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article imageU.S. artist creates portraits from film reels, cassette tapes Special

By David Silverberg     Dec 25, 2011 in Entertainment
Erika Simmons doesn't want to create art with the usual paintbrush and canvas. Instead, her portraits are composed from materials we often discard, such as reels, cassette tapes, old books and magazines.
The 28-year-old Princeton artist plays with media we take for granted, like old film reels, and breathes fresh life into portraits of historical figures, from Marilyn Monroe to Albert Einstein to Jimi Hendrix. She approaches her creativity with the another-man's-garbage-is-another-man's-treasure position - why not have fun with products we often throw away and easily forget?
Her work is reminiscent of another artist profiled on Digital Journal - Arvind Gupta makes toys out of junk, such as Popsicle sticks and empty pencil cases.
A self-taught artist who loves conceptual art, Simmons took some time to answer questions about her artwork and what piece she especially loves.
Digital Journal: When did you first want to create portraits out of items they represent?
Erika Simmons: I have to credit [computer graphics artist] Ken Knowlton with the spark that lit the flame - his portrait of Einstein using nothing but dice blew my mind. I loved the idea and tried to make my own interpretation
DJ: How many of these portraits have you created? Are you working on any now?
ES: I've created about 100 I would say, not just out of tape or film, but using all kinds of media. Right now I'm developing a new technique involving antique fishing nets. It's going to be amazing.
Erika Simmons  an experimental artist in Princeton  NJ
Erika Simmons, an experimental artist in Princeton, NJ
Courtesy Erika Simmons
DJ: What do you want the viewer to get out of this artwork? What impression do you want to leave with them?
ES: Every experience is different - I like people to have their own interpretations, but I enjoy the nested concepts - the echos of data on different levels - and how it might make the viewer's memories respond. Like when you look at Jimi Hendrix portrait made from cassette, you might start to hear the music in your head; so your own data is responding to what you see.
DJ: Out of all your work, which one appeals to you most, which are you most proud of?
ES: Right now my favorite is the angel arising from Mozart's Serenade No 10 sheet music. It's simple and timeless.
A piece of art by Erika Simmons  using only tape. The art plays with sheet music of Mozart s Serenad...
A piece of art by Erika Simmons, using only tape. The art plays with sheet music of Mozart's Serenade No 10
Courtesy Erika Simmons
DJ: Have you sold these prints? What kind of buyers do you usually attract?
ES: I don't sell a lot of prints. I don't concentrate on selling my work. I wait tables. When I do sell its usually to people who have tracked me down and emailed me once or twice (I'm ashamed to say). I'm really quite reclusive. I would rather spend the minutes of my life exploring and discovering rather than making the same art over and over ad nauseum.
The latest artwork from Erika Simmons  using film reels to design portraits of Pavarotti and Albert ...
The latest artwork from Erika Simmons, using film reels to design portraits of Pavarotti and Albert Einstein
Courtesy Erika Simmons
For more info on Simmons' work, check out this link.
More about Portraits, erika simmons, ghost in the machine, Art, film reels
 
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