Cheryl Gross and Marta Wapiennik Choose Each Other
Artistic collaborations are nothing new in the annals of contemporary art—think of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Gilbert and George, or even Tim Rollins and his “at-risk” students, known as the Kids of Survival. But edgy illustrator and writer Cheryl Gross, who is based in Jersey City, NJ, and Polish photographer Marta Wapiennik have never met, never spoken, and have worked entirely online. The result is an unusual partnership that ultimately won honorable mention in the 2015 Neutral Density Photography Awards.
One day while I was browsing through about.me I found Marta Wapiennik. About.me.com is a website that showcases not only artists but also people from all walks of life. I liked Marta’s page very much so I contacted her in the hopes that she would be open to collaborate. I thought my style would work well with her photos. Collaborations usually involve compromise, but since my last one with poet Nicelle Davis was and remains incredibly successful (four animations, winner 2015 Ó Bhéal Video Poetry Festival, and three books produced together), I decided to give it a shot. The reason my collaboration with Marta works so well is because we allow each other the room to create and we don’t step on each other’s toes. We have a tremendous amount of respect and trust in our separate judgments. Marta possesses an acute eye for design, while her photography helps provide the dystopian feel I aspire to in my writing and drawings. The backgrounds she creates are equally as important as my images in the foreground, therefore making it a true partnership. When I look at the work I feel as if we have arrived at something very special. It’s as if I/we have come home.
About six months ago I was looking for someone to collaborate with on the Internet. Fortunately Cheryl found me, and I really liked her drawings and she said my photos were cool. Cheryl thought about mixing our works. Because I like abstract art and I love to take photos, I grabbed my camera and immediately started to send Cheryl lots of “backgrounds.” In my opinion Cheryl is very good at telling stories in her unique style, which was something I did as a child, but stopped when I reached adulthood. Because I feel connected to the way Cheryl expresses her storytelling, it’s incredibly gratifying to give something of myself and add “depth” to her illustrations. Although our art is considered “mixed-media,” it doesn’t change the message Cheryl is trying to convey. We both love the original, sophisticated eccentricity the world has to offer.
Needless to say I feel that my photos and Cheryl’s drawings complete each other. I personally lean toward taking delicate photos, void of narration or specific subjects and let Cheryl tell the rest of the story. My role in our collaboration is to fill and complement the so-called empty space, therefore completing the work in its entirety. If I were to compare this to another art form, it would be what music is to film. A movie can stand-alone, but when you add music, the partnering enriches the experience and adds character.