Mixed media artist Shae Detar’s first book, published by Skeleton Key Press in March 21, is a hand-painted photobook, In which the woman takes center stage, taking the viewer into a utopian dimension. Here, Mother Earth merges with the female body, which, as the iconic title Another World suggests, takes on the shape of an alternate reality in which women are born Come Beauty Nude is known for its variety.
Detar portrays a confident figure of a woman who was a former model turned self-taught artist. Ascetic and aesthetic combination with the environment.
Detar’s escapist approach produces dreamlike visions with concrete, far-from-hedonistic counterparts. In fact, this series of photographs conveys the energy and strong resonance emanating from women who believe in the ideal of a distinctively diverse human beauty in their everyday lives, an ideal that is increasingly accepted and recognized. Thanks to Detar’s magical touch, her creative taste, and her attention to print color arrangements, the struggle to embrace body diversity took on evocative and captivating, yet equally authentic tones.
We spoke to the artist to learn more about her work.
How did you get into the photography industry and get your hand-painted skills?
I used to cut out fashion magazines, make hand drawn collages, and turn them into my creative journal. I never thought of it as art…it was just a fun hobby. Then, when I was 19 and living in Milan as a fashion model, my roommate saw the diary entries I was making these collages and suggested I go to art school and study graphic design. Two months later, I ended my modeling career and applied to art school. In art school, I didn’t like to use a computer to do my work, I always tried to avoid manual work. But at some point, I realized I wasn’t interested in graphic design, so I dropped out and went back to modeling. Fast forward many years and my husband suggested that I try photography… I knew nothing about the medium so I started playing. I taught myself how to take analog photos, print in a darkroom, and use alternate processes. From the beginning, I printed out my work and painted over photos like I did when I was a kid; it might just be an instinct. I really didn’t want my paintings to resemble historical techniques, I didn’t want them to have a vintage feel, so I started experimenting with different papers and paints, and it took me a few years to find what worked best for me. I now use watercolor paper and watercolor paints, acrylics and charcoal. It’s been a journey of experimenting and learning what works for me and what doesn’t. Trial and error and playing is really what I went to college on my own.
What is your creative process like? How do you create images?
It’s really important for me to be completely open and experiment and keep a state of play while I create. My artistic life has different phases: one is the actual creation phase, the other is when I plan and research locations, find my volunteer models and organize the details leading up to the shoot day. Then there’s the actual shoot day, which is more about the environment I’m in, the people I’m shooting, and the communication and interaction between me and my models. After that comes creative time in my studio; here I take the images I take, print them out with absolutely no expectations, and turn them into something else entirely. This stage is important for me to stay open, play and experiment. The first time I drew them, I made them very small so I didn’t worry about wasting paper, and I could let myself go and make whatever I wanted, which kept me open to the unknown. Kids don’t overthink creating, they don’t judge themselves, they don’t sit there and act critical or obsessive about what they’re doing, they’re really present and enjoying the moment of really creating and expressing themselves. That’s what I’m working on at that stage…if I feel like I’m overthinking it, I’ll go for a walk and get away from work. The next stage is when I decide that the small thing I made is cool and I want it to be bigger. This is when I reprinted it on a larger scale. I have to really focus and rely on my years of learning the craft because I’m trying to make the larger size version the same as the small print, and if I screw it up, it’s going to be expensive because those big prints are expensive. This part of my job requires full concentration and I have to be very careful. I then make the boards, mount my prints onto them, and lately I’ve been adding layers of epoxy on them, which I like. So, that’s a lot of work. These pieces take a lot of time, passion and focus, but I love it.