As the first in my series of artist interviews, I thought the best place to start would be where the brightest young artists are creating quality, innovative work – The Corcoran College of Art + Design. The senior students recently showed their most ambitious work at their thesis show NEXT at the Corcoran. One of my favorite artists in the show was fine art photographer, Aaron Canipe.
His piece, Native Place, was one of my favorites in the exhibition. His memories of the South are expressed through text and photography and with humor and nostalgia. Although the memories are his own, they express a collective Southern identity that is subtly captured through each story. I caught up with Aaron and asked him about his work, influences, and future.
Jamie Hurst: Tell me a little bit about your journey as an artist and about your body of work?
Aaron Canipe: I first started taking pictures when I was around 14 or 15 years old. I was mystified at the camera’s technical ability to make light trails out of car headlights and water appear like silk with slow shutter speeds. What I was most intrigued with was the camera’s ability to manipulate the natural world into something not seen by the eye on its own. I stuck with photography as a means of expression for a few years longer and decided to become serious about it when I applied to Corcoran in 2008. My current body of work, Native Place, focuses on personal narratives and growing up in the American South. It’s also accompanied by hand-applied text with a few lines and stories.
JH: How does this piece, Native Place, represent your work?
AC: Native Place encompasses all of the ideas and discourses I’ve been having since I began photographing the South, and, specifically, my home in North Carolina. What this work represents is my voice and my view of a part of the country that’s steeped in its own past and how my identity is a part of it. What I have to say about where I’m from is found in the imagery and my own stories and memories.
JH: What has been your most influential artistic experience (could be a show, person, or anything really)?
AC: My four years at the Corcoran were a constant, expanding influential experience in itself. Each critique and discussion with my teachers and classmates influenced me in everything I did and changed how I saw whatever project I was approaching at the time. One particular experience I had came about during a class lecture on sequencing/storytelling through photography I had with my professor at the time, Jared Ragland. He showed us a portion the film “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.” Novelist Harry Crews plays himself in this documentary about the South and he says something very important. He said, “Stories was everything and everything was stories.” In context with the scene, this line and, frankly, this whole film changed how I saw my photography from then on out.
JH: Where is your favorite place to go see art in DC?
AC: I like to go to all the major museums when I can. Civilian Art Projects is also doing important things within the city and provides a great space to view great art. And I’d get fussed at if I didn’t say the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Gallery 31, and the White Walls exhibition space.
JH: Has there been an individual in the DC art scene that has greatly influenced you?
AC: Not any artist in particular — mostly my professors at school whose practices have influenced how I do things: Frank DiPerna, Terri Weifenbach, Margaret Adams, and Claudia Smigrod. As well as fellow my colleagues at school.
JH: Do you collect any artwork?
AC: Yes. I do print trades with my classmates and I consider that a good start to collecting artwork. I’ve also begun a modest collection of photo books and zines.
JH: Now that you are graduating, what are you plans moving forward? Do you plan on working in DC?
AC: What else is there to do besides keep working on my work? It comes out of necessity to photograph almost daily. I certainly plan on continuing my education through a graduate program in photography back in down South. I’m constantly working hard with the D.C.-based photo collective and publisher I co-founded with my friends Nate Grann and Jordan Swartz called Empty Stretch (http://www.emptystretch.com). I plan on posting about my work, as well as other photographer’s and helping publish and design my own artist books, zines, as well as up-and-coming photographers’.
JH: Where can art enthusiasts purchase your work?
AC: Just click on my website (www.aaroncanipe.com) and shoot me an email if you find a print you’d like. See also the Empty Stretch Store (http://emptystretch.storenvy.com/) for books I’m a part of like “Twenty/12” and my own zines “Eden” and “My Golden Girl of Summertime & Old Carolina.” There’s also ton of great zines from other wonderful photographers, stickers, and t-shirts if you’re interested.
Thank you so much Aaron and best of luck!
Bringing the Art of DC to You,