Written by Shibani Dagalur
Art Against Racism had the extraordinary experience of interviewing Claire Apana, a master at visual art. Apana has created phenomenal paper sculptures and is renowned for incorporating her heritage into her art. Her ability to discover creative techniques and truly bring her visualizations to life is unmatched. Access the exclusive interview with Claire below.
Shibani: Tell us a little bit about your art and what makes you love being an artist?
Claire: My name is Claire June Apana and I’m a sculptural artist that works primarily with paper. I love that art is transformative; artists utilize raw or even found materials and recontextualize these into new visual narratives. My art practice is a way of taking control by means of creation.
Shibani: How have you incorporated your culture/identity into your art?
Claire: The fluctuation between extremes, cultures, and identities is what drives me to develop works that may highlight nuances within humanity. My art is deeply embedded with my diverse cultural history. Most of my forms are based on a range of origami designs that are then reproduced into a massive scale, thus Americanizing the Japanese art form.
Shibani: How/When did you begin incorporating origami and other creative mediums into your art?
Claire: My fascination with origami began as a child as it was a means of connecting with my asian heritage through art. It was endlessly interesting to me that one could transform a simple sheet of paper into complex forms that were deeply ingrained with cultural histories. This recent wave of origami construction began as performance pieces in which people could see the live construction of a piece with massive sheets of paper. At the time, I was working at a fine art photo lab and was handling photographic prints (some 60″ x 120″) on a daily basis. I had become comfortable handling large sheets of paper, and thought it would then be interesting to fold origami on this large scale. It’s beautiful how our daily routines can hold so much power in transforming our lives.
Shibani: Do you see a different kind of beauty in 3D art than 2D art?
Claire: Art (and life) are all about the embodied experience! Especially with 3D works; it’s so important to get a sense of the space, as this can totally change the contexts of a work. I find that the physicality of a work changes drastically in person; my installations often engage with multiple senses. Music has a very physical presence in these works, and the sound literally vibrates through one’s body. These installations often have curated scents that transform the space, and one cannot express such nuances through a screen.
Shibani: What is your goal with your projects?
Claire: My goal with my work is to show the process of creation. The origami performance pieces began with a plain white sheet of paper that was transformed into a massive spiral. Throughout the process, the audience saw that it took one fold at a time. With each fold, the piece grows in complexity, exposing the work to really be a series of small actions. My hope is that viewers see these works and recognize that they too can create immense change through their own collective actions.
Shibani: What advice do you have for any future artists?
Claire: Advice to future and current artists: don’t be afraid to fail, especially in the studio. I have only gotten to this point because I have “failed” many, many times. With each mistake, I have learned, recontextualized, regrouped, and recreated. Also, COLLABORATE!! Even if it’s just a conversation with friends. Help each other out, and succeed with your community.