Working with artist Melissa Dunn on a piece we premiered last Friday called Ladies Home Journal was one of the more comfortable experiences I’ve had collaborating – and I kept wondering why. Melissa and I have known each other for years, but many artists who’ve known each other much longer try to collaborate and the whole thing explodes in acrimony.
We talked about doing the thing several months ago. We assigned ourselves and each other tasks to complete based on what we knew needed to get done. We found the models together and communicated with them as one. We’d worked with some of these people alone but never as a team, but there were no strange divisions. We shot the piece as a unit, working with DP Ryan Parker, one night about a month ago, and I couldn’t believe, as we directed alongside each other, that no control issues were rearing their heads. There was nothing to resolve , which was a weird feeling. Even the collaborators I love most involve difficult, laborious conversations. I don’t regret those conversations, but it was an interesting change to operate without them.
While I edited the piece, Melissa took care of the installation details, sourcing the items we needed to serve as a context for the video portion of the work. The day before the one night only exhibit, Memphis Connections, I was at home finalizing the cut, while Melissa painted and stenciled the gallery wall. We were in separate parts of town but it felt like we were working in the same room.
I feel like the piece we showed is a beginning. I stood there looking at it the night of the show and knew there were other places we’d want to take it – not just online (eventually, here on Evelyn Avenue) but in some real time space or series of spaces. I look forward to working more on it together and seeing how it develops under our watchful cyclopean eye.
Picture above: Melissa Dunn with models Jessica Ann Buttermore and Savannah Bearden (top); Melissa Dunn applies finishing touches before the show (bottom).