EK Interview: Christy Lee Rogers

art blog - Christy Lee Rogers - Empty Kingdom

Christy Lee Rogers is awesome.  Her underwater photography is eye catching and exhilarating.  I cannot begin to describe how hard my brain lags when it attempts to contemplate the mix of color and light in such a setting.  It’s like trying to play Doom 3 on a Commodore 64.  Also she’s incredibly honest, and frankly a brilliant woman.  Read this thing:

For the benefit of those without any knowledge of how awesome you are, please introduce yourself.

You’re awesome too Empty Kingdom.  Thank you for the interview.  My name is Christy Lee Rogers.  I’m a visual artist from Hawaii, working and living in Los Angeles and Kailua, on the island of Oahu.  For many years now, I’ve found a refuge in expressing myself through the use of water.  I don’t own a tv, hate shopping, desperately love my family, have a chocolate addiction, and would love to rid the world of corrupt authority, pill-pushers, and warmongers.

art blog - Christy Lee Rogers - Empty Kingdom


What kind of challenges have you faced as a self-taught artist?  How have you suffered and benefit from that trial by fire?

I have no idea.  I’ve never thought of that before as a challenge.  It feels more like a blessing. And I don’t want to confuse you, as I actually have a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Telecommunications.  What that means, I couldn’t tell you, but it’s in no way, shape or form where I became an artist.  I’m more interested in creation, invention, imagination and exploration.  When you have the opportunity of trial by fire it’s the most exciting, exhilarating experience.  There’s no suffering.  It’s naïve and innocent bliss.


What do you think was the key (or at least an integral factor) to your success despite a formal education?

Being true to myself, and having the courage to see existence as it actually is.  There came a point where I started to observe the truth in the world around me, and that was when I really assumed the role of artist, realizing that although I thought I was the crazy one, I may have had that wrong.  This happy façade that people put up was crumbling.  Beneath that social veneer were troubled souls who smiled to my face and yet probably went home and cried.  I started to look closer.  Why was there drug and alcohol abuse, greed, insecurities, denial of self, jealousy, and a history marked with war and violence? Was I supposed to be blind to that and go grab a cocktail?  My grandmother was the most beautiful and talented woman I knew, the envy of all of her sisters, and she died of a broken heart and alcoholism on the most beautiful island in the Pacific.  When I was young nobody talked about this, it seemed like a taboo subject.

Well, all these feelings were driving my art, and this purpose to make it all better, or to at least understand.  And I don’t think I’m alone in this.


How many subjects were there in “Black Moon”?  How long were they underwater?  What was the greatest source of anxiety for you when taking this photograph?

Six.  They were underwater for about 15 to 20 seconds at a time, for 8 hours on and off.  Reckless Unbound was by far my most consuming and complicated collection to shoot.  The greatest anxiety in taking this particular shot was that the models were shivering, freezing cold.  I was worried about them, knowing we would need to end off soon, and then it began to rain.

art blog - Christy Lee Rogers - Empty Kingdom


Where were the photos for RECKLESS UNBOUND taken?  How big was the facility?  Who handled all the technical details?

They were captured on the island of Oahu, in a friend of a friend’s pool, overlooking the ocean on the Honolulu side of the island.  And it’s funny because I ended up talking him into being in the shots, so he’s one of the bodies you see here.  Technically, I’ve always handled all of the details myself, although this time it almost killed me.

art blog - Christy Lee Rogers - Empty Kingdom


Where did the name for RECKLESS UNBOUND come from?  It’s a departure from ODYSSEY and SIREN, with Greek roots, although you state in your Harper’s Bazaar Interview that the names were coincidental.  Do you feel that RECKLESS UNBOUND was a departure from your previously established ‘safe zones’?  Especially considering it was shot underwater and required the subjects had to hold their breath?

That title is one year in the making.  I liked the dual negative to positive transformation of the word Unbound, meaning that someone must have been bound in order to become unbound, and this was the first word that hit me for a title. It conveyed movement.  And there was this innocence that I was portraying, but it wasn’t your typical innocence, it was more of a careless, adventurous, disregard and that was Reckless.


My work is always about freedoms, both gained and loss, and yet yes, Reckless Unbound is definitely a departure from my previous collections.  The urge was to be messy and reckless, like a painter throwing paint around on a canvas, needing to express this chaos that was a part of me at the time.  All of my work is shot in water, so there’s never really a safe zone, which is the way I prefer it.

art blog - Christy Lee Rogers - Empty Kingdom


In the title image on your website “Reckless Unbound” the main subject (it seems) is wearing a vibrant red dress.  How did the fabric react under water?  Did it behave as you expected or were you caught off guard?

