The Interview-Paula Riff
L.A. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards - 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' The Interview-Paula Riff (click on image for larger view)
Wild Heart by Paula Riff
(click on image for larger view)

Laurie Freitag, Director of L.A. Photo Curator, interviews Paula Riff. (9/2016)
Laurie Freitag: "Thanks Paula for being our inaugural interview!  “Your latest body of work, ‘What’s love got to do with it’, uses photograms to correlate your experience of the range of emotions involved in relationships. The work, so enticing, draws the viewer into the many layers of visual play, part paisley psychedelic and part abstract kaleidoscope, there’s a lot going on here!

Can you pick 2 pieces and tell us your story for each?"

Paula Riff: "First of all Laurie, I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to be your first interview and talk about my work, it is truly an honor!  I am going to pick two pieces from this series to talk about, “Wild Heart” and “No Strings Attached”.  I began this series making smaller singular images but now I have also started making diptychs as these two pieces both are.  As I continue to ponder the complexities of relationships and the ever changing multi-layer of emotions involved with this state of wonderment we call “love”, I began putting two images together that are connected not only in the making of the images, but also in my thought process.  If you look closely at these two pieces you can see that even though they are two separate pieces, the objects I use to make photograms; feathers, leaves, grasses and so on, connect across both images tying them together - but because I also incorporate metaphors in my work the intention is that relationships are connected while at the same time they are not. I know you were probably hoping to hear a real “juicy” love story regarding these pieces and even though it is true that when I first started making or engaging with this series the inspiration did come from a relationship, there isn’t one particular relationship that this series follows. The images throughout the series are compilations of the emotional ups and downs of relationships and not meant to be literal in that sense."

Laurie Freitag: " What do these pieces make YOU feel when you look at them?"

Paula Riff: “Wild Heart” was made with the intention to be playful and hopeful - an abstraction of how I “feel” if you will about love and life in general and I do take a somewhat Zen approach to it all.  I’d like to believe that I am a passionate and optimistic person about the state of the world and that includes love and all it’s complicated layers. “No Strings Attached” is a bit more complicated.  I feel that in some cases opting for love no matter what is better than not opting for it at all, but that is a conversation that might need more than a paragraph to talk about. I thought a lot about making this image – as I do with all of my work.  I spend a lot of time visualizing before I make something and then play around quite a bit with sketches if you will with the paper and objects before I coat my paper.  I also have a lot of emotional memory that I tend to draw from and for this piece the wisps of the grasses swirl across the paper that gives me a feeling of being free but at the same time not free at all.  I told you it was a bit complicated - and the bleeding of the red and blue colors of the cyan and marbling pattern weave a bit of contradiction in the emotion – at least for me because even though the title is “No Strings Attached”, I don’t necessarily believe it is all that simple or that kind of relationship can exist for any amount of time.  Love is too complicated – relationships are more complicated for them to really be so free and easy in my mind.  Did I mention, that I also have a rather large imagination - so many of the abstract representations in these images are often formed in my mind and not necessarily drawn from life experiences.

Marbling paper is a process where one floats inks on top of water to make a design but it is a very ephemeral sort of thing as the design can change very quickly – it isn't stagnant and it isn’t permanent – it is an ever changing thing and one has very little control over how the inks settle or how long they will last before paper is floated on top of it to secure a design. It is similar when coating papers and using the sun to make images – there is a large element of uncontrollability as well so one is forced to go with the “flow” so to speak and all of this ties in with the theme of this series about emotions and love and relationships."

Laurie Freitag: "Does any one piece represent a certain relationship?

Paula Riff: "The answer to that is “not really” but “sort of” in that I do tend to think about relationships when I am making this work – and in that sense “Wild Heart” probably describes my personality the best - wild, colorful, dark, intense and free floating."

Laurie Freitag: "Does any one piece represent a beginning, middle or end of a relationship?"

