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Art & Life with Haleigh Nickerson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Haleigh Nickerson.

Haleigh, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.

I grew up moving around a ton, but I’m from Oakland/ The SF Bay Area. I went to Berkeley for a short time (studied Art and minored in Ethnic Studies), got out really fast and moved to NY to go to grad school at Parsons. There, I got to try new things and pushed myself to think about new modes and ways of working in my practice. I’m really grateful for that. The program was not divided by media. There was encouragement to explore, so that’s what I did.

Creating has always been my home and safe space. I was always in art class outside of school growing up everywhere I lived. It was the constant I could lean on and the space that I could explore with no restraints while also it being the space I felt I could communicate best and most fluid. I remember going to art class and then running off to basketball practice afterward. That kind of still feels like a depiction of who I am now, in a way. Traversing different worlds and “roles” … navigating different spaces. I come from a family of athletes. Athletes are performers; the field/court is their stage where transformations occur… where narratives are formed and where choreography/ rhythm is routine. The body is wielded as tool, center, and force. Though it wasn’t ever intentional or even obvious to myself until recently, I think it informs the work I make. It’s definitely had an impact on my interest in performance, the physicality of the body, movement, (and other things like strength, costume, landscape, etc.)

I moved to LA indefinitely right after graduating from Parsons to intern for a film project, which expanded from there. I tried bouncing between LA and the east coast for a bit but I’m currently settled, learning and growing in LA.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?

I work in a lot of different media. I’ve been working in photography, video/film, installation, sculpture, and performance in thinking about the intersections of race, gender, beauty, and power. In general, I’m really interested in the construction of identity and the ways that we maneuver through different identities and worlds/ spaces; Changing, transforming, and shifting within the context of and in relation to different spaces and environments. I don’t bind myself to one thing. Earlier on, I started exploring painting and self-portrait photography separately. Over time, that progressed and expanded. The question became: how do I merge the two or incorporate both approaches to further support the things I was interested in working through conceptually? That’s where installation, further mixed media, and video came in. I think about the ways the black female body moves through (and occupies) time and space. Overall, I see my practice as constructing new mythologies, forming new narratives and (re)claiming the body.

Formally, I’m drawn to creating rhythm and sequence through the making and compiling of material, objects, ephemera and overall in terms of composition. I like merging things that don’t necessarily go together; …that have a clear fragmented nature or awkwardness to them, but come together in a dynamic way. It feels like an alternative way of thinking about sampling. Conventions of fashion and style are streamlines in my work along with aspects of music/hip hop culture. Throughout my practice, I think about how embodiment can be a vehicle in terms of empowerment …hence making functional and wearable sculptures (and being able to utilize these works in more than one way in different contexts). The sculptures I create usually exist as smaller works that make up a larger narrative entirely. I reimagine/reconstruct objects that have informed my memory and identity in one way or another and have a cultural significance to me. (ie. compiling things like jewelry, chains, nameplates, earrings, hair tools, certain fabric, spikes, and other materials). Most recently, I’ve been making sculptural costumes that are heavily adorned and made up of found objects. There’s an element of excess… which feels like an accentuation of the body. There’s a protective element to them too, which feels like a manifestation of the armor we wear or put on occasionally, in terms of strength and vulnerability… but mostly feels like a manifestation of warrior women or that kind of an archetype.

I see the installations I make as shifting spaces of identity that are reminiscent of sets. With installation, I’m able to tell a story or at least communicate through the compiling of objects, media, technology works brought together informing the space. They’ve taken the form of imaginative spaces that encapsulate aspects of the past, the present, and gesture towards the future.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
The biggest challenge, no fear. The biggest challenge we face is ourselves… but on another note; I don’t think I can speak for everyone… but I will say getting caught in the cycle of oversaturation that is extremely prevalent during this day and age of digital/social media culture. We are inundated with so many images at all times..all..the..time and wrapped up in instant gratification. It’s not necessarily good or bad, it just ‘is’… but it can be easy to get muddled in all of that. My question for myself: is what you’re creating sustainable in terms of will it last? If we move past instant gratification and the immediate ‘now’, does that build on what you envision and are wanting to leave behind… Does it have longevity? Would you still make it even if no one was watching? 

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
People can see my work at the next show or on my website and can support by reaching out. 🙂

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Hadas, Haleigh Nickerson

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