September 23, 2021 12:03 PM
by Clove Galilee
The City of Santa Monica established the Studio Residency Program at the Camera Obscura to support the work of local artists, highlight the intersection of fine art and craft, and provide the public with access to a variety of artistic practice and instruction. Artists are chosen for three residency periods a year. The winter residents for 2021 are:
Photo Credit: Austin Young
Marsian De Lellis
Marsian De Lellis is an LA-based interdisciplinary artist whose installations and performances memorialize obsessional lives. They collect fragments from the real or imagined biographies of unconventional people whose private manias become public fodder for tabloids and reality television. Melding in the contours of their own struggles, they shape the highly personal into comprehensible form - narrative-driven objects and performances, that reconsider embodiment, desire, and neurodivergence.
Growing up queer in 1980s New England, De Lellis’ preoccupation with the nuclear arms race, alien abduction-lore, and the AIDS epidemic intensified their internalized sense of otherness. In the 1990s they organized rallies in Massachusetts, which led to the nation’s first anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ students. In 2006 they co-founded the Puppet Slam Network to support independently produced puppet cabarets for adults, which they managed for a decade. De Lellis earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA at CalArts.
In 2018 they premiered their solo puppet and performing object performance, “Object of Her Affection”, at Automata which tackled object sexuality. In 2019, De Lellis presented over a thousand hand-stitched, decaying rag dolls at Track 16 as part of their “(In)/Animate Objects” series. Presently, they are developing Model Killer: Giant Crimes + Tiny Cover-Ups, a new installation/performance.
De Lellis’ work has been awarded funding from The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Center Theatre Group, The Jim Henson Foundation, The Center for Cultural Innovation, The Durfee Foundation, and UNIMA-USA. The objects and performances generally occupy a precarious border between beauty and terror, pushing them to further examine the fissures of our shared world.
Marsian De Lellis at the Camera Obscura Art Lab:
"During my studio residency at the Camera Obscura Art Lab, I plan to continue to write, build, and workshop my latest installation-performance, Model Killer: Giant Crimes + Tiny Cover-Ups, which I began research and development for during COVID as part of my solo artist residency at Automata Arts, Los Angeles. Model Killer is a morbid performing object comedy centered on a disgruntled dollhouse maker turned investigator. The protagonist builds dioramas of unsolved murders, only for it to be revealed that she is, in fact, a serial killer. As part of the Automata residency, I conducted dollhouse research, studying items in Automata’s collection, including two early 20th Century dollhouses donated from the Bowers Museum of Art, and the books and archives of dollmaker and dollhouse enthusiast, John Darcy Noble. At the Camera Obscura Art Lab, I will continue to explore the results of my research that has been fueling my latest work.
In a moment where what was once considered “real” has become suspect, I have begun erecting models that capture the truth in the fictitious and reveal the artifice of reality. I’m tearing down the idea that models are simply miniaturized representations of physical space and building them up as transformative sites to manage weighty abstract concepts. Once scaled down, I contain the out-of-proportion excesses of a worrisome, dangerous world, so they can be better understood."
Nataša Prosenc Stearns
Slovenian-born visual artist and filmmaker Nataša Prosenc Stearns graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. She moved to Los Angeles on a Fulbright Grant for her MFA at California Institute of the Arts. Nataša works with video, film, and digital techniques, employing innovative strategies in visual and narrative expressions. She is most interested in exploring the unconscious, the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.
Her works are moving collages, which integrate the human body with organic and man-made worlds, suggesting we are not separate from the environment; we are the environment. Rooted in Zen philosophy, influenced by ancient cave paintings, and exploring her personal history of migration and transitioning, her videos, prints, installations, and video objects inhabit the space or site she is working in and condense experiences from different worlds into one. A process of layering connects the visual elements and leads to fragments of narration. As humans become more and more estranged from each other and from our environment, her practice explores the themes of connectedness, alienation, oneness, and identity.
Her body of work ranges from single and multi-channel videos, video installations, short and feature films, video objects, and print media. She is known for the creative use of non-gallery spaces and large multi-channel projections.
Nataša exhibited twice at the Venice Biennale. First, she represented Slovenia with her video installation Gladiators at the 48th Biennale for which she received The Prešern Fund Award, a national award for great achievement in art, and in 2015 she was part of the Biennale’s group exhibition 20 Artists from Los Angeles presented by bardoLA. She is a recipient of the Durffee and Soros Grants among others.
Her work has also been featured in Douloun Museum of Art in Shanghai, Circulo de bellas artes and ARCO Fair in Madrid, Kunstlerwerkstatt in Munich, Spazio Erasmus Brera in Milan, Lancaster Museum of Art and History, Museum of Modern Art in Slovenia, Tel Aviv Museum of Art and in festivals such as SXSW, ISEA Helsinki, Video forms Clermond-Ferrand, World Wide Video Festival Amsterdam, Films de femmes Paris, Brooklyn Film Festival, AVIFF Cannes, Cinematheque108 USC and in RedCat at Disney Music Hall Los Angeles, Pacific Film Archives Berkeley, and Chicago Independent Film Festival.
Her feature film Souvenir, released by Cinema Epoch, is available on Netflix and on Amazon, The Trial of Socrates (a collaboration of 23 artists and filmmakers) is being distributed by Educational Films, and her shorts are available on Youtube and Vimeo. Recently Nataša completed a new body of work for an original opera code L composed by Milko Lazar and started experimenting with crypto art possibilities, expanding her practice into the metasphere.
Nataša lives in Venice California and in Ljubljana Slovenia.
Nataša Prosenc Stearns at the Camera Obscura Art Lab:
"During my Camera Obscura Art Lab studio residency, I will focus on my new project Last Artist in Venice, in which art, love, and crime move between reality and imagination, addressing the contrasts between wealth and homelessness in our beach community. The Camera Obscura building, which offers numerous possibilities for site-specific work, will function as the center of the narrative. For the conclusion of the residency, I’m planning a multi-channel open-air video installation, presenting the work created during the residency."
For information about the Camera Obscura Art Lab and its activities, visit santamonica.gov/camera.
Cultural Affairs Supervisor