Paula Riff: "Again I would have to say “not really” because I am using the pieces to act as representations of emotions that pertain not just to myself but to anyone who has experienced love or been involved in a relationship or longs for a relationship or hopes and dreams of one – which is probably most of us, so I guess the answer then to that is a “no”.  I also see relationships a bit differently and not as clear- cut as you say with a beginning, middle or an end.  I see involvements as ongoing, every changing, more of an ebb and flow kind of thing."

Laurie Freitag: "Does any one piece give you closure?"

Paula Riff: "Gee, I hope I am not sounding too negative here but the answer to this is again “no’ unless I am interpreting closure differently than you.  I do tend to think a lot and even if I believe I have moved on or a relationship has changed I can very easily float back and forth just by hearing a song on the radio or my mind sometimes float back into time and then I am lost somewhere in some state of flux and emotional chaos if you will.  But I think it is not a bad thing – I tend to be a romantic and being practical in love and life is not my strongest suit."

Laurie Freitag: "It seems that you believe that love is ever changing, am I correct?"

Paula Riff: "I guess I can finally say “yes” to that!  Not that changing has to be from good to bad or that all relationships end – because I do not think there is one formula when it comes to “love”, it’s just that things do change over time because we are also constantly changing and our lives go in different directions and to think that one can sustain always the same high emotion or feeling is probably unrealistic or pretty hard to do.  I do believe that change is a good thing – to be always the same is boring and the last thing I want to do or be thought of is boring. Of course I do believe in love and I do think of love as taking many forms and shapes and so in that sense it is every changing – again metaphorically like the “falling of leaves…” Yes, things do fall to the ground but there are always new leaves or new beginnings to take their place and so the cycle is ever continuing, not ending just changing."

Laurie Freitag: "Do you think that all relationships have a shelf life?"

Paula Riff: "Like books on a shelf?  Maybe so!  Although I am not sure if I would say relationships have a definite shelf life or expiration date.  I have been in long term relationships as well are really short ones, so nothing really is totally that precise or clear in my mind in this regard.  It just depends really on how you look at things, if one is open to unconventionality then there really is no one way that defines a relationship – it all depends on if you are willing to be open and be clear as to what works best for you.  I have a very different view of the world and of relationships now.  I am open to conversations that allow them to ebb and flow because I do not hold deep in my heart the usual conventions of “ever-lasting”, although I am for sure a romantic at heart and do believe in “love”."

Laurie Freitag: "Do you choose your projects or do your projects choose you?"

Paula Riff: "Good question!  I think it is both really.  I am constantly thinking about what I am working on and all the while thinking and visualizing about what I will do next or how I can create something new.  There are things that pull me so strongly that I must go in that direction.  I am interested in making work that is personal as well as more universally themed projects.  Current events or the state of the world also draws me to make work as I feel a social calling to make art that a wider audience can relate to and see in a public or outdoor setting. Surely, my own personal daily experiences influence my projects as with this series but it is also an intuitive or gut feeling that drives me to make things, create images or art if you will."

Laurie Freitag: "Do you believe in inspiration?"

Paula Riff: "Yes of course!!  I am inspired constantly!  Looking at other artists work is very inspiring for me so there’s that for sure, but I also find inspiration from what’s happening in the world and that drives me to make things related to that.  I also find inspiration in music and movies and most days walking during my lunch break I find inspiration in the leaves that have fallen on the ground, their patterns on the sidewalk and so on.  But I think one has to be open to it.  I believe that one has to have an open heart and open mind to find and feel inspiration and so I guess I feel lucky in that way that I am constantly running into things like that!

Again, thank you so much Laurie!  I am thrilled to have had this opportunity to talk with you!  And thank you for all that you are doing with L.A. Photo Curator!

For more info about Paula Riff and her work go to

L.A. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards - 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' The Interview-Paula Riff (click on image for larger view)
No Strings Attached by Paula Riff
(click on image for larger view)