July Artist in Residence: Claire A. Warden

Solo exhibition of site responsive work at PACT Zollverein in Essen, Germany.

LATITUDE is excited to welcome Claire A. Warden as the July Artist In Residence!

Claire A. Warden (b. Montreal, Quebec) is an artist working in Phoenix, Arizona. She received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from Arizona State University. Claire’s work has been exhibited widely in the United States and abroad. She has been named LensCulture's Top 50 Emerging Talents, Photo Boite’s 30 Under 30 Women Photographers, and a Critical Mass finalist. In 2017, she received an Artist Research and Development Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Ed Friedman Award from the Griffin Museum of Photography. Her work has been featured in various publications, including Real Simple magazine, The HAND Magazine, Common Ground Journal, Prism Magazine, and Diffusion Magazine. Claire was awarded artist residencies through the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists in France, Art Intersection in 2015, and the Center for Photography at Woodstock in 2016.

Q & A

Many of your creative projects use specific photographic processes to enhance your ideas or message but can be aesthetically very different. What would you say is a connecting thread through your work? 

I’ve always had a focus on process in my work from constructing an object to be photographed like in my previous series Salt, to creating a new photographic process like in my current series, Mimesis. Certainly, this element of hand construction is a strong connecting thread in my work. But even more so would be my interest in colonial history, identity, the psychology of knowledge and power, and collective experiences had by people of color. 

In Salt, I used the subjects and methods of the natural sciences as a vehicle to explore the intersections of knowledge, control and manipulation. Through my research, I became particularly interested in the way that European colonizers would use botanical illustrations to approach a new environment. Botanical illustrations would be used as a survey of the natural surroundings to identify the edible, herbal, medicinal and otherwise useful plants and natural resources as well as those to be avoided. I was deeply inspired by the intentions of botanical illustrations as a method to understand and control one’s environment while maintaining a symbiotic relationship with place and identity.

Mimesis, my current series focuses in on the question, “What are you?” This is a question I started being asked after I moved to the United States from Montreal. Because I was predominately a French speaker, I was convinced this question was a translation error on my part. But as the question persisted, I realized this is a coded way of asking about my ethnic background. I wanted to make work that could visually address this question and how these experiences, sometimes abrupt and confrontational, as an immigrant and person of mixed ethnic heritage have shaped my own perceptions and identity.

Your most recent project Mimesis involves the application of your own saliva, when did you start working with DNA? 

Mimesis began as a series of experiments, one of which was applying saliva to the emulsion of photographic film. Once I realized the possibilities of this process, the series became clear. Saliva contains digestive enzymes, among other things like DNA, and the gelatin of black and white photographic film is digestible. Once that process has etched through the film emulsion, only biologic matter and metallic silver remain. After this process is complete, I use mark-making tools to create informed symbols and shapes by physically adding to or removing from the film negative. This additive/subtractive process was established early on in reference to the term impression management, which is used to describe the way people try to manage other people’s impressions of them. My mark-making is inspired by personal and collective experiences and sociological ideas. Together, this process became uniquely qualified to address my questions about identity.

What will you be working on during your residency at LATITUDE?

I will be working on the creation and printing of new works for Mimesis. To date, I have around 30 completed works and 20 negatives in various stages of completion—some that I’ve just started and others that I need to revisit. Since these works are cameraless and created in a studio, I have the unique opportunity to extend the process of creating a negative from something that is relatively finite to something infinite. I can go back to work on a negative endlessly until I know that it is finished. At Latitude, I plan to finish these in-progress works and devote time to learning and printing with the Piezography printer.

Are there any current movies, books, magazines, or podcasts that you recommend for people to check out about art and/or photography?

I discovered the Code Switch podcast a few years ago and it is definitely one of my go-to’s. There is an episode called Not-So-Simple Questions From Code Switch Listeners from 2017 that Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby discuss the question “What are you?”, a central question to Mimesis. It is a great listen if you’ve ever been asked that question and if you’ve never been asked that question. 

An important book when I was beginning this series was Lyle Rexer’s The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography. It was the first text I had read that could so eloquently articulate the intentions and impressions of an abstract photograph. It also made me realize the importance of developing my own language to express the concepts in this work.

AIR 2018Colleen Keihm