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Cultivate Featured Artist: Olivia Hunter

Black and white image of young, light skinned, brunette woman sitting at patio set in front of stucco wall
portrait of aritst, Olivia Hunter

The Cultivate Exhibitions Team is excited to share the work of Olivia Hunter, a photographer who specializes in using abstract imagery to discuss mental illness and OCD.

Olivia shares her work and process in our interview below.

Learn more about the Cultivate Featured artist series on our blog.

Learn more about Olivia here:

Instagram: @ohunterphoto

Briefly describe your work or share your artist statement

​I am a photographer who enjoys taking simple elements and using them to create emotions through images. I create broken narratives that are inspired by my own struggle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I work to draw viewers in through a sense of mystery and emptiness. I use themes of fragmentation, duality, and repetition; tropes common to both narrative strategies and OCD itself. Through this personal yet quietly dramatic approach, I work to foster a sense of empathy, understanding, and dialogue about this well-known, yet often misunderstood, disorder.

black and white photo of plaster hand molds hanging from chains in front of varigated black background

Untitled. 2019, digital photograph. Image Courtesy of Artist

How do you go about beginning a new piece? Do you have it planned or is it more spontaneous?

Due to my constant struggle with OCD, I am not always able to shoot. When I do feel able to fight back against the mental illness, I try my best to get into a creative headspace that doesn't set me up for failure. For many years, I planned my shoots. I have found recently that I can be a bit more spontaneous but I will never be a true street photographer.

One positive thing, from many years of painful struggles, is that OCD has become my inspiration. Instead of OCD using me, I also use it. Since it is always my companion, I always have something to think about, explore, and experiment. There are always themes that exist that can make a body of work.

What is a barrier that you, as an artist, overcame?

I am someone who will always have a serious mental illness that combats my practice. Oftentimes, I feel like I need to delete or retake images (or not take them at all) to avoid something bad happening in my life. This obviously causes a large issue when it comes to be an artist. Although this is difficult and causes me regret, I also have found that I can tell my story through photography and hopefully fight the stigma of mental illness.

Untitled. 2019, digital photograph. Image Courtesy of Artist

What is your go-to music when you're working on art?

I really enjoy listening to oldies (70s). I'm also a big fan of the Strokes.

What do you strive for as an artist? What form of recognition is important for you?

My goal is to help others feel inspired to share their stories. I think the world could be more empathetic if people had the courage to share their own struggles, triumphs, and lives in more honest ways.

Untitled. 2019, digital photograph. Image Courtesy of Artist

What advice would you share for artists? Share something that you have learned along the way.

I think the best advice is just to not let fear and rejection drive you. For so many years, I have been afraid of what people think. I've found that it's a waste of precious time. So many people can relate to you, if you are just open and honest about what you are going through.

What is a work of art that is an inspiration to you?

I find myself coming back to Ralph Eugene Meatyard's work often. His book titled The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater is especially touching. It's weird, dark, yet fun, and has so many layers that really speak about photography, death, and memory.

Untitled. 2019, digital photograph. Image Courtesy of Artist

Who are three working artists that you love and would recommend?

I would highly recommend looking into Brianna Calello, Jordan Cruz, Jonathan Ellis, Elena Kendall-Aranda, Madeline Cottingham, Ciara Crocker, and Candice Kwan. All are so different, yet phenomenally talented and beautiful artists.


Cultivate Artists

A curated collection of emerging and mid-career artists. The featured artist program at Cultivate serves to share the artist's work and process with the community, inviting them to understand how and why an artist creates the work they do, to market and promote artists, and to connect artists to each other and to our network of curators, artists, and gallery owners.

These artists are curated together and represent the work that we exhibit at Cultivate. The artists are selected in January and June, and scheduled out for the six-month period. If you are interested in being one of Cultivate featured artists, please visit our open call for submissions.

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