The Interview- Kristine Schomaker
L.A. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards - 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' The Interview- Kristine Schomaker

L.A. Photo Curator Interview: 

Laurie Freitag, Director of L.A. Photo Curator, interviews Kristine Schomaker. (11/27/16)

Laurie:  "So much of who the world gets to see of us is through the choices we make, whether consciously or unconsciously.
I believe that artists are like scientists in that they use themselves to explore their choices and share the results in their art. There is no right or wrong in art and like Science there is always new information being added to the project we call ‘ourselves’.

I met Kristine Schomaker when I was part of a yearlong art critique group that she led out of the Los Angeles Art Association. 
I asked to interview Kristine and her response was, "It would be an honor!" That was a surprising response that says more about me than her! Isn't it a good thing when someone can shine a little light on our own "stuff" because, after all…we all have it. 

Kristine, thanks so much for saying yes to this interview! I’M honored!! Truly. You are quite the artist/scientist and I love how you lose no time in discovering new ways to uncover the truth of who you are and how you represent yourself in the here and now. I notice on your website that this past summer you cut up 42 of your abstract paintings (dating back to 1998) and stacked them into 12x12 inch squares, transforming them into a sculpture. You talk about deconstruction, reconstruction and transformation. I’m wondering if you remember what the feelings were for you while in the process of cutting your paintings. I would imagine that for most artists this might be the last thing they would want to experience!"

Kristine: " It’s funny actually; I hear the opposite from artists. Sometimes they want nothing more than to cut up/destroy their work. I think it is the artist’s way; especially when the work isn’t going in the right direction. I also know a lot of artists who have reconstructed old work just because they don’t know what to do with it. I used to paint over a lot of my older work. Especially the work that I didn’t think was very good. I hear the term palimpsest used a lot in the art world; the idea of using the old to create new work. I think as we change, our work changes; as our culture changes, our work changes. As artists our work is shaped by the environment that surrounds us or is inside us.

My work is about body image. More specifically, it is a personal exploration of my own eating disorder, my own search for an identity outside of the model culture that is Los Angeles. We are surrounded by celebrities who either have plastic surgery or are photoshopped on magazine covers. Especially now after the election, it is clear to see that we are surrounded by people who believe women should look and act a certain way. Our culture has been conditioned for a long time now, that if you are not the ‘ideal’ (white, thin, beautiful) you are the ‘other’ (nothing, worthless, unattractive).

A recent art project I worked on was my “A Young Girls Vanity” series. I bought and painted in my colorful abstract style little girl’s Disney and Barbie vanities and beauty salons to talk about how young girls from an early age are taught that being beautiful is more important than anything. I created about 8 works and showed them in a few exhibitions. The more I looked at them, the more I thought; they are beautiful, they are pretty. What is the message I am putting out there. I had to challenge myself to look beyond the paint, to figure out what I was really trying to say. I realized I had to destruct/deconstruct the beauty. What is beauty anyway? Of course, they say Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when the beholder is the media… it is projected, perceived and reflected on all of us. So I asked a friend to help me and we tore apart the vanities. We got out a hammer and broke them up. I drove over one in my car. We cut them with a saw. I had the parts in front of me and realized I needed to recreate a new kind of beauty, something that comes out of the old ideal. I connected some of the pieces in an abstract, spontaneous way and hung them from the ceiling, and then I took that apart and created a sort of mandala on the ground with the parts. They will change each time I show them.

After this project, I realized that a lot of my work has been about deconstruction. I shaved my head a few years ago for a performance art piece. I had beautiful hair. But I wanted to show that we aren’t defined by our physical attributes. I wanted to continue to break down the ideals of beauty and what that means. I have kept my head buzzed ever since.

