Interview with Kimberly Wade about her Thesis show, Red Maple

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Kimberly J. Wade

2015 ICP-Bard MFA Candidate
“Red Maple”

Where: 24-20 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101
When: Thursday, February 5, 2015 6pm – 9pm
Friday, February 6, 2015 to Sunday, February 8, 2015
2 pm – 6 pm each day

Matthew Cohen: Can you explain the title, Red Maple?

Kimberly Wade: So we live on Red Maple Court and we’ve been there about five years. All of the work takes place within this house. The main idea is just following my child as he moves into adolescence. We moved in when he was nine and now he is almost fifteen. And that is such a huge change, in my eyes. These photos look at who he was and who he is becoming. It’s an investigation into my child. He is no longer bouncing off the walls. He is still silly and playing with his toys but the changes are curious to me. He was so energetic. So you go from super energetic, super engaged to basically teenager. And I thought, who is that?

image5MC: What do you feel the investigation is about?

KW: A professor told me it might be about letting go, but not so much. He is still him. It’s just I’m trying to get used to who he is now. So that’s what this is.  Now he’s sleeping a lot and he is never looking at me and he is always looking out.

MC: How has he responded to the project? Is he open to you taking pictures?

KW: That’s another thing, when he was younger he would always look at the camera and he would do a silly pose. But now it’s like, just take your picture I’m so over it. And maybe because its because I’ve taken so many its because of his growth. I remember being a teenager, but I am trying to reconcile who he was with who he is now. He is still very talkative. The conversations we have are still pretty damn great.

 

He told me the other day that he read a comic online where a little boy told his father to tell him a bedtime paradox. So the father said, ‘Pinocchio tells someone my nose will grow now’ That’s what my fourteen year old has shared with me. It’s those little things that let’s me know he’s growing but he’s still the person I know.  Like he still plays with Lego but builds more sophisticated airplanes.  Airplanes are his thing. Spongebob used to be his thing. There are a lot of Spongebob elements.

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MC: I like the sponge bob and other physical elements of the show.

KW: I didn’t want to make this space my home, I just wanted to bring pieces of it. So the yellow wall is one element. I didn’t want the exact wall but I wanted that wall to be like mine. And then I have the wallpaper of his picture that says, “I am a pear” because I don’t throw away anything he makes. All his stuff is either hanging in the house or stored somewhere. I wanted these physical things to contrast with the images. For example the images on the wallpaper, he is fourteen wearing a hoodie and a vest. Inside the house when he wears that it’s because he wants to be warm but outside…I think about the Eric Garner and Michael Brown incidents. And I looked at him and thought, ‘Wow this kid could step outside and not come back’ just based on how he looks. But what everyone else doesn’t know is that four months ago this was the kid who drew this silly little pear picture.

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MC: How do you factor into these images? How do you feel about them?

KW: I guess for me I feel like when I look back at this it will just be a profile of who he is right now and what he is going through. But I don’t know exactly what he is going through. They show that I don’t understand what he is going through even though he is talking to me. He drew a picture of a plane and put it on his dorm room door and somebody ripped it down. I asked what happened and he said someone tore it down. I’m like, ‘Aren’t you going to say anything about it’? He said no, whatever. It’s those little things he doesn’t really reveal to me until years later. I was more in tune to who he was when he was younger and now it’s harder. This is something every parent and child will experience in some way when puberty/adolescence hits.

 

The helicopter mom in me wants to get out how he feels but looking at these photos I realize I need to step back because he is still figuring out who he is. So even if I’m figuring out who he is I need to stop trying to push him to tell me. It’s both trying to figure out who he is and figuring out who I can be for him. These photos give me the time I want to spend time with him.

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MC: What was the genesis of these ideas? Has the project evolved from you taking pictures of him or was there a set goal and idea to start photographing him?

KW: Honestly, I started shooting these because I have a bad memory. I have a huge memory gap. I want to record this time and make sure I have this moment. I know photographs are representatives but this moment is going to be represented until I destroy the file or destroy the film. This show has never been what I was going to do. It took on so many iterations. I had photographs of myself at one point as a contrast between what he is going through and what I am going through. I had a small cancer scare and I was going to put images I took of my body but the images didn’t speak to each other.

MC: Thank you so much for your time and congratulations!

KW: Thank you!

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