All In with Patricia Voulgaris

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Patricia Voulgaris is a photographer by nature, but her practice extends beyond conventional photographic pursuits. Her studio on Long Island is littered with wonderful scraps of paper, odds and ends, pieces and parts that she layers and incorporates into elaborate assemblages. Voulgaris is a Long Island native and has been commuting to the city all her life to follow this passion. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2013 with a BFA in photography.

Efrem Zelony-Mindell I’d love to know what it’s like having to commute the way you do. You’re an incredibly passionate person and dedicated artist; I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like juggling life the way you do.

Patricia Voulgaris I feel like I have to work ten times harder. Getting over the barrier of my commute takes all of me; commitment, dedication, you name it. I want to be in New York but honestly sometimes I just can’t be, and that’s hard. But living like this you put up with the reality. I’m not going to let the Long Island Rail Road stop me from doing what I want to do though.

EZM It sounds like you’ve come to a very realistic place in balancing your practice and travel. Everything seems very close to you, if you commit yourself to it you seem all in.

PV My work has always been very personal; when I started photographing I was focused on my family. Halfway through my time at SVA I became interested in how I could use abstraction to say something about myself. I’ve always made my own way in the world and I don’t keep secrets. Art gives, and it’s good to own that. Scratching, clawing, and bleeding are good too. I have a complex relationship with people and the camera. Introducing photography to these relationships has always felt very rebellious. I think making work is about sharing and hearing what others have to say. Changes happen that way—through community.

EZM Keeping yourself open is important.

PV You never know where things might lead. The camera didn’t judge me. I fell in love with the way it made me feel.

Efrem Zelony-Mindell wrote the following words about Patricia Voulgaris. They appear on the back of her poster.

In the folds of minds and flesh an archenemy emerges. Planes of vexing paper and pounds of ached emotion light the locomotive of Patricia Voulgaris. She is the source of her own photography's virulent creature. Intimate and unfamiliar the craft of her image is constant and mercurial. No mercy in that merriment. The body is forgiven; it is transformed and greater than original intent. Compounded in deep contrast the woman becomes a strangely biopic alien. Life form founded in a protuberant voluptuous narrative. The eloquence of trickery and thieves slumbers in the boundaries of possible connections and communication.

Lightning strikes of flash outfit these forms, laying wake to paling whites and precise blacks. They are a catastrophe, a cacophony, adorned and experimental—results variant in piquant hunger. Resounding newness and bric-a-brac components are somehow formulated in archaic language. Obfuscated, they are inescapably of the Earth. The camera is a cheated paradox of reality; that fact makes case in the hands of Voulgaris. It is wielded and those falsehoods become realities. Fidelity of the things humanness is questionable, but behind all faithfulness there is something deeper.

The self is not solid here. What can be seen is temporary. Overlapped, warren, plastique, quagmire. Emotive tissues, brute of metamorphosis, theories shrouded sympathetic. Spaces lacked near concentrated definition are of things and qualities deeper and downed, not face value. Polemic practice embroidered by imaginative poetic detritus. The common ground inside people is swelled by this imagery. Voulgaris is exonerated because she is no longer specific; that vessel is used to refine a uniqueness that is absurd in its universal fascination. Creatures are not defined by their specific likeness—only by their humility and ability for adaptation.

"Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier and simpler." — Friedrich Nietzsche