Diana Palermo [Interview]
INTERVIEW WITH DIANA PALERMO
FEBRUARY 2019 DIGITAL RESIDENT
MHM: Can you give us some insight into the process behind your photo collages? Where do the photographs originate from? Are they personal or impersonal? How do you generate your structural forms?
DP: All of the photographs in my work are my own. I typically take them in sets with a certain series of pieces in mind. I’ve also used personal 35mm photos when I needed specific imagery. All of the abstract compositions are sketched and planned beforehand. It is somewhat intuitive based upon the elemental language of abstract art.
MHM: As windows into your personal emotional experiences as a queer artist, do you view your quilt collages as shards, or more as a symbol of building blocks and reconstruction?
DP: This is really interesting. Maybe both? But I don’t think it is only specific to my experience. I think this is a similar, relatable experience for any queer person. You almost go through this process of mourning. Mourning normalcy, realizing that you are going to have to break down and rebuild a new culture around you in order to survive. Building a new normal accounting for this difference.
MHM: Your work is both explicit and ambiguous. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation for the viewer. Do you feel this openness yet detailed directness combined together is what subjugates societal standards? In other words, how does detailed ambiguity open conversation?
DP: I like distorting the original images as a way to play with the idea of intimacy. They are intimate pictures presented in an obstructed way, relaying this message that you are peering in on something you shouldn’t see. Repression of sexuality is a power struggle. A struggle with systems and structures that have a strong foundation. I think the organization in my work is playing around with that idea of structure, standards, harsh lines...
MHM: Do you lean more toward the analogue or digital, poetically or process-wise? Why?
DP: Analog always. I am very tactile. I know that easier digital processes exist that would render similar results but I prefer to touch every material in every step of creation as much as possible.
MHM: Can you expand upon your theories of sublimation in social contexts?
DP: I think sublimation functions as a protection for any individual that has these adverse impulses as well as for those around them that might be harmed by those impulses. For me, sublimation through art has allowed me to translate these queer experiences in a constructive way. The problem is that sometimes the original intention gets muddled or misunderstood. In the case of queer sexual behavior, it holds onto the idea that these queer narratives and stories are taboo or that they do harm. I think this notion is something we as a society need to let go of.
MHM: Your “Morality Limbs” project is a beautiful way to abstract global concepts. Do you feel that cataloguing and displaying taxonomies is integral in all of your work?
DP: Absolutely. I play around with classifications a lot. It is somewhat of a conflicting dichotomy. I use systems of organization and labels while still trying to break them down and understand them. I try not to pass judgement on this information, I just observe it, and it just is, and these are the results of that taxonomical reality.
MHM: Why do you choose textiles as material and reference?
DP: I have a background in crafts and material studies. I went to undergrad for fibers...actually I originally went to art school to become a photographer. I got subconsciously enamoured by the repetitive process and structural nature of textiles. I don’t think I knew why at the time. I’m only now starting to discern the relationships.
MHM: What is your personal history navigating morality?
DP: Growing up in a religious culture that gave me my moral compass, then finding that this moral compass was at odds with my gender and sexual identity, made me begin to question all systems of authority. It manifested in a more aggressive and angsty way when I was younger. I’ve come to internalize that experience and use it to dig deep into all established norms with an analytical eye.
MHM: Can you speak more to your thoughts on architecture and its relationship to the body? Maybe in terms of specific experiences or styles that inspired this connection?
DP: Lately, I’ve been trying to address the presence of structure in my work both conceptually and visually. It often includes a deconstructing of something and restructuring of materials or ideas. I think I’ve been following my work into an exploration of what structure really is. When it is necessary? Why do some choose to challenge it? I think architecture is designed for bodies to interact with in a certain way. Though I am not particularly interested in bringing literal architecture into my work, I am interested in architectural references and organization; environments, settings, textures, and lighting in spaces and how those things relate to the existing themes in my work.
MHM: You reference Freud and Nietzsche when framing your collages. What texts have been influential for you?
DP: Honestly, lately, poststructuralist works by writers like Julia Kristeva and Michel Foucault have been most influential to me. They challenge me and push my mind out of sloppy conventional modes of thinking when concerned with sexuality and morality.
MHM: What's next in the studio?
DP: I’ve been wanting to get back into the darkroom. I’ve been doing more straightforward photography and enjoying the process of taking pictures. I need some time to experiment. I’ve been doing some conceptual research about queer bodies and their relationships to queer environments. I’m not sure where it is all going yet, but I’m excited about it.