One day, I was looking at my old paintings and realized they were the next step. I had to cut them up. They were in a pile, unstretched for storage and doing nothing. They were beautiful, colorful abstract paintings. I wasn’t doing that type of work anymore. I wanted to move in a more conceptual direction. I found a couple of older pieces, got out the ruler and box cutter and started cutting. Before I knew it, I had cut up 42 paintings into 12 x 12 inch squares. I was actually getting a little giddy as I cut them up and put them into a pile. I was imagining maybe making a quilt like structure from them. Or even a “Carl Andre” type floor. But I didn’t want to give him any credit for anything. Then I saw this sculpture start to form. The paintings became something else. They became intriguing, fascinating, mysterious, brilliant; All of the things that I would want young girls to be known for other than their beauty."
Laurie:  "Kristine, I love how you say, “I had to cut them up.” The ‘had to’ says it all, full of determination with clear instructions from your inner voice. That inner voice knows it all! As I see you living your life, it seems that what you have going on in your head doesn’t stop you from living a very full life as a woman that has it all. I may not have said that so eloquently, but you know what I mean. Who is the judge here? And the self-judgement…when does that stop? We, as women, are our own worst critics and we all know what female stars look like without makeup. True, we criticize ourselves because we’ve been Barbie-ized since we were 5 years old. We can’t live up to that kind of beauty…but it’s a new day. What do you think it will take for women to just accept themselves as they are?  My question it possible that your art can heal you in areas of your life that you are not aware of?"
Kristine:  "My work with identity and self-acceptance started when I was working in the virtual world of Second Life. In 2006, I created an avatar named Gracie Kendal. She was/is tall, thin, blond, blue-eyed… beautiful. She was my ideal self. I felt beautiful when I was her online. I felt myself become more open and accepting of who I was on the inside, because I felt beautiful wearing this different identity. Gracie was ‘virtually’ me. She was an artist, curator, arts leader and more. I am the person I am in the real world because of the experience I gained being Gracie.

Life today really does imitate the art I created a few years ago as my avatar. I did my Master’s thesis about Gracie. I focused on the self-identity aspect, comparing us.

Why did I choose to be this tall, thin, beautiful woman? I realized Gracie was the id and ego that sat on my shoulders. She was my inner voice, my cheerleader and coach. She was the self that I needed to become aware of in order to move forward in my life. When I started working with Gracie on my thesis, I took a photo of her and myself every day for 160 days. I placed them next to each other and started bringing our inner conversations to text. When this project started, The Gracie Kendal Project, I hated photos of myself. I was too fat, too wide; I hated my double chin and my hair was never perfect. As I took more and more photos, I got used to them and realized that that was who I was. Who was I trying to impress? Who was I trying to be? I did a video documentary for my final project where I actually became Gracie. I got my nose pierced like she did, I bought clothes like she would wear and in the end, I felt unnatural. I realized that I was wearing a mask, trying to be someone I am not. We all wear masks. Whether it is through make-up or how we curate ourselves on Facebook.

I stopped wearing make-up a few months ago; I wanted to be real. I wanted to be authentic, natural. I still struggle with my identity though, with self-acceptance.

While working on my Master’s Thesis, I realized I had an eating disorder. Through therapy, support groups and my art, I have been working through it to understand and grow. I don’t think art heals completely, but I believe it has helped along the way. Art has helped me to look deeper into myself, to question more, to become aware, to experience and learn. In this process, I believe it is helping others too. The project I did, “A Young Girls Vanity” Is all about drawing attention to the idea that young girls from an early age are conditioned to believe that being pretty is what is important. I hope my work helps bring awareness to this plight and helps bring change. Maybe people will continue the conversation at home."

Laurie:  "Thanks Kristine for sharing your very personal journey. I’m sure the conversation of self-acceptance will continue as the human experience is that of uncovering our real selves and accepting ourselves just as we are. Your work does shine a light on these areas and how you live your life is a demonstration of taking control of your experience which is actually an inspiration."
Here are a couple links to videos/
One is from Schomaker's Masters Thesis.
Schomaker's website
L.A. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards - 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' The Interview- Kristine Schomaker
L.A. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards - 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' The Interview- Kristine Schomaker
L.A. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards - 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' The Interview- Kristine Schomaker