Turns out, when an esteemed photographer offers to take folks' portraits for free, they turn out in droves. That's how artist Kat Wilson ended up taking a plethora of gorgeous portraits, all lighted in her signature moody-yet-glowing style, for six hours on the last day of June. Wilson called the culmination of Pride Month "We Are Everyone!" and wrote on her Facebook page about the event: "Each person will sit for their portrait and be given a signed photograph of themselves to hang as a reminder that you are art! You are loved!"
Wilson has built a career on connecting intimately with her subjects. Her acclaimed series "Habitats" are portraits of individuals or couples in their homes or studios, surrounded by the objects that are the most important to them either in their work or life. There is a striking intimacy in "Habitats," as the viewer gets the sense that they are pulling back the curtain and seeing aspects of the subjects' lives that aren't always visible to the public at large. That same intimacy is evident in her "We Are Everyone!" series, showcasing Wilson's ability to connect quickly to her subjects.
Wilson spoke about the project with What's Up!
On the project and its motivation:
I've been working on creating an art movement called Participation Art. Participation Art (PARTY ART) Part(ty) Art, in its simplest terms, is a movement of art consisting of community-built public artworks. The foundation of Party Art is that the artistic vision is brought to life through engaging a diverse group of participants in the act of art.
Previous examples are #selfiethrone #geokatting #quarantinehabitats, and as of most recent, "We Are Everyone." So I asked Northwest Arkansas' finest queers to participate in a collective art piece. And then, I realized that I could open up the portrait session to everyone to support their queer community by exclaiming that We Are Everyone! It all just naturally unfolded.
On the style of the portraits and the reactions of the subjects:
I wanted my sitters to look noble and strong. I am often in intimate situations with my sitters. It's the sitters' vulnerability and performance that makes my images work, so I must be present and ready for it. Several sitters were showing who they indeed were for the first time. An obscene amount of sitters had never had a professional portrait done before, and many folks just liked seeing my art studio.
On the response to the photo opportunity:
Omg! I took more portraits in one night than I typically take in two years. It turns out when you give people a chance to be art, they will show you how they are art. For example, beloved local photographer Kerri McMahon showed up to support the queer community, and when she posted her image on social media, this is what she said:
"We Are Everyone.....
Prideful Citizen of this accepting community. I am so grateful to live and work with such wonderful humans and to be reminded every day of why."
On the message to viewers:
We Are Everyone!
On the response to the project:
Our art team at CACHE Studios and I were shocked by the turnout. Everyone liked their portraits and liked being a part of art, but when my collaborator Rumwolf animates and projects all the images at once when needed in protest or celebration, we'll expect lots more reactions. It looks like artists are going to have to whip the bigot out of Arkansas' a.
Oh! I wanted to thank Blue Crane for supporting our shoot.
See more of Kat Wilson’s work at katwilsonartist.com.