Fabrics act like paints blending and bleeding into each other under water.  It’s incredible to watch, never knowing what crazy interactions will occur.  Of course, I’d choose the colors beforehand and plan a progression of releasing them into the water, adding and subtracting, based on how I felt.


Have you seen 300?  If no, here’s the pertinent link


There’s a scene with a girl dancing in it, when I saw it I realized the girl was dancing underwater.  It was a stunning and awesome effect I thought.  How did the medium of water manipulate the human form for you?  Personally and aesthetically?  How do you think it has accentuated or downplayed certain aspects of the human form?

Yes, I love that scene.  The gravity pull on the body changes underwater, so you get this freedom of movement that’s obviously unearthly.  Light also travels differently underwater and I’m never un-amused by the way it strikes the body, or accentuates ordinary colors.  With a little play of light and movement, you can actually bend and distort the body, which I’m endlessly fascinated with.  I don’t feel I would be able to properly express myself without the magic of the water.

art blog - Christy Lee Rogers - Empty Kingdom


Water blurs and obscures the faces of your subjects; do you think that will inhibit the conveyance of human emotion, considering how much emotion is conveyed through expression?  What aspects of the medium of water do you think make up for this potential loss of expression, that’s assuming you think expression is lost as a result?

I believe the expression is intensified in that anyone can put themselves into the image.  It becomes universal.  There was a wholeness that I needed to convey and a bigger theme at play then a single expression.  Emotionally, one needed to look past the individuality of the body and realize that we’re all is this beautiful trap together.  I purposefully used the water to obscure faces and just about everything else.


What is happening in “The Triumphants”?  It is one of the more colorful pieces of RECKLESS UNBOUND, why have you chosen so much color and what went into the color selection, white, light blue, red, yellow, green and orange and blue mosaic, etc?

The motion of bodies intertwined in a chaos of color and agitation, twisting in all directions, lost and at the same time, triumphant in energy and life.  The color is a progression from a blue palette, introducing yellow, red and a clown outfit into the mix.  I just had to have a clown in there and you’ll see more of her later in the collection.

art blog - Christy Lee Rogers - Empty Kingdom


What gallery is RECKLESS UNBOUND showing at?  How did you get in contact with them?  Is it a solo exhibition?

It’ll open later this year as solo exhibitions at Lexander Gallery in New York City, Edgar Varela Fine Arts in Los Angeles, and The McLoughlin Gallery in San Francisco.  The Los Angeles show was organized by my incredible art manager/dealer Stephen Washington, Lexander and I have been wanting to work together for quite some time and he recently asked me to be the opening show for his new Chelsea gallery, and this is my second show with the McLoughlin Gallery.

From your perspective, what is the greatest difference between Group and Solo Exhibitions (besides the obvious)?  What is the most challenging and most rewarding facet of each and do they overlap?

They’re both amazing and I like to do a combination of the two. One of the highlights of group shows is meeting other artists, who over the years become life-long friends.  Solo shows are rewarding in that you get to put forth a body of work that comes together into this more complete expression, when seen as a whole.  At the same time, being put in the spotlight is a heavy responsibility to carry, and a solo show is much more time and money consuming.

art blog - Christy Lee Rogers - Empty Kingdom


What is your greatest strength and weakness, how are you utilizing the former and addressing the latter?

This always gets strange to talk about myself, so I asked my parents to answer this one for me.  According to the two people who know me best, I’m overly enthusiastic and passionate about everything I do, excessive in my feelings and emotions, with high expectations of life.  They believe this to be one of my greatest strengths, but at the same time my greatest weakness, as when things don’t go my way, for instance, in love, I fall hard.


What is the best kind of fruit pie?  What is the best kind of fresh fruit?  If they are different, what makes pie made from the former better than pie from the latter and what does the latter have in fresh form that the former lacks?

Do they make lemon pie?  That would be it.  And fresh mangos.  It’s the tanginess and bitterness of lemon that works so well with pie.  I’d eat just about any lemon dessert you could find.  And don’t try mango in a pie, it’s too luscious and juicy to bake.

art blog - Christy Lee Rogers - Empty Kingdom