In Focus: #ConstructedSelf - Karen Navarro and ‘The Constructed Self’ -

Photography in the Metaverse

Photography in the Metaverse

In Focus: #ConstructedSelf – Karen Navarro and ‘The Constructed Self’

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#ConstructedSelf is a widely exhibited collection of 14 puzzling portraits which utilise collage to represent the crossover of multiple themes that work to form our definition of identity.

Swiftly flicking through combinations, the gaze of a young gentleman in a purple floral shirt jumps from shoulder to chest. His chin leaps from neck to torso as his likeness evolves from recognisable to deconstructed. ‘Segmented’ is 1 of 4 GIFS as part of a series of 14 puzzling portraits designed to challenge our understanding of identity through the use of collage with a sculptural twist. Karen Navarro uses a dimensional technique, not often found in photography, to invite you to reframe the representation of historically marginalised identities.

Navarro talks us through her #ConstructedSelf project:

In this interview we discuss Navarro’s inspiration behind the project, her thoughts on breaking into NFTs, dive deeper into her artistic process and learn of her journey into fine art photography.

What was your inspiration behind the project?

I’ve always been interested in Selfhood but as a philosophical concept, and when I moved to the U.S. this changed. Having emigrated as a fully formed adult made me see things differently. I started to compare and question the structures of my identity and how they relate to my cultural and social background and in relationship with the new socio-cultural environment. So, I started photographing people, and then I decided to start photographing people who shared the experience of being an immigrant or the grandchild or child of a migrant, or someone who self-identifies as a person of color. I thought it was important to me to find this connection in which I can see myself reflected in some way.

Whilst creating the project did you come across any challenges?

I think one of the challenges I came across happened before I even started the project. I knew I wanted to make sculptural pieces using photography but I didn’t know how. So I started to explore possibilities and after a year of trial and error I came up with my technique.

How did you develop your unique sculptural technique? 

It’s been a journey but I knew I wanted to use different materials to create portraits in which the process of making a piece conceptually parallels the construction of identity. I wanted to push further away from traditional photography to explore identity and its multiple layers. 

Everything started with my previous series that was a little more sculptural than the conventional photography I have been doing. So I moved further in that direction. With The Constructed Self, I am adding wood, resin and paint and I am really disrupting photography’s flat surface by cutting and reassembling images to build three-dimensional objects. And in doing this, I am playing with perception, our visual perception, and our perception of identity, both of which are also constructions. 

How long does the start to finish process take you?

Without help, some pieces take up to two months. But with assistants, of course, that time gets reduced by half. There are many steps to creating one artwork: First I choose the model or open a call, then I paint the wall, photograph, edit, decide how I am going to slice the image, prepare the files to print, print, cut, design the woodcuts, cut the wood, sand, paint, attach the image, do the resin, sand again, repaint and attach the hardware. And these steps repeat themselves many times depending on the number of individual pieces that compose each artwork.

How does this body of work fit into your wider practice?

I think this was a turning point for my art. I realized that I enjoy working with my hands much more and that I can actually create something new—works that sit in between photography and sculpture.

In relation to my art practice, identity is one of the main subjects so I continue to explore this topic in different ways.

What is NFTPhotography to you?

NFT photography presents the idea of decentralization which aligns with ideas explored in my work about structures of power such as race. For this particular series, the concept of NFT appeals to me because the work is a celebration of diversity.

I am very interested in how sculptural aspects of the work can be translated into the digital image through movement.

How did you discover your profession as an image based artist?

While I was studying fashion design at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) I took a photography class and I really enjoyed it. By that time I also worked taking pictures for an electronic music radio that also held events. I wasn’t taking it seriously though. Later on, when I moved to Houston, I decided to enrol in a class at the Houston Centre for Photography with the idea to switch gears and do fashion photography. But, while doing an assignment for a class I bumped into creating art. My first series was very successful so I thought I’ll take this career path seriously.

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