Monday, April 7, 2014

Lori Nix

Botanic Garden, 2008 

Lori Nix was born in the late 1960’s and raised in the American Midwest. Her early exposure to the destructive powers of Mother Nature and Hollywood dystopian stories fueled her young imagination and has led her to where she is today. For the last 20+ years she has constructed small scale dioramas and photographed them. Beginning with retelling the tall tales of her youth in her Accidentally Kansas series, she has progressed to imagining urban scenes of the apocalypse. Her last series, The City, spanned nine years and imagined a future mysteriously devoid of mankind. Intensely detailed and rich in color, her photos offer up a possible future for modern society. Nix received her B.A. in ceramics from Truman State and studied photography at Ohio University. Upon relocating to New York fifteen years ago she participated in the AIM Program at the Bronx Museum. She is a two time recipient of a NYFA grant and currently is on their artist advisory committee. She routinely mentors young artists and lectures at colleges and universities nationwide. Nix has gallery representation in NYC, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Toronto, Italy and Germany. Her work has been shown in the Museum of Art and Design in NYC, The Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, and The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. She also is a partner in a digital printing studio in New York City, JAM Editions Inc.

Nix is also involved in a video collective called Four Story Tree House, four people who come together to tell epic stories through miniatures. She also owns a digital printing company, specializing in printing for other artists.

Interview conducted with Lori Nix by Ashley Kauschinger and Sheryl David

Light Leaked: Your images are beautifully perplexing, and have an acute attention to detail in the creation and photographing of each set. Can you talk about your process from conception to final product?

Lori Nix: First and foremost, there are two of us creating these scenes. I work with my partner Kathleen, and we've been collaborating for almost fifteen years now. With the next project, I will be adding her name to the work. Think of how Cristo became Cristo and Jean Claude. I usually get my inspiration during my morning commute to my day job. There is something about being half asleep on a subway, slowly rocking back and fourth that puts me into a half lucid, half asleep frame of mind. This is when the images come to me. I keep all of my potential ideas on my phone. If I still like them in two years or so, I'll consider making it into a diorama. When I get excited about an idea, I then have to sell it to Kathleen, because it will become our reality for the next seven months, the approximate time it will take us to construct the diorama. Once we settle on the image, I'll start researching spaces and object on the internet, through books, or visiting similar spaces. I then sketch out my ideas, usually over a nice breakfast out, and then we start gathering the materials we will need. The work is divvied up according to our strengths. I take care of the structure and architecture of the space, ie, the walls, floors, ceiling, furniture, fixtures, and Kathleen will work on the small details like sculpting animals, casting objects in plastic and plaster, creating tools, and any sort of carving details. I figure out the color palette and she does the aging and staining of the space. When all the details are in place, I carefully light the scene and start shooting sheets of 8x10 film. I hopefully can capture the final image within a week, but sometimes it may take up to two weeks to tweak the lighting and create the final image I want.

Map Room, 2010

LL: What goes through your mind while you are creating your work? What atmosphere do you create for yourself?

LN: Believe it or not, I go through a lot of doubt while creating the work. I'm constantly asking myself if I can pull off the particular scene I'm working on, is it worth seven months of time and energy, if it's worthy of being on a wall. When Kathleen and I are nearing the end, putting the last few details in place, we're usually depressed because it never seems like we're ever going to finish the diorama. There is always more and more detail to add. It never ends. We try to create a comfortable working atmosphere, so in the evenings, the tv will be on, and on the weekends we listen to the radio non-stop. During the summer, we listen to a lot of men's golf on the television (the announcers are so nice and talk very quietly), or we'll have a baseball game on the radio. We burn incense because I believe a good smelling studio helps alleviate the drudgery of the work.

LL: You work several jobs, while also maintaining your art practice. How do you balance your work and life? What advice do you have for new photographers?

LN: Both Kathleen and I work non-stop. We work 40+ hours a week at our day jobs. We pick up commercial work when it's economically beneficial, and we work in the studio at nights and on the weekends. Our lives are rather boring, but it's what we do. We have a running joke between ourselves "fun is relative". We do this because without the day jobs, we wouldn't have enough money to create the artwork. The day jobs pay for the art supplies and the art work pays the rent. But…we’re also most happy when we busy in the studio, either working towards a show deadline, or working on a video with a very specific shoot date. We kind of thrive under stress. Advice for new photographers? Don’t give up. It may take a while to complete a project, or gain interest in your project once you introduce it to the world. Be patient, but be persistent. And this is the secret to success. It takes time for possibilities and opportunities to come to fruition.

Book images from

LL: Your series, The City, has recently been published by Decode books. Can you talk about what the publishing process was like for you?

LN: I met John Jenkins, the publisher over a decade ago. We were standing next to one another at a portfolio review event in Portland; back when Photo Lucida was called Photo Americas. At these portfolio events, everyone talks to everybody. We struck up a conversation and shared our portfolios with each other. John and I kept running into each other over the next couple of years, always trying to catch up on what each of us was up too. I had been working on The City series for ten years and was starting to think seriously about a book. It was a stroke of luck that I ran into John in Miami and through casual conversation I told him I was looking for a book opportunity, and he was looking for his next artist to publish. I only had a few specific requests for the book. I wanted it to be a formal photography book, nothing too design-y, and I didn’t want any of the photographs to go across the gutter. I am not a book designer, nor do I pretend to be, so I let John take the reigns with the design. He fleshed out the book with detail shots and close ups that really pull the viewer into the scenes. I love his design; I love the size of the book. I think he really brought out the best in my images.

The City can be purchased here:

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