Artist Spotlight: Kelli Connell

Connell's dual portraits create tiny moments packed with so much feeling that the fantastic technical work seems to disappear.

BY Christopher Harrity

January 21 2012 4:00 AM ET

KELLI CONNELL PONDER X560 | ADVOCATE.COM

Kelli Connell’s body of work, titled "Double Life," has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Her work is in the collections of Microsoft, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the Dallas Museum of Art. Connell’s first monograph, titled Kelli Connell: Double Life, was published by DECODE Books in the fall of 2011. Other recent publications include Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography (The Monacelli Press), Vitamin Ph: New Perspectives in Photography (Phaidon), and Photo Art: The New World of Photography (Aperture).

The Advocate: Why are you a photographer?
Kelli Connell: I am drawn to photography because photographs can raise questions. Images in Double Life question identity construction, gender roles, and societal expectations. I use photography not as a means to show a truth but as a tool to question our thoughts about ourselves and our relationships with other people.

What catches your eye?
What catches my eye when I photograph is the subtle, wide range of my model’s gestures and facial expressions. The multitude of expressions we are all capable of and how these gestures can influence how we are perceived is fascinating to me. I am always surprised by how a slight hand gesture, furrow of a brow, or curl of a lip can impact what questions are raised in the photographs.

Tell us how the double portraits came about and what the experience was like creating them.
I began making the photographs for "Double Life" as I was beginning to question my own self-identity. Making photographs proved to be a perfect medium to flesh out my own thoughts about society and my own misconceptions about identity and relationship roles. I found that the work often reflected what was going on in my real life and that through the process of making the images I was able to comment upon and question the world around me. The experience of making the work is exhilarating. Working with my model, Kiba Jacobson, over the years has become an invaluable part of the process. It has been fascinating watching our relationship as photographer and model as well as friends evolve over the years.

Tell us about your process or techniques.
When making each photograph for "Double Life" I shoot several images of my model as one figure, then several images of her as the other character in each scene. I then print out small proofs and make collages comprised of a figure on the left and a figure on the right in order to decide which combination works best for what I am wanting to communicate. I then combine and manipulate these two images into one large, seamless image using Photoshop.

What artists do you take inspiration from and why?
Artists I draw the most inspiration from include Roni Horn for her subtleness, Francesca Woodman for her passion, James Turrell for his spirituality, and Seiichi Furuya for his love and obsession.

 Upcoming Exhibitions:

January-February: Solo Exhibition, Texas Woman's University, Denton, Texas
February-March: Solo Exhibition, Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles
May-June: Solo Exhibition, Gallery 339, Philadelphia

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