From studying birds in James Bond films to tracing the history of genocide victims in Bosnia, visual artist Taryn Simon has traveled far and wide to build her diverse portfolio.
In a talk at the Yale School of Art’s Green Hall yesterday afternoon, Simon spoke to roughly 30 students, faculty and local community members about a variety of topics, including her recent projects, the importance of research in art and the experience of being a woman in the visual art world. Simon, who frequently works in photography, text and graphic design, complemented her talk with a slideshow that cycled through many of her creations.
“I can’t tell you how many articles start with the way I’m dressed and then move on to my work,” said Simon. “But I never let that interfere with my work.”
Simon noted that while her gender has raised certain challenges for her career, it has also helped her transcend boundaries in her profession. Simon said she thinks the only way she can oppose the negative stereotyping of women in the arts is through her work.
In addition, Simon emphasized the importance she gives to the research process in her artwork. She explained that the physical creation of art itself does not take much time compared to the task of planning out the artwork.
“I find it very hard to proceed without research,” said Simon. “[A project] always starts with writing and this kind of invisible development.”
For example, Simon noted, a picture — whether it is a photograph or a work of graphic design — should reflect the research that went into its creation. She said that even with pieces of equipment that she uses to make her work, she spends large amounts of time in studying and understanding how the equipment functions.
Simon then discussed the concept of failure in one’s life, noting that she sometimes depicts symbols related to failure in her art.
“I’m always devastated by failure, but then it usually becomes the central component of my work … the empty portraits and the quotes of failure,” Simon said. “Whenever I encounter something that I can’t get past, I incorporate it into my work.”
Simon also briefly spoke about the censorship to which her work has been subjected. She noted that in China, all the text from one of her works was censored so she had to paint black fields where the text should have been.
Audience members interviewed appreciated the conversational style and informative nature of Simon’s talk.
Andrew Delucha , a freelance photographer, said he appreciated Simon’s talk but wished he had seen more images of her work during the lecture.
Graham Harboe ’15 said he was particularly intrigued by Simon’s discussion and exploration of modern-day themes and inventions in her work.
“She put together how everyone is relating to ‘instant moments’ through things like Instagram and words like ‘LOL,’” Harboe said. “These things transcend geographical boundaries.”
Yale appointed Taryn Simon a lecturer in photography in 2009.