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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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Cameron Patricia Downey connects to their past by creating novel art

Bethany J Davenport
Cameron Patricia Downey was happy to answer questions on her artistic process at SBCC artist talk on Wednesday Sept. 13 at City College. Downey shared her story and inspirations before the opening of her new exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Barbara, Califonia.

Cameron Patricia Downey has been a distinctive, anti-disciplinary artist from the beginning of fourth grade in Minneapolis, the town they’re from.

“Everyone asked me to sign their folders,” Downey said.

By seventeen, Downey had an addiction to bubble letters and doodling. This was the beginning of Downey’s artistic interests. They created an individualistic senior year look book, holding pages filled with creativity. 

“I enjoy repeating things, like items,” Downey said.

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Downey got their first and foundational arts education as a teenager at Juxtaposition Arts in Minneapolis, with help from artists Caroline Kent and Nate Young. Downey is currently teaching contemporary art to teens attending Juxtaposition.

The artist graduated from Columbia with a double concentration in visual art and environmental science. They now live as an anti-disciplinary artist focusing on structure, film, and photography. 

On Sep. 13, Downey presented an art talk at City College where they shared their inspirations, methods, and advice as an anti-disciplinary artist to students of Santa Barbara.

The following weekend, Downey had a showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, called “Orchid Blues”.​​

This show touches on concepts of world-building and survival artistry by way of Black, fantastical, and precarious spaces and forms. The showing is from Sep. 14 to Dec. 23, 2023.

In 2016, Downey began using household items, seeking to create pieces through futuristic lenses. Using baseball bats, yard chairs, and pillows, the artist was able to construct individual pieces that represent something new. 

“Everything you do is just rebuilding the last thing,” they said.

Downey’s method intends to provoke a nostalgic and mythical feeling. Colors have a deeper meaning; black and white symbolize the artist’s home life. Downey takes objects, senses, and clothing to grasp a memory of the past.

In April, Downey presented a solo show in Minneapolis called “Lord Split Me Open.” The show was held at Hair and Nails, a gallery they have been working with since 2019. 

“Could I form my way back to memory,” Downey said, in hopes of reconnecting with their past through structure.

The materials Downey used were simply old mattresses, a big leather couch and any other trash that they could transform. This piece was made to build remembrance and history out of the small details of everyday life. 

The leather couch was sawed down the center and stuck to a wall at a ninety degree angle. In between the remains of the couch, a photograph of Downey’s grandmother which creates a stained glass shadow on the wall behind it.

Cameron Patricia Downey begins her talk at Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College on Wednesday September 13, 2023 by sharing her start in the art world. Downey started her artist passion when her Mom signed her up for a summer art class in which she collaboated on this mural. (Bethany Davenport)

“Photography is a mystery that is full of discipline,” Downey said. According to them, the photograph speaks for itself. 

The artist was born in 1996 and considers themself a part of the “Tumblr Generation”. It was Tumblr that introduced them to photography and fashion. A group of Downey and their friends created a horror video with experimental clothing.

“Material can speak for itself,” Downey said. 

Collaborating with friends taught Downey to take more risks. In September of 2022, “Hymn of Dust” was released. This film features Downey as well as artists like Cooper Felien, Ize Commers, and Miles Jamison. 

The film takes place in a toxic wasteland, depicting Downey’s pessimistic hymn and the peculiar youth of Minneapolis. The clothing was experimental, making the scene more dramatic and horrifying. 

In 2018, Downey had the opportunity to dress models for a fashion walk. Downey visualizes all they’re pieces, especially clothing. Because of their previous modeling, they have experience in detail and visualization. 

“No thing is too small,” Downey says towards the end of their art talk, highlighting how important it is to change things if something doesn’t feel right. They believe that making something your own is what makes an artist anti-disciplinary. No one has the power to control everything that happens, which is why individualism is so important in contemporary art.

“You take a picture, and you can’t control what happens,” Downey said. 

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