We met Aleia Murawski last fall after she modeled for a series shot by her best friend Lolo Bates. Ever since, Murawski’s imagination, still lifes, snails and amazing fingernails have been a constant presence in our online creeping routine.
You have such a particular and unique style. How did you form your aesthetic?
I work really quickly and just try to get my ideas out. I collaborate often with two artists: Alex Wallbaum and Sam Copeland. I think a language or aesthetic is from just continuous making.
You also produce A LOT of work. About how long does it take to set up one of your projects?
I went through a long dry spell of making things after college and then the thought of producing work was super overwhelming to me. I put so much pressure on myself to make something “good/finished” that I just became so immobilized by it. I tried to just tell myself to work at my own pace—to work even arbitrarily or unsophisticatedly.
I just kept doing this and eventually started to find threads in what I was looking at and putting together. I work during the day, so I try and put in as much time after work [as possible]. Sometimes I’m in the studio for hours with Alex, but sometimes it is just a quick iPhone still life on my living room floor.
I’m really interested in how you use video to bring your still lifes to “life.” How did that come about?
I went to the beach with Sam one morning at like 6 a.m. to take photos with these mirrors. It was so foggy—I was frustrated because I thought it would be impossible to shoot anything. However, it was one of my favorite projects to date. Sam was holding up a mirror and the waves were so intensely reflected into it but tightly framed against the beach behind him.
I took a video just to have—it was accidental, but I look at it all of the time and am so surprised by it. After this, I’ve become fascinated with how something can operate as both a photograph and video.
Where do you find inspiration?
Lots of places! The beach, Ikea, the way construction sites are disguised in nature scenes. I love images on trucks or posters in nail salons. I record a lot of things around me that I find confusing or amusing. After a while, I start to find patterns and this informs my work.
How do you derive meaning in your work?
My work is about the every day and every day objects: the power, comfort, anxieties and implications that come from materials around us. I think about the way we respond to our surroundings—how objects and imagery define us and dictate certain behaviors. Advertisements that are targeted towards us. And whether or not we like it, we inherent the messages, gestures and expectations. I want to find my own control in that. I am really interested right now in using compact mirrors, makeup and nails. I think it is because makeup is about fantasy, but one that is often prescribed. I indulge in it, but I want to distort it. Instead of blush, it’s mac and cheese…instead of a woman at the spa, it’s a snail. It’s lighthearted, but I’m looking for new relationships between objects or things.
Why is Instagram your social media of choice?
I use Instagram as both a sketchbook and portfolio. It has encouraged me to get a lot of ideas out (and consistently), and I have put all my energy there for the most part. However, there is pressure to participate often and I am not sure if that is just from me or more structurally? I do realize my work is not going to grow the way I want it to unless I slow my process down and put more power in other places. I am definitely in a transitional space of making right now.
Do you feel you use digital spaces to cultivate your ideas and relationships?
Yes, absolutely—the rewarding points are connecting with other artists and starting conversations and collaborations. Finding a community around your work is crucial, and the relationships I’ve made online have helped develop what I do and inspired lots of projects. But there has to be balance. I am starting to focus more on physical work and exhibition shows lately, as there seems to be something missing. Recently, participating in some group shows with Alex, we both have had some struggles because we are considering a different context for our work. I am thinking about how our work can or should exist offline more and more.
Is there anything you wish people knew about your work?
The snail that is often in my videos is named Noodle and he is an amazing actor!
This interview is featured in Austere URL/IRL, our 17th issue out on April 9th.