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An Interview with Darla Teagarden

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Her work is mesmerizing, its dark aesthetic speaks to you like a spectre in the night. Let me introduce you to the wonderful Darla Teagarden who was kind enough to let me interview her for Black Sunday Magazine.

Your work has a very dark aesthetic to it, can you recall the first time you felt inspired to create such imagery? What was it that inspired you?
Well, i’ve always been attracted to darker imagery , being a goth kid, but then as I got older I was introduced to German Cabaret as a performer. I came to love german expressionism in Cinema and literature, theatre. The tone of my work usually also has some Grimms whimsy in it too. Those combinations of things pretty much make up my brew.

You were originally a stylist and makeup artist, what made you want to move into being an artist?
It was a very long time ago, so the process took about 20 years. I did many other ‘arty’ things in between. I guess it was always there, but this medium allows for a few different interests to be utilized. Unlike other things I’ve tried, I find it to be the most satisfying.

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The art of DIY is very prominent these days with people selling their own art on sites such as Etsy and communities are being created. In your time as an artist have you noticed this shift or do you just put it down to the rise of the internet?
Well, of course there’s been a fairly recent shift in how artists run their own show. You can charge less because you’re getting a much larger share of your commissions, and that’s great for the consumer. I think there may be less of a desire to get represented by a gallery for lesser known artists, today. However overall, the internet puts the consumer/collector in the position of curator- Sometimes a lot of great stuff is overlooked or undervalued, lost, in the large pool of images fighting for recognition on social media. … That’s where I think a Gallery’s value still plays an important role despite the etsy (s) of the world. They can pluck someone out of that pool and shine a light on them. Old school ways and new, have their value and their problems, depending on the artist .

Your project Altars is beautiful; can you tell me more about how you came to create this series?
ALTARS was my first real series. I based it on the need to express what it’s like to live with mental illness and to live with people with mental illness. It seems to be a popular concept these days, but that’s because many artists are tired of hiding from illness that may exist in their lives or letting it destroy them. It’s natural to search for a cathartic experience and that’s what Altars was for me. Something to say, hey, I get it..and maybe you get me too.

I notice you use yourself as a model for some of your images – how do you find the process of shooting yourself?
It’s hard logistically with sets and props, but I know that when I’m alone, I don’t have a time limit and I can adjust as many times as I can or need to. It’s a tiring experience for a model so I put that burden and that performance on myself a lot of the time. Plus, I’m 43 years old and female. I like to show that you don’t have to be ‘perfect’ and 22 to perform a great and meaningful photograph. By default, in a weird way, shooting myself at my age is an act of feminism.

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Do you work as a full time artist or do you have other things you do?
I’m a mother and I co-run a busy tattoo shop. Those two things take up the majority of time I have. I must scrape and steal time to shoot and to create concepts/sets. It’s not always easy or understood by my family and friends, but that’s part of a life doing something so ‘selfish’ . Culturally, once you take on certain roles, art becomes hard to understand for those around you whether they admit it openly or not. It can be consuming.

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And finally…are there any upcoming projects you would like to share with us at all?
I’m working on a short series called NOBLE CREATURES. It’s dark but also has a lot of humor and whimsy. Humor and ‘dark’ is a challenge… It’s about being misunderstood so hopefully people will understand it !
Also, I’ll be showing some stuff at Loved To Death in San Francisco this year. Excited because I’m a big fan of the place. I’m also working on a book of artists which takes some time to produce in between everything else. I travel during the summer to take these portraits and I feel so grateful that what I do leads me to these amazing people and situations. Being trusted is a good feeling that I hadn’t foreseen when I stared this whole ‘photography thing’. It makes me think I may be doing something right now and again.

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