We had the good fortune of connecting with Donna Garcia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Donna, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Rather than believing that I had to start with a big idea or plan, I have made a methodical series of smaller gambles about what might be a good direction, through which I have been able to learn critical information from a lot of little failures and from small, but significant wins. This has allowed me to always be prepared to accept a variety of opportunity. I also take every opportunity seriously, regardless of how big or small it may seem on the surface.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am predominately a lens-based artist, so my medium is photography and film. My work illustrates a semiotic dislocation that has been organically reconstructed in a way that gives my subjects a voice in the present moment; something they did not have in the past. My images become empathic recreations in a fine art narrative. I often utilize self-portraiture with motion and the idea of animism to provide an indication of “the other” in my work; a surplus threat to the perpetuity of our cultural grand narratives in defining elements like gender and race. The idea of time oscillation is throughout my work, and reads neither in one place nor another, destabilizing the viewers perspective, and allowing them to see what we couldn’t see before. I often take on historical events, and present them from the perspective of the victims in an attempt to correct historical inaccuracies. For example, “Indian Land For Sale”, recreates the horror of The Indian Removal Act of 1830 from the perspective of the indigenous tribes. My images serve to replace what has been lost from official historical archives. My work could be categorized as lyrical documentary, fine art photography and I sometimes cross-over into lifestyle categories, like fashion. I was an art/photo major when I entered university, but by my second year I had changed majors in order to secure a position when I graduated. I was a marketing executive / creative director for about 15 years before going back to school for my MFA in photography in 2016. Going back for school was difficult, but being an artist, which is really being an entrepreneur, is even harder. Being an artist/entrepreneur is exciting, but not easy. Know that you can love what you do, but it can still be painful. You have to get to a point where the reward out weighs the sacrifice. It will always be tough, because success will always be a moving target, so you can never really stop trying to better your last achievement. You really have to emotionally lean into the struggle and as one of my mentors told me, “There is no such thing as ‘making it”. Just show up and do the work everyday and you will have success”. It’s not glamorous. My mantra is be a creator, not a waiter. You MUST create your own opportunities. I am always looking for collaborations, partnerships, and projects. I am not afraid to get it wrong and I recognize that perfectionism is just fear in disguise. If you wait for the perfect situation, you will die waiting. I also have many different projects happening at the same time because you must diversify your output and your confidence. I have fine art projects, curatorial projects, teaching projects, marketing/commercial projects and a podcast (The Modern Art and Culture Podcast) all happening at the same time currently. I have built my reputation in business and art on integrity. I work only with partners who are honest, truly embrace diversity, care about quality of work, strive for mutual success, and put people first.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Under normal circumstances, a trip to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights which has powerful interactive exhibitions, The Atlanta Contemporary has great exhibitions and the Atlanta Photography Group Gallery often has multiple exhibitions happening at the same time. I love to take people to R. Thomas or the Sunflower Cafe for lunch or dinner, great organic food and fun atmosphere.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I believe that one of the keys to success in any discipline is having mentors, and I have many. You must have people to “model” against and the higher level of success that your mentors have had, the more you can learn about how to get to that level. In the past two years I have been mentored by some amazing women, including Suellen Parker-Shockley, V. Elizabeth Turk, Aline Smithson, Jennifer Gilla Cutshall and Judith Pishnery.
Linkedin: Donna Garcia
Facebook: Donna Garcia 23
All photos are ©Donna Garcia