Studio Visit: Krista Svalbonas

Krista Svalbonas is an artist based in Chicago.  Her work can be seen in PLEAT's February 2016 exhibition as well as kristasvalbonas.com.

Please describe what your work is about. 
Ideas of home and dislocation have always been compelling to me as the child of parents who arrived in the United States as refugees. Born in Latvia and Lithuania, my parents spent many years after the end of the Second World War in displaced-persons camps in Germany before they were allowed to emigrate to the United States. My family’s displacement is part of a long history of uprooted peoples for whom the idea of “home” is contingent, in flux, without permanent definition and undermined by political agendas beyond their control. Perhaps as a result, I am fascinated by the language of spatial relationships and by the impact of architectural form and structure on the psychology of the human environment.

Can you talk about how photography plays a key role in your history of displacement?
Photography plays a key role in this history of displacement: photographs were among the few possessions my family was able to take with them when they fled the Russian occupation. Photographs documented a home and a country that most Baltic refugees, including my parents, thought they would never see again. I was raised on these visual memories, and the accompanying stories of a “homeland” that remained distant and inaccessible — until the unimaginable happened in 1991, when the Baltic states regained their freedom.

Do you have specific rules in regards to geometry or architecture that you follow when assembling each of your pieces?
For this particular series I try and stick with the basic rule of three elements. Each of the collage pieces is made up of the three places I have called home in the past few years; New York, Pennsylvania and Chicago. I'll often begin with an image of a barn from Pennsylvania first and then work out from there. I pay close attention to how I shoot each building, looking for dynamic angles and lines that would create and interesting perspective in the final collage.