Miami New Times' Mastermind Awards honors the city's most inspiring creatives. This year, we received more than 100 submissions, which our staff narrowed to an elite group of 30. We'll be profiling those honorable mentions, and eventually the finalists, in the weeks to come. This year's three Mastermind Award winners will be announced February 27 at Artopia, our annual soiree celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit the website.
Venessa Monokian takes pictures, but not in your ordinary point and shoot style. This artist must focus on the minor details and chop up some prints before she's satisfied. Her process is unique: after discarding the negative space, "I layer image upon image until a new composition emerges," she says.
Monokian's love for photography was sparked by inquisitiveness.
"I just became curious about it," she says, adding how she then began to take classes on how the camera works. and thus her "life-long obsession began." Her passion has since taken her on various journeys across the globe, but one of the most rewarding aspects of her photography is how she can take a piece of her home wherever she goes.
Cultist: You were recently a part of the WLRN documentary "Rising Tide: A Story of Miami Artists." What can you tell us about your experience working on that project?
Venessa Monokian: I was really honored to be asked to be a part of such an amazing project. Andrew Hevia is a talented filmmaker with so many accolades. How could you say no? Yes, it was strange to have people following you around all over the place with cameras during the most hectic time of the year. Normally you're in such a rush to finish all your work, set up all your shows, run from event to event, and network your butt off, you almost don't notice how exhausting the whole thing is. Having a film crew pointing a camera at you and asking question reminds you about the mastiff effort the whole thing demands. It is also a reminder of how that effort pays off in the end.
What do you hope people take away from viewing one of your photographs?
When I'm making my work, I am always thinking about the viewer and what they will experience. The process is for me, but the end product is for others. I hope they will be effortlessly drawn into the work and think more about the experience rather than how I made it. I want the images created to feel open to all and not so over conceptualized that the average person can't relate to it at all. My wish is for those who give these works the time they need to be continuously rewarded.
How has living in Miami influenced the way you take photographs?
In a direct way, most of my source material is images from here. Indirectly, Miami is my hometown. It has shaped the way I look at the world and experience it.
Aside from photography, you have also created stop-motion videos. Tell us about blending the two mediums. Are you planning to continue working on these types of videos in the future?
This is a recent phenomena the combination of the two. I have always seen video as a sister medium to photography. Many of the basic visual principals are the same, so it only makes sense to work in both for me. I began blending the two kind of by accident when my camera broke, and I needed to produce work for Art Basel. I quickly realized that incorporating both allowed me to push my work to a really interesting place. The response was so positive, it even got me a residency at Panal 361 in Argentina. My hope is that I can always evolve as an artist, becoming stronger and more complex as time progresses.
How do you choose what to photograph? Any special methods?
It changes from project to project. Sometimes it's clear where to go. There is a natural evolution to the work and the visual conversation that is created is effortless. But other times, you make a lot of hideous things and struggle to the point of sheer depression before you get that moment of inspiration.
Any upcoming projects you're working on?
I am currently setting up my show at the Deering Estate that will be opening Feb. 19th and will be up until the end of March. I'm also going to be part of a digital media show at FIU's MBUS gallery on Miami Beach in April. Finally, I have been part of an exhibition called Portable Art, and it will soon have an online component that will be launched sometime this year.
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Wanna see more MasterMinds? At Artopia, sponsored by Miracle Mile and Downtown Coral Gables, you can check out work by 2014's ten MasterMind award finalists and watch as the three Mastermind Award winners are announced. And that's just the beginning. Artopia will also include live entertainment by Bottle & Bottega, CircX, and Flamenco Puro; local art by Tesoro Carolina, Trek 6, 8 Bit Lexicon, Hec One Love, Ivan Roque, and Jay Bellicchi; and DJ sets by Main Event Productions, Phaxas, Golden San, Skinny Hendrix, and DJ Supersede. Other sponsors include Rums of Puerto Rico (Official Rum sponsor), Car2Go, El Palacios de los Jugos, Beck's (official beer sponsor), and Vero Water (official water sponsor). Early bird tickets are available through Feb. 2. Visit the official Artopia website.
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