Briefly describe the work you do.
I am an artist and educator who works primarily in Photography and Digital Art. A lot of my work is produced by working with the digital code of photographs and either adding other photographic code to existing photographic code or altering it in some way. I work predominately with the hex editor software program, 0xED. In this series, Looking Back at Saturn, I asked individuals via internet, social media and call for entry forums to send me photographs of their past. I then used these volunteered images to create a digital collage using my method of digital code manipulation. I liked the idea of multiple people taking part in my art process as a type of collaboration as well as creating art pieces that speak to the collective memory that we have as members of the human race.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up in Hobbs, New Mexico, and went to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, where I took my first Art class and quickly switched from a Business major to an Art major. Since then, I’ve received a BFA in Studio Art (Photography), worked as an aviation photographer and eventually earned my MFA in Art from Texas Woman’s University. Something that I think has been instrumental in the subject matter of my artwork, was my learning photography at the pivotal point in which photography switched from analog to digital. I strongly believe that 1999-2009 is one of the most important decades in photographic history and we are just now realizing the effects of what went on during that time.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I have recently attained a lovely in-home studio, where I work on a number of projects and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Its spacious, has lovely light and is convenient, though it could use more storage. What studio couldn’t use more storage? When I need or want to get a lot of work done in the studio, I go directly there in the morning with my coffee. I often find myself at the end of a studio day, having not eaten, showered, fixed my hair and still wearing what I slept in. Those are the days that I get the most done.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
It took me a very long time to call myself an artist. I felt that I had to earn the title. The goal of being an artist seemed so impossible to me when I first began marking work. I admired so many other artists and art educators and imagining myself as a colleague and fellow artist seemed so far fetched. It wasn’t until graduate school that I discovered that I was indeed an artist.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
Life has a tendency to get in the way of art making. Something that I like to do when I am hard pressed for time is do at least one thing a day that furthers my artistic endeavors. It can be as simple as looking at someone else’s artwork online or as intense as working in the studio for the entire day. There is no bad or good time for me to make work, but a necessity for me is being alone. I do make an exception for my dogs. They are pretty good studio companions.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has drastically changed over the past five years. Five years ago a lot of my work was based around nature and the idea of being connected, yet separate from nature. My work is still about this interconnection with nature, but lately I’ve begun incorporating digital media. I think I’m exploring the idea of gradually accepting the digital realm as a new form of nature. I’m starting to question what is “man made” and how does the digital realm tie into nature and human nature?
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
A writer that continues to strike me with new awareness is Loren Eiseley. Eiseley was a scientist who wrote about science and nature with beautiful prose that is reminiscent of poetry. A lot of his writings are about contemplation, something that I think is important for every successful artist. Contemplating ideas and ideas for future artwork is almost as important as creating the artwork.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Until I was 16, I was very serious about being a ballet dancer. I like to say that Ballet was my first love and Art was my second. I attend the Texas Ballet Theater productions as often as I can and when I do, I think, “what if…”
Kalee Appleton is a photography-based artist and educator living in Dallas, Texas. Originally from Hobbs, NM, she attended Texas Tech University and received a BFA in Photography in 2005. Shortly after graduated she worked as a commercial corporate and aviation photographer before attending Texas Woman’s University, where she received an MFA in Photography in 2014. Kalee’s work deals with digital processes that explore the interconnectedness of life and the relationships that lie between the past and present. Kalee is a current member of 500x Gallery, a Dallas based artist collective, and has shown her work nationally.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.