They say fame is fleeting and more so in the creative world. Every year there’s a new ‘one to watch’, so to carve out a career with longevity is no mean feat; particularly if you enter the game as a teenager. Enter multimedia artist Indira Cesarine. She had her first solo show at 16 and by 17 she was working as a photographer for the top modelling agencies. Since then her work has notched up an enviable list of credits including W Magazine, Teen Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, i-D, AnOther, Dazed Digital, Bullett, MTV and Forbes.
As well as founding contemporary art, fashion and culture magazine The Untitled Magazine Indira also owns The Untitled Space art gallery in New York. Last month she curated an installation and group exhibition featuring the work of solely female identifying artists.
The title “(Hotel) XX” is a play on female sex chromosomes, and reflects the project’s focus on the female experience through a surreal and voyeuristic journey through time. The show featured a variety of art including photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, textile and video. We caught up with Indira following the show to find out what makes her tick…
WTYB: Your recent art show (Hotel) XX features 25 artists (including yourself). How did this particular show come about? Was there a particular piece that inspired the idea?
Indira Cesarine: This year’s edition of SPRING/BREAK Art Show revolved around the theme of “Stranger Comes To Town”. I was inspired to create an immersive installation of a hotel which created the framework for a group exhibition exploring the transient nature of hotels, and intimacy of female experiences in hotel rooms. The exhibit, which I titled “(Hotel) XX”, actually features 24 artists including myself and the “xx” stands for female chromosomes. I wanted visitors to be able to experience vicariously through the artwork the history of the guests that have stayed in the rooms, as if their memories and dreams were left as visual momentos. While curating the exhibit I was inspired by old films by Hitchcock as well as the TV show Twilight Zone, in the sense that the hotel exists in a sort of voyeuristic time warp.
WTYB: Sum up the premise of the show in a five words.
Indira Cesarine: A voyeuristic journey though the female gaze.
WTYB: You’re a multimedia artist – which discipline do you find gives you the biggest release?
Indira Cesarine: I worked internationally as a photographer for over 15 years, although lately I have been exploring a lot of sculpture. I create sculptures in neon (which I make by hand), as well as welded works in steel, and other mediums. I love the physical component of making sculptures, as well as the fact that they live in a 3-dimensional space. After so many years working in photography, it’s also really cathartic to just work from my imagination and be able to create something from nothing.
WTYB: As well as running the gallery, The Untitled Space, you’re also publisher and EIC of The Untitled Magazine. With you having to oversee all creative direction and content what aspects (if any) do you find the most challenging whilst juggling your other commitments?
Indira Cesarine: Since I opened the gallery in 2014, I am less involved with The Untitled Magazine. I still oversee the creative direction, but I don’t really have as much time to be as hands on. It’s really important to have a good team working with you that you know can deliver and shares a similar vision. I love curating and of course making art, so I find I spend a lot more time on my passion which is running the art gallery. Sometimes it’s pretty overwhelming though, It’s a lot of juggle for one person!
WTYB: No-one can deny how exhilarating it is to live in New York particularly if you are a creative. However you were born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa. What do you miss about your birthplace? And is any of this reflected in your work?
Indira Cesarine: I actually only lived in Sioux City, Iowa until I was 3 years old. I moved to the capital, Des Moines, when I was 3. And, then when I was in my early teens — around 14 — I moved to the east coast to go to boarding school in Connecticut. I spent all my weekends and summers in New York City throughout high school. I went to art school at Parson School of Design every summer, and studied photography as well as painting while I was there. It was a total blast, and definitely influenced my artwork heavily moving to NYC at such a young age after living in Iowa as a kid.
WTYB: You had your first solo show at 16. How did you manage to not let it all go to your head and forge out a successful art career?
Indira Cesarine: My first show was an exhibit of all black and white silver gelatine photography I hand printed, which featured nudes I shot in studio, as well as a mix of portraits including nightlife personalities that I shot at clubs in NYC. Although I was also really into painting, printmaking and other mediums at the time, I was totally obsessed with photography and I didn’t really consider fine art photography as a viable career option. At that time photography was barely accepted as art and galleries focused a lot more on painting and more traditional mediums. I ended up shooting for a lot of modelling agencies while I was in university and after I graduated I moved to London where I started working full-time as a photographer. I think the art world seemed too unattainable to me at that time, and less realistic as a long-term career than photography. Obviously that eventually all changed!
WTYB: You majored in Art History, French and Women’s Studies. What was your vision at the time of what you wanted to achieve with this triple major?
Indira Cesarine: I was just following my passions. I studied in France throughout my school years. When I was 12, I did an exchange program in Metz, France and lived with a French family for the summer. And, later in high school I did a program abroad in France. While I was at Columbia University I also did a year abroad in Paris. I loved the art and culture of France, and also art in general — and feminist studies, well that has always been in my blood. My mother is a human rights lawyer, and inspired me a lot with her work ethic and passion for law. She was one of the only women in her graduating class at her law school, and always encouraged me to follow my passions; even if the odds were against me. Since I was a young girl I recall identifying as a feminist, and wanted to know everything about women’s history.
When I was in still in school I recall my dream job was to have my own art gallery, but I ended up pursuing photography for a long time before I circled back to my love of art. I guess all those studies finally paid off! It has definitely been a huge asset for my gallery curatorial that I had studied art history and women studies previously and made the transition from photographer to gallery owner more relevant.
WTYB: What mantra do you try to live your life by?
Indira Cesarine: You only live once… I think it’s important to try everything and be open-minded.
WTYB: We’re always learning. What new thing have you learnt in the last 12 months that will enhance your life?
Indira Cesarine: I used to work all the time — literally seven days a week — and rarely took time off. This past year my dad passed away, and I realised how important it is to slow down; sometimes less is more. I think I will always have a lot on my plate but I am making a conscious effort to scale back and prioritise quality over quantity.
WTYB: You’re given a magic remote control which allows you to rewind every happy moment going forward or fast forward through every difficult moment. Which would you choose?
Indira Cesarine: Definitely rewind every happy moment! The difficult times only make us appreciate the good times more.