Artist Statement: As a photographer, I work in my studio constructing, lighting, and photographing staged vignettes to address the questions and contradictions of life, both large and small. I enjoy balancing humor, beauty and psychological tension in little dramas infused with anxiety and perplexity, wonder and mystery, or the sense of isolation that is paradoxically experienced universally. The use of miniature characters, constructed sets and vivid colors allows me to play with weighty issues in a lighter way. I have a fascination with the psychological landscape. My child-like fantasy scenes are punctuated with anxieties common to adulthood: disaster looms on the horizon, the mirror reflects an unfamiliar face, and the genders may never find common ground. I often combine vivid color and humor with psychological unease as a mechanism to help us laugh at ourselves, and at our futile but understandable desire to control our world.
Certainly, my constructed scenarios are meant to entertain, but they are also drawn from my ruminations on the big questions pondered by humankind from the beginning: Why are we here? What significance do we have? Who is in charge? How do we navigate our world? And are our attempts to answer those questions foolhardy? My artistic expression, disguised in humor, fantasy and vivid color, strives to lure the viewer into considering these issues. I have found that expressing the darker side of human nature in this way allows others to smile while reflecting on the deeper aspects of that which we keep within. It helps us recognize that we are not alone; in fact we share these concerns. On other occasions I choose to simply express mystery, beauty, or wonder, for these are also valid parts of human experience. It seems to me one of the functions of art is to make our world more bearable, while continuing to question and explore.
From the physical components of the set and the lighting to the psychological questions raised, my work plays with illusion. Things are not as they seem. There is a sense of sleight of hand involved in the creation of my scenes, much like in theater. Manipulating scale, angles, optics, lighting, and trompe l’oeil effects in the studio, I toy with perception at every turn. Isn’t reality simply a conclusion based on perception? With photography’s history and reputation in the service of “proof”, I appreciate the paradox of using the camera to tell fictions.
My point of view and approach come out of a childhood spent in relative isolation. With the death of one sibling, and the debilitating illness of another, I turned to comforting myself by staging dioramas with toys and found or constructed objects in a corner of my bedroom to view and rearrange for weeks at a time. I survived and flourished inside a private reality of my own creation that served as great consolation in a world where I had no control. Intense introspection balanced with the coping mechanism of humor developed my sensibilities. I now realize I have come back to where I started, and at the same time, to where I’ve never been. It is through my little fictions I most enjoy taking a stab at truth.
About Grace Weston: A finalist in PhotoEspana’s Descubrimientos PHE 09 and one of the Whatcom Museum 2008 Photography Biennial’s “Nine to Watch”, Grace Weston is an award-winning photographer who works in her studio creating narrative imagery with staged vignettes that combine humor, wit and psychological tension. Among her awards and honors, Grace received a 2006 Individual Artist’s Fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission. Public collections include those of the Portland Art Museum (OR), University of Oregon, Portland Community College, King County (WA), and the City of Seattle. Her work has been exhibited and collected widely in the United States, Europe, Scandinavia and Japan, and featured in arts magazines in China, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and the Netherlands.
Grace has been commissioned to create her unique style of staged narrative photography in the editorial world, illustrating articles in “O the Oprah Magazine” and “Discover Magazine”, and for several covers of city magazines, Including “Portland Monthly”, “Seattle Metropolitan”, and “Pittsburgh Magazine”. Her work can also be found on fiction or memoir book covers.
To contact Grace and to see more of her work, visit her website here.