Death Travels Down © Kimberly Chiaris

Today we are please to share the work of Kimberly Chiaris.

 Please tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in Arizona and spent most of my childhood there, moving to Colorado in my teen years. I experienced a wonderful, mostly carefree childhood full of adventure and fun. I had a natural affinity for art and my family and teachers were supportive and encouraging. My brother had a bathroom darkroom set up. Watching chemical alchemy create an image right before my eyes was magical and I wanted more.

My high school drawing/painting/printmaking teacher and my photography teacher noticed my creative potential and encouraged me in that direction. I attended the Kansas City Art Institute studying Painting and Photography. I earned a BFA in Photography, met my husband there, and eventually moved back to Colorado where we raised our three children. I have the privilege of working full time creating art as well as teaching photography based workshops. My passion is working with Alternative Processes, mostly Cyanotype and Mixed Media.

Where did you get your photographic training?

I learned essential photographic skills in college; darkroom, critique, developing a body of work, and was introduce to many wonderful visiting artists. I continue to take workshops from artists that inspire me. I read and research articles on photography as well as learn from my photographic network and community. I continue to learn and grow by creating, experimenting, observing and processing until I am satisfied.

Why do you create? 

Art is a powerfully emotional language. Creativity is a practice that encompasses imagination, innovation, vision, and possibility. Possibility is hope. 

Art provides a path to move beyond a purely physical factual world into a deeper look at the immaterial part of our humanity. It’s an invitation to peer into the soul to ask profound questions about our existence. 

I want to create visual stories that highlight universal truths about our intrinsic human nature leaving room for possibility and profound mystery.  I create folklore that inspires curiosity within common understanding and empathy.

Who has had an influence on your creative process? 

My husband has influenced my creative process for almost forty years. He’s my moral support. Not only is he a deeply creative thinker and fantastic artist, he’s great at building frames and UV light boxes! 

Many of the women in the photography group Shootapalooza have positively  influenced my creative practice. Some have been personal mentors while others have inspired me through their art.  This group fosters a culture of mutual respect while generously sharing ideas and skills.

Photographs by Priya Kambli and K.K. DePaul are a great inspiration for me. Their work relating to family dynamic and history has had a profound impact on me. They both create a unique presentation that I can enter into and relate to on a personal and universal level both visually and as story. I am moved by Cig Harvey’s work for some of the same reasons but in a very different way.  Melanie Walker has shown me how to stretch a creative idea to endless possibilities.

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time. 

Images that have stayed with me over time are created by artists who have made the ordinary seem extra ordinary.  Work by Keith Carter, Sally Mann, Olivia Parker, Ken Rosenthal, Masao Yamamoto, Miho Kajioka,  Kate Breakey, Tami Bone and Jennifer Shaw.

But if I had to pick one that has stayed with me over time, it would be Ruth Thorne-Thompson’s “ Liberty Head, Illinois, 1978” from her series called Expeditions. She changed the way I viewed photography. She made a world of spectacular visual intrigue and inquiry out of simple ordinary objects using a pinhole camera. It showed me that imagination is our greatest tool. 


Genetic Memory © Kimberly Chiaris

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson? 

 The image titled “Genetic Memory” was the beginning of a new creative process. I had been thinking about the fluidity of memory and how it is shaped by emotion through story as well as objects that have emotional attachment. 

My mother had just recently passed away.  While cleaning out, moving and giving away many of her belongings, I lost a huge box of her old family photographs. There were images of my ancestors taken long before me as well as photos of myself and immediate family.  Those images connected me visually to my family history. They embodied memories of myself and other family members. They had played an important emotional role in forming my self identity.  And they were gone.

I gathered the few old photos and belongings that I still had of my family. I copied a tiny image of my grandmother as a young girl and her mother. I took a photo of myself and digitally combined the two images together placing myself into the same space and time with my ancestors reflected in a hand mirror. I took some dried flowers from a plant that I bought for my mother’s memorial service and laid them on the Cyanotype sensitized cloth.  After exposing and processing the image, I embroidered the outline of the hand mirror with silk thread that my mother saved from the 1940’s. I blended images and objects from three time periods together to create a new memory.  It was a new way of working for me, combining alternative process with digital and multimedia. I’m continuing to develop these ideas through this body of work.

What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?

 An ideal day for me would be to have the entire day to be creative without interruption.  A good day is waking up to a sunny blue Colorado sky refreshed and open to new possibilities. I look at my journal for possible ideas and capture new thoughts. On a rare day, my thoughts come together in a kind of epiphany.  A wonderful day means I’m free to ponder and expand on those ideas. I have the time and emotional energy to explore and create something that speaks deeply to my heart.  When I am able to spend the entire day making it come to life in my studio and darkroom, this is creative heaven for me. 

Also, another good day for me, creatively speaking, is to take a walk somewhere in nature. Getting out of my studio and away from people and the city, with no agenda but to take in beauty and maybe photograph (or not). This refreshes my perspective and makes me thankful.

If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living or passed who would it be?

 I’d like to spend some time with K. K. DePaul. I’d love to spend a day in her studio observing her process and talking with her.

How important is the photographic community to you?

Photographic community gives me me support and inspires new vision. I spent many years lost between the analog and digital world trying to find my voice. I had left behind my darkroom days and taught myself photoshop but didn’t really enjoy working with digital imagery alone.  A few years back, I was contacted by Judy Sherrod asking me to join her newly formed group of mostly women photographic artists. They were beginning to gather together, support each other, and share creative processes.  It opened my world to the idea of combining digital with analog to make alternative process and multimedia imagery. These artists continue to inspire me to explore new ideas and create new work. 

What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?

Uninterrupted time and a rested open mind; a studio space; a journal to write ideas and thoughts; a digital camera; a computer with Photoshop; a decent digital printer and film to make digital negatives; digital storage with a library of imagery; a UV light source; a darkroom with a large sink and trays; good quality paper and chemistry.

Remember Who You Are © Kimberly Chiaris

Is there something in photography that you would  like to try in the future?

I plan on combining more art processes. I’m interested in doing more printmaking, mixed media and bookmaking. I’d like to delve deeper into photogravure, tintype, wet plate collodion, and gum bichromate processes.  Anything relating to Alternative Process is always interesting to me. 

Whats on the horizon?

2018, was full of wonderful opportunities. I showed artwork at:
Don’t Take Pictures Magazine – Lumens
Center for Fine Art Photography – Center Forward, Ft. Collins, CO
Candela Books and Gallery- Unbound 7, Richmond, VA
Art Intersection – Light Sensitive, Gilbert, AZ
The Hand Magazine
L.A. PhotoCurator -The Tangible Photograph,  Awarded 1st Place by Juror, Blue Mitchell.
I also taught three Cyanotype workshops through the Center for Fine Art Photography. 

So far, 2019 also looks to be full of opportunity.

Christina Z. Anderson has a new book coming out in 2019 on Cyanotype. Christina has chosen to include my artwork and information about my process in her book.
I will have work in a group show in my home town in February.
In March, my artwork will be in a group show at the Ft. Worth Community Art Center, curated by Ellie Ivanova.
Also in March I will have work in a group show called Diversity: Alternative Paths In Contemporary Photography at Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU,  Wichita Falls, TX 

I hope to teach some more photo based workshops. 

I plan to continue making new work and looking for places to show my work and connect with fellow artists throughout the year.

Thank you for sharing your time with us Kimberly.
To Learn more about the work of Kimberly Chiaris Please visit her site at Kimberly Chiaris.


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