Monday, April 28, 2014

Melanie Craven

The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to have Melanie Craven as juror for our upcoming exhibition, Fact and Fantasy. Melanie is a Co-owner of Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. Here she speaks about her photography and gallery in her own words.

Tilt Gallery has an excellent reputation for showing outstanding works of alternative process photography. How has the gallery evolved since it opened and what are your goals for its future? 

Tilt Gallery was first envisioned as a shared lab and exhibition space. Within the first few months Tilt become a dedicated gallery space based on the need in our community for a gallery to support this very small niche of artists. It was our passion to keep hand applied processes alive by supporting contemporary artists working in the field. We made our own opportunities to exhibit many talented artists who are the best in their field to our photographic community.

Later as we became well known for our specialization in hand applied photographic processes, we slowing began to include other hand applied works of art included some mixed media fine art. One of our major goals was to better support our artists, increase sales for them and provide better exposure. We are happy to say that almost two years ago we made a move from Phoenix to Scottsdale and we are growing and doing more for our artists than ever before. We still have more we want to do like promote our photographers in some of the prominent art fairs and increasing our online presence. For us we are always looking to the future for new opportunities and potential markets.       

As co-owner of Tilt Gallery you have worked with many different artists and collectors. What is your approach for finding the right piece of art for a specific collector? 
For us there is not one simple method or approach to creating that connection for both our artists and clients. We try to approach this on an individual basis. We work side by side with our clients to understand what their interests are, what they gravitate toward and help them understand some of these hand applied processes, educating them on the unique process and style of each artist we represent. 

Identical Otherness series

You must receive many portfolio submissions. What is it that you look for when contacted by artists looking for representation?  
We want to know if they did their research. Is Tilt a good fit for both their work and our aesthetics. When we represent and artist not only does their work need to be strong but that it flows with the work of the gallery. Artists need to understand that there is a consistency of aesthetics that we need to maintain for the galleries Identity. Beyond that we always look for a balanced, consistent portfolio presentation, with strong images that work as a body or stand alone.   

What is your pet peeve when an artist contacts you looking for representation? 

Like we talked about in the previous question, a lack of research and understanding of what we do as a gallery. We are creating a team, that needs to compliment each other, as a gallery owners and artist but building a groups of artists work together.  

You must look at the work of emerging and mid-career artists constantly. How do you think that will impact your approach as a juror? 
I do see a variety artists work from emerging to mid-career that are very unique in their own way. More importantly being a photographer myself I can see where each artist is coming from, just starting out and hitting a spark within a body of work or with a seasoned photographer who is honing in and fine tuning a concept or challenging process.
Scar from series Inner Melanie

Describe your path to photography. What led you to it, where did you start, and how did you end up working with photo-mechanical processes? 

We have always been interested in photography as device in which we could capture a moment or memory. My twin Michelle and I received our BFA in photography at ASU in 2004 specializing in the photo-mechanical processes. During that time we began to think of the camera as a tool for expressing our perceptions and the hands on photo techniques we choose to work in as a mirror of the tool. After graduating we wanted to somehow continue our journey making images while at the same time creating an art community, that’s when Tilt Gallery was first concieved.  

Your series Identical Otherness is an exploration of your relationship with your twin sister, who is the other co-founder of the gallery. Tell us more about this work.

“Identical Otherness” stems from our curiosity about perceptions, similarities and differences.  Being an identical twin our work explores the uncommon and yet uniquely common perceptions of their life experiences.  Because of our "twinness" we have had the opportunity to encounter and experience our uncommon and yet uniquely common perceptions.  
Themes involving personal identity, similarity and difference, and the manifestation of unexplained happenings, provide a conceptual framework for our imagery. Being identical twins we are also mirror twins meaning one is right handed and the other is left. Growing up and even to this day our experiences follow one first then the other. Whether we are photographing individually or together the mystery and value of photography for us is its ability to communicate what might be uncommunicable through any other medium. 
All our photographic work we do  to this day always brings us back to our concept of  the Otherness.
Twin Cactus from series Identical Otherness

How has your experience as a curator affected you as an artist? 
Well, owning a gallery you see a lot of very inspirational work, excellent in quality and focused expression of the artists concepts. Of course along with coming across our desks is work that is not there, not ready. As curators we have stayed in touch and on the cutting edge of the dialog contemporary art and our ability to respond and push our ideas past that edge.  We look at the  new concept, a new approach to visual expression and remind ourselves to do the same.

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