designer. All of his collections tell a story.

As I get more into photography, I am learning about the work of photographers who do sort of similar things to me. I like people who take editorial fashion to a creative way, and people who build sets and costumes for their photos.

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

Mostly people are shocked that I make all the clothes, and that we do the smoke and special effects live. I don’t photoshop the images beyond basic color correcting.

Honestly I think that people tend to like the more classically “pretty” images best, the ones of pretty girls in dresses, or ones that look more like traditional fashion photos, but that’s ok. I don’t expect every person to like all of my work.

My wish for this series is that it affords people a little bit of the escapism it has given to me. And that it sparks imagination.

“Haunted” ©Mae Horak
Model: Chali Summers

Last question: Is that a real skull, and if so, do you still have it or do you let the models keep the clothes??

Ha! It is a resin cast of a deer skull! I actually had to use a dremel and shave off the back of the skull to have it rest properly on the models head – it was still very hard to balance, that was a stressful shoot!

I don’t give the clothes away, as a lot of them are the product of 50+ hours of hand work, and I am going to be showing them off in a runway show, and actually show some of the costume pieces in the gallery show of the photographs as well!

Mae can be found on instagram @maehorak and her website is maehorak.com

Featured Artist: Steph Glass

Steph Rose Glass is a visual artist and comic book writer from Boston, currently living in New York. She makes bright things in bad taste.

Explosion © Steph Glass

How do you plan out a piece before you start?

Usually I have an idea I want to convey, which is apparently odd. I rarely sit down and paint spontaneously. I have a growing list of ideas to do, and the idea itself usually necessitates some material or another, so I figure out how to build the structure I want first and then go in and do it. I do often start with an idea and then add onto the work as it develops. It’s a difficult thing to describe! No wonder everyone’s obsessed with process.

Portrait © Steph Glass

Has formally studying art changed how you work as an artist?

I work a lot more, a lot more often, and I have people knowledgeable about art history and what I’m trying to say that I can bounce ideas off of. All of that is amazing. I have so many things that I want to do.

“Green” © Steph Glass

Has it changed how you think about and define yourself?

The downside of studying art is that it’s injected a lot of crap into my brain about galleries, and cliquey fine art politics, and art as a financial investment, and making shit for rich collectors that I could do without, and I’m trying to figure out where I want to sit in relation to all of that right now. To be honest, being exposed to so much more work has me thinking that there’s not a lot of people making things like mine. That feels good.

Installation © Steph Glass

What is the significance of the pink tent? Is there a story or a meaning?

The pink tent is something of an in-progress piece. I wanted to create something immersive, like a naturally formed cave. It became a lesson in adapting to new discoveries — the contrast between the caged outside and the clothing that makes up the skin, and the way light filters through when you’re laying down on the inside are both things that weren’t part of my original design. I’m letting it sit while I rethink my approach to the inside and bottom, but I am quite happy with how experiential it is even now.

Glass Icon ©Steph Glass

Are you inspired by pop/counter culture?

Sure. Though I’m not exactly plugged into modern mainstream popular culture, “counter-culture” is a super relevant influence for me. I’m a comic book reader and writer and I have a really deep appreciation for the form and how it lets you handle time and space, and right now I’m trying to talk about that with some of my “fine” artwork. Comic books are one of the few art forms still commonly considered “not art” in the post-modern art world where almost anything goes, so I enjoy really shoving that in people’s faces.

Self Portrait © Steph Glass

Is there a significance to the human figure in your paintings?

I enjoy portraiture as an exercise. I’ll paint any model I can get. You have no idea the number of self-portraits in my sketchbook. I’m a little bit self-obsessed. I think of a lot of my more abstract works as self-portraits too.

Self Portrait 2 © Steph Glass

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

I get sometimes very strange reactions. Teachers of mine often laugh in disbelief. Usually what happens is classmates and peers of mine understand or at least like what I’m trying to do formally, and often my teachers don’t. I think people react viscerally to the fact that I use colors straight out of the tube, like pure blacks and neon paints, and how casual I can be about construction and technique. Shirley Irons said, lovingly, that I’m not trying to make things in good taste, and I think that’s a completely accurate assessment. Peter Hristoff once told me he wasn’t sure if I had good ideas or if I just got lucky.

I have a really great tattoo that I use as a litmus test of people’s personalities: either they laugh and say “Holy shit, that’s awesome,” or they frown and get uncomfortable and judgey. I think my painting is the same way.

