Rafael Soldi: Life Stand Still Here
When people [close to you] die or you go through losses or traumatic experiences, they unlock these very dark corners of your psyche, not darkness that is perverse, but darkness that is unknown. . . It makes you wonder, ‘What else is in there? – Rafael Soldi
Like most of us, photographic artist Rafael Soldi is on a journey. His long considered project, Life Stand Still Here, is a multi-approached exploration of self, resulting in a conceptual series of artistic examinations that include self-portraiture, portraiture, seascapes, and ephemera. His work documents identity, memory, history, and emotion and speaks to the continuing desire for self definition. Rafael states, “Inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf, I am interested in the elusive abstract space within us that defines the core of our psyche.” This project does not narrate his life, instead it focuses on the internal, with work that is metaphorical and dark–so dark that some of the photographs feel solarized and other worldly. It’s a project that steps outside the lines and allows for the work to be as varied as life itself.
Rafael recently opened an exhibition at ClampArt in New York, under the same title, that runs through May 12, 2018. The exhibition opens with 50 self-portraits, created in a photo booth as part performance and part documentation, and then moves into imagery that prompts the viewer to ask questions about the artist, but ultimately, about themselves. This black and white presentation is sensual, spare, and striking.
Rafael Soldi is a Peruvian-born, Seattle-based artist and curator. He holds a BFA in Photography & Curatorial Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has exhibited internationally at the Frye Art Museum, American University Museum, and Griffin Museum of Photography, among others. Soldi is a 2012 Magenta Foundation Award Winner, recipient of the 2014 Puffin Foundation grant, 2016 smART Ventures grant, and 2016 Jini Dellaccio GAP grant. He has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and PICTURE BERLIN. Soldi’s work is in the permanent collections of the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington; Frye Art Museum, Seattle; and the King County Public Art Collection, Seattle.
Life Stand Still Here
Over the last decade I have focused my practice on the visceral qualities that drive emotional and transcendental experiences in my life. My latest body of work, Life Stand Still Here, explores internal dialogues and moments when life and its darkest facets can offer monumental symbolism. Inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf, I am interested in the elusive abstract space within us that defines the core of our psyche. Many people accept the idea that each of us has a certain resolute innerness—a core of selfhood that we can’t share with others because it is so private, internalized and visceral. I’m drawn to this ambiguous, sometimes painful inner darkness, not the kind that is perverse, but the kind that feels unknown and is, by default, frightening.
Through a variety of image-making techniques, I open the interplay between viewers’ histories and mine, a kind of dark mirroring that makes visible our shared psychic struggles. For me, these images serve as a tool to process personal concerns around trauma, immigration, childhood, recurring dreams, spirituality, and the human condition.
The most recent work in this body is Imagined Futures, an installation of 50 seemingly identical self portraits. Sparked by our current political climate, I have begun addressing an issue that is relevant to all immigrants. The question of what our lives would have been like had we never left home haunts me, and flashes of these never-lived futures rush at me often. For the last year, every time one of these visions presented itself, I stepped into a photo booth, closed my eyes and bid it farewell. The result is a small, private performance of sorts, a grieving exercise—not a portrait of me, but one of that life that was never realized. I then cut out one portrait from each strip, frame it individually, and display all 50 as a grid. The grid can be customized based on the space in which it will be hung.
Lastly, in this continuing quest to reconnect with my homeland, I returned to Lima, Peru, last year. There, I visited the city’s astrological observatory, and asked them to project on ceiling of their 360-degree dome the night sky exactly as it looked over my mother the moment she was giving birth to me. I stood in that dome by myself, under the same sky, and began this journey of re-connection. I made photographs there, too.
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