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Rising Stars: Meet Katherin Hervey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katherin Hervey.

Hi Katherin, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I am a filmmaker, artist and activist. I include activism in my artmaking because I’m also a former attorney for the Los Angeles Public Defender and volunteer prison college instructor. I believe we need to create movements that liberate all people, and this begins with me and how I put myself out in the world through my art and actions. Whether subtle or blatant this informs my filmmaking, photography, writing and mixed-media pieces. I grew up in El Paso, Texas, on the border of two economically disparate worlds separated by the Rio Grande River. My parents wanted me to be an accountant and would plead with me to blend in and be “normal.” I knew I had other plans but did not feel safe to express myself until my early twenties when I picked up a video camera and started pointing it at anything that interested me. My first documentary was called ‘American Dreamin’ and explored street musicians living the American Dream – doing what they love despite the hardships. I made a couple more short documentaries and freelanced in the film and video world while creating a zine titled “Shades of Contradiction”, an arts and culture magazine dedicated to critical thinking and creative action. Themes were resistance, power, freedom, and love. It hit the zeitgeist of the time and received national distribution. But I was restless. I wanted to effect change in more tangible ways and made the bold decision to go to law school. It was shocking!

Suddenly it was all about logical reasoning and siphoning the complexity of life into legal formulas. My previous organic and creative approaches to life had to be adjusted to pass my classes and the bar exam. My saving grace was working at the public defender’s office. I was in the trenches of our systems of mass incarceration, defending people in an unfair system stacked against them. I passed the bar and became an attorney. But this did not last long. My body and spirit screamed that if I did not start creating again, I would die a spiritual death. I felt this in every cell of my being as if my cells were telling me they would not participate in anything but my creative potential. I stepped away from the law and into my creativity. At first, I felt my time away was off my path, but I see now it was part of my journey. My journey into the law led me to create my first feature film, “The Prison Within”, an award-winning documentary that takes place inside San Quentin Prison. The film is an intimate exploration of the resilience of the human spirit and the healing and transformation possible when we connect with each other’s humanity. It was acquired by Gravitas Ventures and released in August 2020.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The film industry and art world in general require a thick skin. They say you receive ten no’s for every yes. I’ve received simultaneous rejections in 1 day – 1 for a film grant that took weeks to create and the other from a literary journal for a short story that meant a lot to me. I’ve learned to shake it off and not take it personally. It’s more important to be authentic and stay with your vision.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
My work focuses on those of us who live in the margins but refuse to be marginalized. I’m interested in what is hiding in the dark crevices and corners of the American landscape and our collective psyches, believing truth is often found in the dark before it shines in the light. I’m currently developing a docuseries focused on female artists and visionaries. I believe the role of the artist is to pull from the cultural collective and give birth to new visions for the world. These ideas touch the hearts and minds of individuals, challenge outdated thinking, and lead to systemic change. I’m currently looking for female/femme artists and visionaries who are doing this both as subjects and collaborators. My husband Massimo Bardetti and I also co-founded Raw Love Productions, a multimedia production company dedicated to visual storytelling with social and artistic value. The idea with Raw Love is to keep it real and do it with love. We work with different organizations to tell their stories to the world. Because of my background a lot of the organizations focus on criminal justice reform. Our latest job deals with presidential clemency for those unjustly sentenced – so this tends to be extremely satisfying work. We also love to create photo narratives in different locations– from desert landscapes to abandoned buildings in Detroit –I often model in them too. A couple of years ago, I had a deep desire to start painting that could not be ignored. I think because I tend to create larger pieces that can take years, I’m receiving a lot of joy from this right now. It is tangible and immediate. They range from subtle abstracts to more raw multimedia pieces that incorporate video. I am completely self-taught, so it is spontaneous and exploratory and requires a presence that brings other ideas to the surface.

What matters most to you?
What matters to me is authenticity. If I act on what I “should” do, I quickly burn out. Should is boring. I’m interested in what sets my heart on fire. If it feels scary and I’m pulled to it, I know I’m heading in the right direction. I’m currently creating a speaking and writing platform that focuses on themes of personal and collective reflection and healing. Right now, our national culture is more polarized than ever. I’m interested in creating dialogues and bridges that hold all sides and move towards healing because real change doesn’t happen without the bridge of self-reflection and renewal. Ultimately (with time) these bridges can lead to movements whose fundamental goal is the liberation of all people. Creating this platform is new and scary for me but I also know it’s what is being called from me. This is when I know it’s authentic and I’m on the right path.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Headshot by Todd Dring Photography by Raw Love Productions (Katherin Hervey & Massimo Bardetti)

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