More often than not the capacity to create begins as a curiosity which becomes habit, in turn to routine. That routine eventually becomes something indivisible. Laura Kampman and Marte Mei van Haaster, both recognizable citizen of the modeling industry–often casted to be the art itself–found that their means of expression could go beyond a single function or role. Their own act of expression was indivisible. Laura and Marte Mei made available their respective gifts as artists and as models for an intimate and collaborative project for Models.com. They abstracted and blurred roles and mediums–just as the images themselves: artistic, personal and painterly. Alone in a studio clothed all in Marni as an ode to its recently resigned designer, Consuelo Castiglioni, they created something completely intimate. See the special story below, followed by a conversation between the two artists.
You can find Laura’s work on her website and instagram: www.laurakampman.com @laurakampman.
Marte primarily works together with her husband in the formation: MAX/MEI making set-design as art-works, you can also follow her on instagram at @martemei
MARTE TO LAURA
M: Being a model, you are used as an element in another persons vision of aesthetics, Do you feel like this triggered you to develop your own aesthetic language, or did you always feel triggered to make images?
L: Before I started modeling I was already engaged in image-making. By taking part in many aesthetic visions of others, I’ve been able to develop my own creative practice more rapidly.
M: You normally work alone, and with natural settings and lighting. How did it feel to collaborate for this project, and how do you feel about the fact the situation was created beforehand?
L: It was very different than what I’m used to. My work normally derives in a spontaneous way, without thinking, out of an urge to create. With our project I had to adapt to a totally different working strategy. There was a concept I had to keep in the back of my mind and a partner I had to communicate to. I wasn’t able to turn into the quiet hermit I normally become while shooting. I became very aware of my own actions in the creative process, which was an informative experience.
M: You often use yourself as a canvas for your own imagination, and for your work it’s the other way around. Can you describe why you feel self-portraits suit your particular voice as an artist?
L: For me, my self-portraits are the result of a kind of therapeutic act. When I set up my camera for a self-portrait I feel fully free to translate my inner imagination into an image. I feel totally safe to express whatever is inside me. The images created from that pure state of being are like teachers to me. They are able to show me things about myself I wasn’t aware of yet. Over the years, taking self-portraits has become more of a self-study. It’s a stage where I have absolute autonomous freedom in contrast to the stages of my modeling work.
M: We’ve had conversations about combining art and modeling within our lives. What are the things that motivate you most to keep on working as a model? Instead of committing solemnly to the art-life.
L: Modeling brings me into surprising situations, meeting inspirational people and it gives the opportunity to see so many different places. Besides that it’s obviously a pleasant financial supplement to my art practice. An example of a wonderful surprise I had last week: I flew out to London for a modeling job. When I landed I found out that an exhibition had just opened around the corner of my hotel including one of my favorite photographers. I got to see it before I went to my job. Perfect timing, I was just in need of some inspiration because I had to get my own photos framed for the very first time the coming week.
M: What other things are you working on now and what are you dreaming of making in the year to come?
L: Right now I’m finishing a self-portrait story I got to shoot with my little brother for Dutch Vogue Men and I’m preparing for an exhibition I will be part in Rotterdam next month. This all came to me as a surprise… I just hope to keep on finding inspiration, keep on making work and remain open for surprises (and swim in the ocean more frequently).
LAURA TO MARTE
L : After years of being friends and colleagues, this was the first time we collaborated. What have you gained from this experience? And was it different from your expectations?
M: It was very different from the shoots or art projects I’m used too. On set I usually try to be very receptive of people’s energy and intentions to act to their needs. When making art I take a more active position and improvise shamelessly. When our two worlds met it was quite a search of respecting each others boundaries whilst staying true to our own needs, but I feel like by doing so we’ve gained more collectively. Which was a very fulfilling feeling. To work so together so intimately, between the borders of model and artist, I feel like the images express this vulnerability.
L: Your graduation work was a landscape recreated from a landscape you’d seen in California, after you were flown in by Louis Vuitton for their cruise show. Can you tell me about similar experiences where your modeling career has inspired or influenced your artistic work?
M: Working as a model for Viviane Sassen and Juegen Teller have from day one trigged me to become a set designer next to an installation artist. The way they photograph this surreal reality within a normal space or landscape, making whats actually there look odd and sometimes even graphically abstract, really trigged me to think how I could invite such images to be created. I’ve been working with Vivianne for a little over a year now and I think every job I’ve done since, feeds me with inspiration which I can translate into set ideas. Actually, the older I become the more I enjoy my job. I find the people I work with more inspiring and learn to me more open towards them. It’s probably because I’m getting stronger and more secure about my personal situation that I’m no longer afraid to open up to new people on set. It makes everything all the more exciting and closer to the feeling of a friend group creating, similar to what we experienced.
L: Do you feel like always having to be in perfect shape psychically and mentally, always being available and ‘ready to go’ for your job influences you as an artist?
M: Definitely. The samurai say you can only be exceptionally good at one thing at the time, and I’ve experienced this first hand. It’s a strange dynamic, modeling definitely feeds my creativity, but it has also retained me from depth within my process. Making and writing about art just takes time and when modeling it only leaves certain time frames to create, which can be really annoying. Especially the fact that even in that fame there is a constantly the possibility to be called away for a really special job. It’s hard to really surrender and make without expectations, knowing you might not have tomorrow to work on it again.
L : All the work you’ve made with MAX/MEI so far seems to be about humans interrupting and de-constructing nature. How do you feel that relates to our work as a model?
M: I think the origin comes from the fact I was brought up in a country with very little real nature. In the Netherlands all the nature is artificially placed, planned and protected. I believe traveling made me realise this because it gave me the opportunity to see nature elsewhere. To compare one environment to the next at vast speed and to really become aware of my surroundings and what effects they had on me. Something I might have never found interesting if I’d lived here all my life.
L : What other things are you working on now?
M: This week I’m building a film-set for a dear friend of mine, Bea1991, and after that I’ll be focusing on our next MAX/MEI museum exhibit. Opening in the beginning of April in the Kranenborg museum in Bergen, Holland. Meaning I’ll have to work on that up until shows and immediately after, which will most likely eat up all my energy so… I’ll also spend as much time in nature as possible, I’ve come to realise that this is the best way for me to de-stress and get back on track with my soul. Charge my battery and digest the busy weeks that just passed.