The abstract photographer Diana Palermo digs deep in psychology and spirituality through this artistic tool. The lens-based artist works with this medium in collaboration with performance, poetry, printmaking, and fiber art to probe concepts related to power, intuition, gender, and psychosexual experience.
COR: Tell us about the environment where you grew up! How did it influence your artistic visions and your journey to the world of art?
Diana Palermo: I grew up in the woods of the American East Coast. I spent a lot of time looking at natural materials. I would study and manipulate them just to see what would happen. This interest in materiality traveled with me while building my art practice. It was subconsciously part of the reason I chose to study fibers/textiles in undergrad and why I’ve decided to reinvestigate hands-on photography processes in my grad work. More recently, my experiments with photographic processes call back to that relationship between curiosity and discovery. Lately, I’ve been probing the alchemical, mysterious power of darkroom and alternative processes. I’ve been doing this as I focus my lens on the body and the natural objects used in spiritual practices.
” I’m constantly searching for ways to depict the queer experience in relationship to power and intuition. “
COR: You take the gender and sexual expressions to the next level in your works. Why is this aspect important for you? What inspires you the most?
Diana Palermo: I’m constantly searching for ways to depict the queer experience in relationship to power and intuition. I am ultimately interested in the spiritual and psychological aspects of queerness and ways I can generate expressive imagery that is reflective of these abstract experiences. I often find myself fascinated with the facets of queerness that are least visible. For example, I’ve often explored the emotional weight of repression. Lately, I’ve been working through a reclamation of spiritual empowerment from a queer lens by generating imagery related to that history and present trajectory.
COR: Do you work both with digital and analog tools? What is the process of creating these collages?
Diana Palermo: I often shoot images digitally, and sometimes on film, but always create my work using analog means. I try to have my hand on as much of the process as possible. I’m not a fan of working behind a screen, however, I like the ease of digital imaging in tandem with more complex photo and printmaking processes. To me collage is an amalgamation of representational imagery and abstraction. It is a place to play with my subconscious.
” I took a series of photos interacting with that drawing, almost as if I was in conversation with myself. Intimate. Dancing. Just me, naked, with a camera on a self-timer and this abstract drawing. “
COR: What is your favorite shoot from your own works and what’s the story behind it?
Diana Palermo: That would have to be a photoset I took interacting with one of my large abstract drawings. The drawing was an image with long sweeping lines, about the width of my arm span, that radiated from a centerpoint. It is a symbol that intuitively comes up a lot in my work. One that seems like an energetic self-portrait. I took a series of photos interacting with that drawing, almost as if I was in conversation with myself. Intimate. Dancing. Just me, naked, with a camera on a self-timer and this abstract drawing. It was so fluid and instinctual. That is the space from which I always try to generate work. Here is a sample of a collage from that series.
COR: What are the plans for this year? Do you plan to create something related to the pandemic situation?
Diana Palermo: As an artist, I think being influenced by the pandemic is unavoidable. I’ve personally been thinking a lot about the ways in which we deal with uncertainty. I’ve been making videos, poems, and collages about divination. I recognize these divining practices as an attempt to make sense of the future in a way that sometimes seems futile and sometimes seems like a useful set of tools. They are interesting works that wouldn’t have happened if not for the crisis. I am interested in continually capturing these gestures that we make when striving to gain some semblance of control over uncontrollable forces.