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Meet the Artists: Kamia J. Funchess and Mychel Russell-Ward

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Mulberry Street Library is proud to present the art exhibition "Beauty in Reading," featuring the photography of Kamia J. Funchess and the watercolors of Mychel Russell-Ward. The works are on view throughout the library through June 30th, 2012, and capture people caught in the act — of reading.

Kamia J. Funchess is a freelance photographer from Harlem with over 10 years of experience. Her clients include both local and international recording artists, politicians, various charities, and a great number of event and music sites on the East coast. Kamia has her own company, PHOCUSKAM PHOTOGRAPHY, a multi-faceted photo and film production studio incorporating all aspects of the arts nationwide and internationally. Kamia is currently working on a book series featuring mostly obscure independent artists including singers, MCs, chefs, and designers, telling their stories through photos and interviews. She is also the mother of 4 year-old twins, a girl and a boy.

Mychel Russell-Ward uses watercolors, in only one color, in the exhibit “to capture the world as it appears around me. The goal is to achieve the impressionist ideal of recording what I see with as little modification as possible. Although the paintings are never entered into with any forethought, by the time they are complete they become something like unintentional allegorical works, particularly the still lives. Sometimes the pieces develop meaning that was never intended at the time the first brushstroke touches the paper. In that way they often reveal to me the things that I do not see about what goes on in my inner life.”

Interview With Kamia J. Funchess

Watercolors by Mychel Russell-WardWatercolors by Mychel Russell-Ward

Some of the images have a vintage quality to them. Was your intention for the images?

Yes, I felt that if I took pictures of books in a bookstore (which are becoming rarer these days), it would give them an old school, vintage vibe...

What are some of your favorite books?

My range is wide, I like The Autobiography of Malcolm X, romance novels, Eric Jerome Dickey, photography books about lighting and composition and various photographers’ books, like Marc Baptiste and David LaChapelle.

Do your favorite books inspire you as an artist?

In certain ways they do, especially books by David LaChapelle. The imagery alone is inspirational. His use of colors, composition, and subject matter makes for great photographs

What do you feel are the similarities or differences between creating a story with words and creating story with images?

I believe that creating a story with images makes you feel the story more because you are also stimulated by the visual and not just words. Words are important too but visuals are a great addition!

What is your motivation for representing books in your artwork?

I had many ideas, but then I decided to keep it simple and just show...books...in their natural habitats, such as book stores, people reading to each other, etc.

Tell me about your artistic practices — Kamia are you mainly a photographer and do you prefer film or digital photographs?

I am a full-fledged photographer, and I prefer film because that is what I started out with, but digital is also fun and convenient. Photograph by Kamia J. FunchessPhotograph by Kamia J. Funchess

What are your thoughts on eBooks?

I guess they're okay, but there is something about turning pages that gets you more amped while reading a great book.

How long have you been making art?

I have been making art and taking photographs since I was 8 years old.

Have you exhibited your work before?

Yes, I have exhibited in many places, the Countee Cullen Library was my first exhibition. I’ve also shown my work at venues such as Madame X, Sapphire Lounge, Joloff Restaurant and RAW: Natural Born Artists Showcase.

What projects are you working on next?

Several! I am working on a series of books featuring independent artists in all genres. I’m also shooting some editorial type pieces to build my portfolio.

Check out our Pathfinder, a companion to the exibit featuring books about the love of reading, books, and libraries.

The interview with Kamia J. Funchess was conducted by Rebecca Rubenstein, Mulberry Street Library Intern. Rebecca is also an artist, whose work can be seen at Rebecca Projects.

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