We first approached Liza and Audrey a few weeks back with the idea of doing a collaborative piece. Natalie and I were already aware of how special their work was, and the fact that they’re two best friends who understand each other’s minds and souls adds an interesting element to it. How do two people who specialize in two different fields and have two different, but compatible, perspectives work together on one creation?
I think it’s important to know that both Audrey and Liza were equally hesitant to be featured at all as individuals in this piece. But, as two of the most enigmatic and enrapturing humans we know, Natalie and I couldn’t resist introducing you to the women behind the artwork. Both humble and talented enough to stay out of the spotlight, their work speaks for itself. We’re honored to give it the platform to do so.
To create this piece, Liza and Audrey chose locations they hadn’t explored before and treated it as a space investigation. In encountering the same unfamiliar space, each of them had the opportunity to decode and reconstruct their experiences through their respective mediums. Their perspectives are both independent and symbiotic, hybridizing into the piece above.
For those who haven’t met Liza, she’s a force of charisma, individuality, and quiet artistic genius. A third year, Liza is majoring in Art History and Studio Art with a concentration in Photography. She’s a wizard with film, shooting with a medium format film camera. She glided into Newcomb last week for lunch, camera casually swung over her shoulder, irradiating this somehow ancient and new energy. But that’s an oxymoron she somehow pulls off– using an old camera and an old form of photography, yet presenting them in one of the newest mediums – a digital, interactive flip-book. For Liza, the process behind the photograph is just as important as the final product, which might be why she chooses to tell stories through black and white film. “Photography,” she says, “especially black and white photography, forces you to look at things in a different way. Trying to understand a new space through that lens challenges you to get to know it in a unique way. It’s one of the reasons I love photography–whatever your subject might be, you interact with it in a different way than you might normally.”
From the outside, photography seems simple; we all have pretty intelligent cameras in the palm of our hands, user friendly editing apps, and in some cases, a natural eye for what looks good in an image. But, Liza doesn’t photograph as a hobby. She’s been taking photos her whole life. After her dad – who, by the way, sounds extremely cool – bought her a film camera in high school, she gravitated toward that medium as a way of exploring the art. “I’m still discovering what I’m trying to explore with taking photos. For now, I remain curious and am enjoying finding my voice with this medium.”
Audrey may not consider herself a full-fledged, capital-p Poet, but meeting her, there’s no other way to describe her. “I usually just say I write poetry – the title is a lot.” If anyone I’ve met is deserving of it though, it’s Audrey. She could make the most mundane topic sound like the tinkling of little bells, somehow making a conversation about exhaustion and college stress into a lyrical and spiritual experience. A voodoo queen, Audrey studies English in the Area Program of Poetry and Middle Eastern Studies (I’m still waiting to hear her performance of an Arabic song she gave last semester). Like many young people, Audrey found poetry as the natural product of journaling: “I have the tendency to not say things in full sentences, and found that poetry’s cast of characters– images, metaphors, conceit– helps me say what I’m trying to say better than when I’m saying it without those things.”
Poetry, like photography, can happen as an organic or a formulaic process. For every perfectly executed sonnet Audrey has crafted, she’s had an idea or a phrase or an image that got stuck in her head – right now, it’s a photo of cherries she took over the summer. “It just needs to be said somehow. I’ve written probably 12 of those cherry poems, and I’m still not saying what needs to be said about it!” Starting with an image can be one of the best ways to write a poem, which is part of the reason Audrey was so excited to work with Liza. Knowing her work already, she knew it would be easy to find a source of inspiration. “An image can inform the structure of the poem, and the content of the poem can follow that structure in a really cool way. You can figure out exactly what an image means to you just by writing precisely about it [in a poem].”
Audrey’s poetry doesn’t always start with an image and grow from there, though. Sometimes, a poet knows exactly what she wants to say even before she says it. In that case, there’s a unique challenge of saying it well and in a small way, but also in a way that’s powerful. Having read Aud’s poetry, it’s clearly powerful and minimal, big and small. It encapsulates all of those conflicting and inexplicable emotions and sensations we sometimes can’t seem to put our finger on. “My poems [for this project] started out with my just watching Liza explore the space and our conversations during that visit. Once I saw the photos, the poetry kind of took the shape of the narrative in the space she had created. I ended up imagining the space she had photographed as something totally isolated from any emotional ties I might have, which is different from the places I usually write about and do have emotional ties to.”
For Audrey, this process was a third conduit to a poem. “It’s so hard to get across what you want to say when you start a piece, or even figure out what you want to say after you’ve made something. We got to go through that process together and bounce off of one another throughout the whole thing.”
Things that made us smile this week:
Terry cloth robes. Considering getting 3-D Printed Figurines of ourselves. NutriBullet Margs. A 45-minute Uber ride back and forth (and back and forth) across Brooklyn. Runk Brunch.
Liza Pittard and Audrey Crooks.
Bailey and Natalie