URL IRL Resident Artist: Cindy Popp

Cindy Popp is a performance artist and concept photographer, occupying our URL IRL residency in June and July of 2018. For her residency, Cindy Popp will debut an exhibit at the Elisabet Ney Museum on August 9 (as part of our Meet Her Hands series), as well as create work for our ongoing DJ and digital art pop-up at Native Hostels (her work will be featured on July 5). 

Below she discusses her personal influences and her process.


 Self-portrait by Cindy Popp

Self-portrait by Cindy Popp

How would you describe your creative practice?

I would describe it as solitary. I like to use what little alone time I have to explore this side of me. It's the only time I feel like it isn't irresponsible or rude to make my work. I also find I'm not as self-conscious and am willing to indulge in whatever ideas I have. The actual act of making the photos takes a lot of prep time: looking at inspiration, playing around with costumes and makeup, figuring out the lighting or background. Finally I take the photos and then spend some time editing and posting.

The playful, yet destructive imagery in your work suggests themes of beauty, deconstruction and disruption—would you agree? Disagree? What other themes do you explore in your work?

I definitely think my work seeks to take beauty tropes and subvert them. I find a lot of inspiration in fashion editorials but don't see myself fitting into that world so I replicate it on my own (in a much more DIY fashion) and insert myself. It's about making these unattainable ideas less intimidating and sacred. I like to inject humor, grossness and imperfection to bring them back to Earth.

There's a level of vulnerability to your self-portraiture. What motivates you to take self-portraits? Are you naturally comfortable exploring those aesthetics of yourself?

Logistically, I started taking self-portraits because it was easier. I could experiment (and fail) and figure out what I was doing in private. I think subconsciously, I was motivated by my favorite artists (Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman) and found that they made me feel like my work was legitimate.

As far as comfort, I would say no. I am extremely critical of myself and my appearance and honestly kind of cringe at the fact that I am in all of these photos. However, I do think that's part of my process. I wouldn't say it's really helped my personal confidence but I think it gives other people that impression. I am a strong believe in "fake it till you make it" so I'm hoping that by putting myself out there more and more, it will have the nice side effect of making me a little kinder to myself.

 Self-portrait by Cindy Popp

Self-portrait by Cindy Popp

What's your ideal working environment?

I like being at home. I have taken great care to create a space where I am surrounded by the objects I love and a place that makes me feel comfortable and inspired. When I was younger, I hated being home alone and would just make myself go to sleep to avoid dealing with it. As I've grown older, I find myself cherishing that time and using it to create. My work was born, because I was trying to find a way to cope with the crushing loneliness and fear I felt whenever no one else was home with me.

What do you look for in a creative collaborator?

I want someone who understands that things don't have to look pretty or cool. It's also helpful if they understand my references and share my aesthetic. I also like someone who can commit, I'm not the kind of artist who likes to be spontaneous—I need everything planned and scheduled!

Editor's note: Cindy Popp currently collaborates with filmmaker and artist Andie Flores on Ay Payasa.

Are your photos entirely unedited? If not, what's your stance on editing vs. realism in your work?

My photos are not unedited. While I don't remove anything (like wrinkles or stray hairs), I do like to punch up the colors but that's about it. Personally, I prefer the leave the photos as untouched as possible. I hate filters, borders, or anything that makes the photo look more like a social media post than a photograph. I tend to do a lot of work in person (covering my face in something, wearing a wig, creating a background, etc.) so when it comes to editing, I like to keep it simple. I don't mind this in other people's work, but I just don't feel like it makes sense for this particular work.

 Self-portrait by Cindy Popp

Self-portrait by Cindy Popp

Any routines of self-care to share?

I don't have any self-care routines per se, but I did make a New Year's resolution to get a manicure every month and have so far been keeping that promise. I also love a good face mask or trip to Arby's.

What have you been reading, watching or listening to lately? 

Reading: My favorite thing to do is eat alone somewhere and read something from www.longform.org. Literally every article I've ever read on it has been super interesting and informative. I'm currently reading "Men Explain Things To Me" a little bit at a time because each essay has a lot of weight that I need to process.

Watching: I watch a lot of TV and movies. I spend pretty much every evening watching something and the range is pretty wide. Lately a lot of Parts Unknown on Netflix, Allie Kay videos on YouTube, and whatever catches my eye from I Luv Video.

Listening: Talking Heads are my summer jam, so a lot of that on repeat. Cardi B is my favorite driving music.

Any particular works coming up that our community should know about?

I'm really excited for Lindsay Eyth's show at RECSPEC and the YLA 23 show at the Mexic-Arte museum. I also keep close tabs on the Alamo Drafthouse and AFS cinema for great movies to catch.

What do you want people to know about you or your art the most?

Putting yourself out there is very scary, so be gentle with me.


About #bbatx's The Residency: We annually work with 10 to 15, Texas-based women-identifying and nonbinary visual and musical artists to produce site-specific work, commissions and exhibitions throughout our programming and events. Through these residencies, we invite the public to learn more about their process, approach and sustainability of their practice. Click here to meet this year's artists.