September 11, 2017

Spotlight: Sophia Schultz

Explore the provoking and intimate nostalgia of Sophia Schultz's photography.

Sophia Schultz is a Colombian-American artist, soon to be based in Seattle. Working with many different mediums, she explores the nature of memory and its psychological effects.  Her superb installations, sculptures, and videos beckon viewers with relatable and introspective concepts. For example, her video, Cherry Blossom, intelligently examines her feelings of isolation and loneliness that can be felt universally. In addition, her sculpture, Shattered, boldly confronts repressed memories and pain, for her artistic process required reflection of her most intimate feelings. What intrigues me most, though, is her photography. Many of her provoking images in Behind the Scenes reveal to us subjects that are both sorrowful or frustrated, yet unabashed. Many of her portraits, on the other hand, are softer and capture charisma with Vivian Maier’s quick instinct and precision. While Schultz reminds me of distinguished photographers, ultimately she has created a multi-faceted and unique body of work. I was honored to be able to discuss her work further with her.

The Le Sigh: Your concentration on memory in your art production is interesting and distinctive. What lead you to this focus?

Sophia Schultz: I’ve always been a very nostalgic person. It’s hard for me to let go of the past and I’ve noticed I’ll hold onto feelings and moments for years whether they are good or bad. That’s why I love film photography so much, it captures a moment but holds onto it for weeks or months and reappears once it’s developed. A lot of my memories that come out in my art follow moments of adventure and friendship, but also heartbreak and fear. Particularly, I like to think of how I can better understand painful memories and turn them into a way of healing, this is what a lot of my work has manifested into.

Mythomane (behind the scenes), 2016

TLS: How connected are you to Colombia and your family heritage? Does it influence your subject matter for your art made in the U.S.?

Sophia: My brother and I are one of the only people in my extended family that have grown up outside of Colombia, which can make staying in touch difficult. We try and go to Colombia every other year. While I did grow up in the U.S., it’s been hard for me to identify as “American,” but at the same time I’ve never lived in Colombia. So, I feel like I’m not Colombian enough to identify as purely Colombian. These feelings of being at times lost or disconnected with my identity as a mixed person influences my art in more subtle ways. When I began exploring installation and sculpture work I was really drawn to Latina artists such as Doris Salcedo and Ana Mendieta.

TLS: What are the alternative photographic processes that you use to create your images? How did you discover them?

Sophia: In college I began teaching myself how to use the darkroom and started developing my own black and white photos. At the same time I was looking into other techniques I could do in the darkroom with the limited resources I had. I then began experimenting with solarization and multiple exposures in the darkroom. After a year of exploring the possibilities in the darkroom, I wanted to see what other ways photos could be exposed and using different mediums. I began experimenting with cyanotypes. I started off on paper and then moved to wood and fabric, which really became a catalyst for my mixed-medium work.
TLS: Shattered is an example of your time-sensitive sculpture that you use to highlight the ephemeral nature of memory. In this specific case, it is a repression of memory. Will you describe for us what is going on in this sculpture, and how it speaks to the connection between material and memory/material and trauma?

Sophia: For this sculpture, I wanted to work with my own healing of a painful relationship. At first I wanted to do a time-sensitive piece involving old love letters and mementos I had from the relationship, but I settled on using a single dried rose that I had held onto for years. I wanted to create my own interpretation of how memories are bottled up inside of my mind. The piece addresses the attempt to destroy past memories that were once tucked away. A rose is submerged in a box full of water to symbolize the foggy but sharp memories. Perspective is important in this piece. The plastic casted gun is hung pointing in the middle of the box from my own point of view, bringing action and responsibility to the piece. What is seen is the aftermath of shooting at one’s past thoughts, to destroy this violence with further violence. The box is tight, and even though it has been hit with 25 bullets, it still will not shatter. It only creates a slow leak. The water slowly leaks out of the box over twelve hours, draining the foggy fluid, leaving a once pristine rose to rot. I think this piece really ties into different ways of healing and different ways of dealing with trauma.

From the Depths of my Subconsciousness (Ava and Max), 2016

TLS: In your photo series, Rituals, there is a girl lying down on a checkerboard floor with giant-sized chess pieces beside her. Did you curate this scene? If so, how often do you stage scenes for your photographs?

Sophia: I’m happy you brought this photo up, it’s one of my favorites. This photo was taken at my college. In the center of the upper-year dorms there is this big plastic chess set and this particular night someone had thrown it around the courtyard. So, while I did tell my friend to lay down with the chess pieces, I didn’t plan on the photo. Like most of my work, it’s in the moment. I primarily photograph what is going on around me and rarely do planned scenes. I have always preferred candid photos and I don’t work with models so photographing my surroundings has also worked best.  I’ll usually be roaming around with friends, or at the beach, or at a party and start photographing, but the photos are always second to the experience.

Fallen #1, 2015

TLS: On your “About” page in your website, you introduce your work as interacting with the fragility of the body, mind, and memory. What do you mean exactly by fragility? 

Sophia: I use the word fragility to refer to the malleability of people in terms of how their environment and surrounding people affects them. Whether this be physical, mental, or emotional.

TLS: I find your videos really impressive, especially when it comes to the music that relates very well to the specific atmosphere of the scene and its concept behind it. Do you create the music?

Sophia: First of all thank you! For all of my videos (except Cherry Blossom) I work with different friends who are musicians to create the music. Usually I will reach out to someone, explain the concept of my video, share with them a video stills, and see if they are interested. For a few weeks we will bounce back and forth rough drafts of the video and of the music. I think this is what allows the music to uniquely fit the video, and vice versa, they are both created simultaneously and are a real collaboration between myself and the musician.

Cherry Blossom (still), 2015

TLS: Anything else you would like to mention for the readers?

Sophia: I’m about to move across the country to Seattle and would love to meet people to collaborate with or to spend time outside!!

You can check out some of Sophia's videos on Vimeo and follow her on Instagram @erotocado.

Sarah Peskin, who is an art history major dancing through life with a heart of disco and pink glitter eyeshadow. Believing that teddy bears can be tough too, she never lets fear keep her from becoming a real adult. Find her on twitter @fuckyeahsarah.