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"To Hold Onto My Roots": an interview with Morgan Stephenson

We instantly fell in love with the work of Morgan Stephenson, this month's featured artist. Her photography packs the weight of a memory. Recently, she took the time to talk to us about her work and inspirations.

1. Your work has appeared in a number of literary journals. How do you view the intersection of art and literature?

For me, both art and literature are tools in which we use to tell a story and communicate. My work is very personal as I draw on memories from my childhood, family, and my environment. Art is a way for me to express these concepts visually. As I have progressed in my career, I have gained an appreciation for literature, including creative writing and short stories, which I use to help gain inspiration for both my artwork and to improve my writing style.

2. How did you arrive at the concept for Nostalgic Shock?

The title, Nostalgic Shock, did not come easy. The concept came from my experience of going to estate sales every weekend with my mother. When walking into a stranger’s house, I was surprised to feel both comforted and nostalgic. I was drawn to spaces and objects that were reminiscent of my childhood and reflected spaces within my grandparents’ homes. Of course, I didn’t realize this until after I had been shooting in these homes for almost a year. A long story short, the title was inspired by my overwhelming sense of nostalgia within the homes of estate sales.

3. How does this series and this month's featured image speak to your interests memory, place, and value?

Overall, the series is filled with overwhelming amounts of color, pattern, and texture. Aesthetically, these elements are important to me because they speak to the memories of my childhood, and I continue to push them today in my current work. I have always been an artistic and sensory person. My most vivid memories are those where I am able to pick out a specific color of a room or someone’s clothing, the way a piece of fabric felt between my fingers, or even the way a place smelled.

4. Can you talk more about how you bring your American southern influences into your work?

I was born and raised in Tennessee with family throughout the most southern states. I have a deep connection with the South as well as a rich family heritage that I only recently, within the last three years, started to cherish and really considered bringing into my work. I draw heavily on these connections and since moving to the Mid-West, the need to hold onto my roots has become stronger and more relevant. Now instead of working with my family as a whole, I have moved onto individual relatives, investigating their past, and my personal relationship with them.


Morgan Stephenson is a photographer currently living and working in Bloomington, Indiana. She recently received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography at the Memphis College of Art in Memphis, Tennessee and is currently a candidate for a Master for Fine Arts degree in Studio Art at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Raised predominately in the American South, she enjoys creating work that investigates her southern upbringing and familial relationships through the concepts of memory, comfort, and emotion. Stephenson's work has been shown both nationally and internationally.


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