FANTAST IN FOCUS: CHRISTY LEE ROGERS
Millions of years ago, creatures rose from the depths of ancient seas and transformed into divergent populations over vast stretches of time. In a way, we still repeat this primeval origin story. After nine months submerged in a shadowy womb, we emerge from an embryonic ‘ocean’ and ascend into a new life. But our journey doesn’t stop there. According to most estimates, our bodies are at least sixty percent water. Our reserves must constantly be replenished or we cannot survive. Therefore, water is the most fundamental component of our being. It’s no wonder then, that many cultures have personified it as a motherly and life-giving force, simultaneously creating and nurturing the Earth. This is why something spectacular happens when this elemental force is channelled in art.
As a photographer, Christy Lee Rogers throws her human subjects back into the beautiful chaos of the ocean. In the graceful tumult, her subjects become truly androgynous and writhe together like half-human (or rather, semi-divine) beings. In their stormy faces, there is both agony and euphoria, while their twirling bodies, radiating spectral light, evoke a ballet of birth and death.
The dynamism in Christy’s art brings to mind Laocoon and his Sons and the works of Peter Paul Rubens. We caught up with Christy to learn more about the behind-the-scenes creation of these emotional dramas.
The Custodian: What’s the best part about using water as a medium?
Christy Lee Rogers: Water is fluid like life, it moves with each move you make and bends when you interact with it. Water is the perfect element to sculpt my vision. I love water and grew up surrounded by it in the Pacific Ocean on the island of Oahu. In water, you have the natural dichotomies of freedom, weightlessness, space, and tranquility and on the other side – an inability to breathe, vulnerability and chaos. It’s a powerful tool for me.
C: You grew up in Honolulu. Are you partially influenced by Hawaiian sea lore?
CR: Not necessarily, although I was raised to have a profound respect for the ocean. Hawaii and its beauty provide the contrast against the more chaotic side of man, so that has always influenced my soul, and provided a safe environment to create in.
C: You use light and shadow to convey emotionality. Your artworks are impassioned; having a sense of tumult, liberation, and ecstasy. Would you call your images “Baroque”?
CR: I do share many of the sensibilities of that time period, like my love of movement and passion, my dramatic lighting, which began as a love for working at night; and the feeling of expressing something greater than myself. We have a way of trying to label everything and categorise it, and as an artist, you have to set yourself free in order to find your true voice. You have to let go of the obsessive mind and just be. I don’t think about these things when I’m creating; the momentum of the creation is just roaring though my veins and I’m capturing it with the tools I have around me so I can share them with you.
C: The titles of your collections, Reckless Unbound, Elan, Odyssey, and Celestial Bodies have strong literary connotations. What do they mean for you?
CR: I read a lot and find great inspiration in the words of many brilliant writers. Each collection is a segment of my life; containing the research and learning that I’m doing at that particular moment. For instance, Celestial Bodies followed my research into the universe; the nebulas and constellations in the sky and the world around us. I became fascinated with how connected we all are to the universe and most importantly to each other.
C: What are your plans for future photo shoots? Any forays into exotic locales or hard to reach bodies of water?
CR: I’m about to start building a studio indoor pool that will allow me the creative freedom I’ve always dreamed of. And yes in a way it will be exotic. Brazil is also in my future plans, as well as some projects that I’m not allowed to talk about.
C: What are your upcoming collaborations and exhibitions?
CR: Gabriel Wickbold Gallery in Sao Paulo, Brazil just held my first solo exhibit in that country. And I will have shows in Cincinnati at The Miller Gallery and Laura Rathe Fine Art in Texas, as well as unannounced shows in Europe and Asia. Finally, I’ve got an upcoming collaboration with an amazing new company.