Clarissa Bonet • Chicago
Please introduce yourself: what’s your name, where are you from, what do you do?
My name is Clarissa Bonet. I’m an artist based in Chicago, Illinois. My work explores aspects of the urban space in both a physical and psychological context. Moving to the city for the first time as an adult, I was captivated by the landscape and started making work about my experience of the urban space as a way to understand my newfound landscape. Eventually, this led to two current and ongoing bodies of work, City Space and Stray Light.
What is your relationship with photography? How did you get into it & and what keeps you interested/ motivated?
I came to photography as a teenager and have been working with the medium ever since. What initially drew me to the photography was the ability of the camera to transform the world in front of the lens. By using the language of photography – light, shadow, color, exposure, camera angle etc. – I can manipulate the world to fit my personal vision. I found this to be extremely fascinating and freeing.
For almost a decade now, the city has been my subject. It’s a space that is constantly shifting physically, which is just fascinating. In addition, my personal relationship and interests regarding the urban landscape have also shifted over time, I’m constantly thinking, constantly looking to discover new locations, ideas, and experiences to serve as the subject for my work. I wonder if I’ll ever grow weary of making work about the city. As of now, I don’t see that happening.
Tell me about your project “City Space”, what was the driving force behind creating it? What was your intention, and how did you come up with the Idea?
Growing up in Florida, I was used to the lush tropical landscape, slow way of life, and car dominated landscape. As a young adult, I moved away from Florida, the only landscape I knew intimately. Chicago was a completely new and foreign environment. It was everything that Florida wasn’t – expansive, vertical, dense, and loud in more ways than one. At first it felt as if my whole world had been turned upside down. The mundane tasks of everyday life had to evolve. One of the largest differences was becoming a pedestrian, traversing the city by foot. This process ultimately became the foundation of my City Space project, and a crucial aspect of my artistic practice. I roam the city by foot for hours at a time, becoming an active participant on the street, observing and experiencing, all the while taking notes and iPhone snap shots, which I call sketches. These experiences, sketches, and notes are inspiration for the final images.
The images in City Space are constructions of my experience. To truly experience something you must give it all your attention. Seeing/experiencing it through the viewfinder is a partial experience the world; there is so much you are unaware of because you are framing it through the camera. This is one reason I come back at a latter date and recreate my images. In addition, I’m aiming to make photographs that are in essence images of invisible things. How can you make an image about an experience? I found over time and with experimentation that the best image to represent an experience isn’t the one you make in the moment, but rather one that made in reference to that moment.
What are you currently working on, and – if there is – what is your next project/ journey?
This year I was awarded an Individual Artist grant from the city of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events to produce new work for my project City Space. Currently I’m in the process of creating new work for the project, which I hope to make into my first monograph sometime in the future.