Monday, February 1, 2016

Interview with Artist Sandrine Arons

Sandrine Arons, Life(time), 2011

1.Who are you and what do you do, and what is your background?

My name is Sandrine Arons and I’m a photographer based in Atlanta. I was born and raised in Georgia but I’m a dual citizen of France and the US. I am as comfortable in the country as I am in a big city. I’ve found that both have their appeal and I can’t seem to live without either. Thanks to my French mother, I grew up bilingual and spent all my summers in France with family. 

I spent the majority of my adult life in academics. I have graduate degrees in Humanistic Psychology and French Literature and taught both French and English at the university level.  In 2004 I moved to Paris to teach at the University of Paris while doing dissertation research and that is where I met my husband and had my son. After my father died in 2008, I wanted to move back to the States to be closer to my mother and my friends. So I convinced my French/Moroccan husband to move back with me in 2009 at which point I decided to make a serious career change and pursue my passion of photography. I was very disillusioned with what academia had become and recognized that my escape has always been photography. I recently completed my MFA at SCAD and I feel like it is just the beginning of this great journey. I don’t think I actually missed the boat, I think I was just waiting on the right one.

2. What's integral to your art and or art career?

Time. Time is very important and I have to be able to find enough time for my project ideas.
Light. Without it I can produce nothing.
Travel. Travel opens my eyes and allows me to turn the page to a new vision of the world.
Observation. I think this is one of the most important ones for me. This is why I became a photographer.

3. What themes do you pursue and what medium do you use?
Sandrine Arons, Myself as Madame Roland, 2015  

Whether in my art or in my academic writings, I have always focused on the theme of autobiography.  My psychology thesis was about the personal journal and self-growth and my dissertation in French literature was about self-reconstruction through personal writing.  When I began my studies in photography I had no intention of continuing with the autobiographical theme, but apparently it is what feeds my creativity.  For my thesis work I developed a project around my own life and multicultural background entitled “Frontiers”.  In many ways this series is an autobiography and I’m sure that the years I spent absorbed in that subject are at the origin of the work.
I use a camera (all sorts), lights (strobes or sun), people, places, things and I use the computer ALOT! I spend a pretty good amount of time on Photoshop.  That’s about the closest I get to painting or drawing because when I use the pen and tablet I am painting onto my image, through my image and around my image. For me that’s my favorite time…that’s the canvas where I create.

4. What makes you angry, what makes you happy?

I think that what makes me the most angry is injustice. I have a strong sense of fairness. Whether it be social, political or within my own home I need things to be just and fair and even. I become very passionate and angry when I see or feel that something is not balanced and I’ll be the first to point it out. I do not like it when I feel someone is being taken advantage of.

Sandrine Arons, Through the Wall, 2011
What makes me most happy is definitely being with people I love. I cherish the times I am surrounded by friends and family.  I will always try to find any reason to celebrate something as an excuse to have the people I love around me.  Celebration, for me, can mean anything from a big party to lunch with a good friend. 

5. Who and what inspire you in your work and or in your life in general?

I wouldn’t say that any one person inspires me.  I am inspired by a certain way of thinking or creating that is exemplified in certain artists, writers or philosophers. Although there are many, my biggest influences are especially women who have inspired me to create and feel comfortable in my own skin. Any time I read works by Anais Nin, Helene Cixous or Simone de Beauvoir all my senses seem to wake up. If I feel like I’m in a creative, psychological or intellectual rut, I know I can pick up any one of their texts and feel inspired again. They are like a breath of fresh air for me. In fact, I would say that literature in general is my biggest inspiration.  More so than visual art interestingly. I think that is why much of my work is multilayered and symbolic. I like each piece to tell a story or else be a starting point for someone else’s story. 

Sandrine Arons. The Painter's Hand, 2012
Outside of that, I am inspired by details. By that, I mean that when I get the chance to block out all the excess (noise, thoughts, stress, etc…) and be present with the details that surround me such as the rustling of the leaves in the wind, the way light hits a certain object, the creaking sound of trees in the woods, my dogs little footsteps on the hardwood floor, the way my son’s breath sounds when he sleeps or the way a line curves on someone’s face…the list is endless. These things inspire me by giving me a sense of calm and peace. Removing all the excess helps clear my head.

6. What superpower would you want?

This is actually a more difficult question to answer than I had anticipated! My first thought was a superpower that would allow me to eat everything I want and stay thin. But, seriously I think that the superpower I really wish I had would be to have limitless energy. There is so much I want to do but often energy fades and I find myself frustrated because I can’t manage to get it all done. 

7. What is your favorite artists and or other person?

Spending all my summers in Europe as a child meant that I was lucky enough to visit all the greatest museums and contemplate great works of art from a very young age. Living in Paris also gave me the opportunity to visit the Louvre as much as I wanted and one thing I realized is that no matter how often I would return to the Louvre, I always went back to the same hall to see the great Dutch and Flemish works. I guess it isn’t that surprising that these would be my favorites since photography, in some ways, borrows from them. The source and presence of light is so important in some of these paintings that it makes sense that a photographer would be moved by the artist’s ability to reproduce light with such brilliance.  Works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Borch and Rubens probably explain my love of portraiture and definitely influence my way of making portraits. In fact, my most recent series is directly linked to my fascination with those portraits in that I have appropriated portraits throughout history and turned them into self-portraits (back to my autobiographical influences). After spending hours upon hours staring at those paintings, I decided to become part of them. But even beyond the portraits, I love Bruegels landscapes and Mignon’s strange still life paintings. They are all very photographic to me. 

I also have an affinity for some surrealists such as Magritte, Dali and Man Ray. My “Frontiers” series has a surreal quality that was certainly influenced by their work. 

I also love the paintings of Frida Khalo and the conceptual projects by Sophie Calle. In terms of writers, I mentioned them in my influences, but I forgot to mention one of my favorite writers and artists, Antonin Artaud. There are so many others, but these are the ones at the top!

8. What advice would you give to other artists?

Because it is not until recently that I have finally called myself an artist, it is hard to give advice to others on the matter. I suppose I would tell emerging artists to meet other artists.  I have found that connecting with other creative people really motivates me. 

9. Contact details:
Dodho Magazine:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful interview! I especially love Sandrine's sense of integrity and honor evident in her comments about injustice. Lovely read.