Portrait © Steph Glass

What is your goal as an artist?

I have lots of goals. I’d like to make some money, first of all. I’d like to use art to improve the real world in a tangible way. I think that’s the most important thing.

To that end, I’m really trying to illustrate the artistic process in some of my current work. Andy Gerndt keeps telling me that what artists do is magic to non-artists. And I know that personally, because I didn’t consider myself an “artist” until I was maybe 19. It’s something that can seem very opaque, very “I could never do that, I can’t even draw a straight line, that’s just not who I am.” For me, the end goal of trying to demystify art is to make it more accessible to other girls and people who don’t think they could ever do that. I could name you a lot of female artists with similar goals who improved my life so massively.

Diary © Steph Glass

Is there a unifying theme in your work?

Not consciously, not at this point in my life. I’d call out formal experimentation as a major throughline, though. Most of my paintings are not just two dimensional images; they move off the canvas in some way, or use the canvas itself as a ground and leave it uncovered to keep focus on the actual elements. Lately I’ve been working with the idea of iconic paintings, as opposed to abstract or representational – and there’s another comic art reference, frankly. Where on the plane of complete abstraction to photorealistic representation to pure iconic representation do you fall?

I love all of the bright, expressive colors in your work. Do they mean something to you?

I try to push everything to the extreme. It often gets me in trouble in my personal life, but it does mean that I make interesting things.

Diary © Steph Glass

Can you pick a piece and talk about what it means to you?

My diary paintings are about my sobriety. I’m thinking of calling them Counting to Infinity, which I believe I cribbed from an out-of-print version of the Invisibles by Grant Morrison called Counting to None, although you never really know where you get these things. The terrifying thing about sobriety is that it hypothetically never ends. You’re never done. You’re stuck in your own head forever, and that’s the conquest, that’s the win. The plus side is that you get to make horrible jokes about your own alcoholism, should you ever want an entire room to fall silent.

Steph can be found on instagram @stephroseglass

To submit to Boston Visual Artists see our Submission Guidelines

Featured Artist: Madeline DeWolf

In one sentence, can you say what the series “Ethan” means to you? If it’s too personal or you’d like to leave it up to interpretation that’s ok. “Ethan” is about healing, the series itself is a story about my experience with sexual assault, it is about speaking up and getting stronger.

How do you start a mixed media piece like this? Do you start by painting, writing, or something else?I usually start a piece like this by brainstorming an idea after I’ve got a clear narrative I begin to collect images and sort through the box of stuff I already have.Then I just go for it, arranging pieces of paper and seeing what works. I glue everything down and then I add to it with paint or ink.

How did you start as a visual artist? Do you have any specific artists who inspire you?Growing up art was my first form of expression, my most comfortable form of communication. My mother took me to a lot of museums in Boston as a child,so my first experiences in the world of art were with some of the greats; Monet, Rembrandt, Degas. Today some of my favorites are Ray Johnson, Jenny Woods and Georgia O’Keeffe.

What is the significance of the color in the series?I use to want to be a therapist, that’s what I thought I would be when I grew up, specifically an art therapist. I’ve studied a lot about the psychology of color and how different colors make people feel different things. I try to incorporate color in this way into a lot of my pieces. With a series like this, filled with emotion, I chose colors that represented (to me) the emotions I was feeling about the pieces themselves. That’s why the paint went on last, when all was said and done, I just let the colors show how each piece made me feel.

I know you are in school for art, how do you think this affected you as an artist?

Being in school for art has changed the way I look at myself as an artist. When I started 3 years ago (with my major undeclared) I still thought of art as a hobby of mine, something I was wildly passionate about but didn’t believe could be a career. It wasn’t until I worked with my teachers Kelly Popoff and Penne Krol (two people who have been very influential to me) that I realized that I could do this if I really wanted to. It’s been a lot of hard work, sometimes discouraging even, but worth it. I feel stronger now that I’ve been through the art program at my school.

Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?My work has always been very personal, more like a diary than anything. I make art about things that are often left unspoken (sex, abuse, drugs, suicide), it’s in your face and raw. Some people have told me that my work makes them uncomfortable, that secretly makes me really happy because it makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I wouldn’t say there’s a particular theme to everything I do. What I would say is that my art is form of healing for myself and the dialogues that I’ve engaged in due to showing my pieces are rewarding.

Madeline can be found on instagram at lupine_art_