Sunday, October 18, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Elisa Lazo de Valdez & Visioluxus

    October is the month of the macabre and while I didn't begin writing this feature with the intention of posting it in time for Halloween,  there is no denying the dark nature of this artist's work.  I suppose some things are just meant to be.
     I first stumbled onto the work of Elisa Lazo de Valdez and her studio Visioluxus while searching for some nautical decor on Etsy.  I've always loved the mysterious beauty of the sea.  With names like "Mermaid's Corset" and "The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife" given to these gorgeous black and white photos, I was instantly drawn to Elisa's work.  
    However, there was one photo in particular that I was taken with.  The piece was called "His Ghost" and looked so remarkably like my husband, who was away at that time, that I was moved to tears.  
    As I searched her studio, I was so struck by the depth and grace of her photos.  I have never encountered work with such a haunted opulence; I have been a fan ever since that first view.  I am so pleased, so honored to be able to present her work and her studio Visioluxus.  
Bleu Avenue:  Elisa, thank you so much for talking with me.  You are such a gifted artist, what does photography mean to you and how/why did you chose it as a medium for your creativity?
Elisa:  I don't think photography in and of itself is particularly meaningful to me, it is simply a tool to create imagery in an efficient and low cost way. I have a degree in design and illustration and worked in pencil, ink, paint, etc. for a long time. I would shoot images as reference for my illustrations. At some point I realized I could build creative imagery in the real world and then photograph it. With the advent of digital cameras this became a resourceful way to experiment. I also really enjoy the interaction between model and photographer. 

B:  What is the creative process like for you?  Do begin with a theme you'd like to explore or is it more like a single idea? 

E:  My creative process will sound a little ridiculous to anyone who likes to plan. I try and expose myself to interesting and stimulating art, movies, fashion, literature, travel and so on. I have bits and pieces of inspiration and ideas floating around in my head all the time. When I meet with a photo model I create the idea for the shoot on the spot, based on the weather, my mood, what I dreamt of that night, the model's vibe, any weird props I found, what colors my MUA might be into that day, if I feel like going on location or not. It is extremely free form. Sometimes I fixate on certain prop idea, and then build the shoot around that when the model arrives. It is rare that I have a fixed idea in mind.

B:  I was first drawn to your studio by the nautical themed pieces, but there are so many other genres you explore so beautifully.  Do you think of your work as being eclectic or is there a particular style that you identify with?
E:  I think eclectic is a good word, most often my work is described as "dark". My personal point of view is to fuss around with what I'm shooting until it feels creepy. Sometimes this falls in the surrealist realm, sometimes the dark art ideal. I don't identify with a particular style but I do love the elegant gothic aesthetic. 

B:  "Elegant gothic" is the perfect way to describe it.  You have some amazing props and costumes;  do you design them yourself? 

E:  I do create most of the props and costumes for the shoots with a lot of creative pinning and acres of loose fabric. I think you would be surprised at what is just loose fabric clipped and pinned together. I also wield a mean glue gun. The wardrobe is all thirfted, minus what the models may bring with them to the shoot. I prefer vintage or timeless clothing that adapts itself to different styles. My husband, Phillip Valdez, is a very talented paper sculptor who makes masks and headdresses at my request for various shoots. I rarely shoot with designers clothing, but I have had the great pleasure to work with the very talented and ethereal Kambriel on many occasions, and own some of her pieces that get used quite a bit.  Gina Campbell has been my hair and makeup artist for the past 2 years, and she creates wonderful looks for the models. For the more complex hair and makeup work I often have examples to show her, but she interprets everything into her own style.
B:  Having the right team can mean so much when you're trying to get exactly what you imagine to become real.  What is your dream project? 

E:  That's an interesting question. I don't really have a specific project I've been yearning to do. Shoot in a real castle maybe? My dream situation is to shoot whatever I please and be able to pay the bills at the same time. As this has yet to happen in 12 years, my goals for the future are to shift away from standard photography and go back towards illustration, but this time in the digital arena using my photography as a starting point. The work of Ray Ceasar, Nekro, Oleg Dou and Erwin Olaf's more fascinating digital manipulations (like the "Royal Blood" series) are all inspiration for that transition.
B:  The title alone gives me chills, I can't wait to see wait to see what the future has in store for you. 

 Keep up with Elisa's work at

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