The Friends Behind The Feminine Architecture Show
Feminine Architecture is a photography show taking place right now in Oakland, CA. The work was curated and produced by two great friends, Nora Lowinsky and Haley Golden. While their individual art practices might not overlap obviously, there is an incredible vibe and understanding through the work in the show. They paired photographs from their individual practices together to create contrasting diptychs displayed in an alternative space. While the work is phenomenal, what really got to me was the journey the two have taken together. Female friendships are hard, but incredibly important. To these two, the other was a sort of creative and personal blessing that resulted in a deep and unwavering friendship that ultimately inspired the show. Through the displayed photographs, you feel a sense of companionship and love, even if you don't know Nora and Haley personally.
I interviewed Nora and Haley about the love they have for each other as great friends and individual artists, making space for more women, and what they're up to next. Keep reading!
Sarah Sickles for PT: So tell me a little bit about yourselves! Who are Nora Lowinsky and Haley Golden? What is your history with each other?
Nora Lowinsky: We are friends working in photography, living in the East Bay Area in California. Haley and I befriended each other towards the end of 2014 and started working in photography at the same time. We met at an essential juncture in both of our lives – we were changing rapidly, growing, experiencing the pain of growth and literally forced out of our past lives. We bonded over our love of picture making, our desire to create, be self-employed and valuing the importance of clearing negative energy from our spaces. We also just very simply showed each other compassion. Between then and now, not a week has gone by that we haven’t connected and discussed our creative process and woes. I think we relate to each other immensely because of similar circumstances and our desire to lead a creative life.
PT: How did you get into photography?
NL: My father introduced me to photography. He owned a gallery so I quite literally grew up in one. I knew about photography as art from a very early age, so it was just a natural and inherent part of my upbringing. I actually began taking photographs as a young teenager, but I didn’t start in any serious way until my thirties. I began writing down my dreams in the morning and they were full of ominous symbols and, at times, quite literal in pointing me in a direction. I planned a big trip to Europe visiting 6 cities, packed my small camera, and took every kind of photograph. As soon as I returned to Oakland, Haley and I started spending time together. Getting into photography as an artist marked an end and a beginning in a lot of areas in my life and I felt I had come full circle.
Haley Golden: My first introduction to photography was in my home where my dad built our very own darkroom. The smells and stacks of photos definitely called to me. We also had an incredible collection of family photographs taken by a close friend who was a street and portrait photographer. These were not your average family photos – they were black and white, artful, and full of emotion. I analyzed these photos and they made a deep impression on me. Eventually, and very slowly, I began producing photos that I felt were up to my standards. The invention of Instagram and iPhone were pivotal in me realizing how important photography was to me. Meeting Nora was also a catalyst.
PT: What inspired this exhibition? Something that I really love about it is the juxtaposition of the work. So many exhibitions have obvious pairings and collaborations, but this is a little more challenging in an engaging way, visually. It makes complete sense after reading about it and your relationship with each other and the work you both make!
NL: Our friendship inspired Feminine Architecture. The show displays our support of one another, which really mirrors our coming into a feeling of self-love. Our exhibition reflects the uplifting place we helped each other reach. It is so simple, really. Love inspired Feminine Architecture – self-love and the love between women. We are both dreamers who manifested this into reality.
PT: Something else that I read about, and really appreciate, is the fact that you were both just making work, and then decided to curate it into a show. You didn’t make the work specifically for the show. Do you have any comments on that? On the process?
HG: Yes, it wasn’t always this way. The show took many shapes and directions over the months, but it quickly became clear that we didn’t want to be confined by a theme or overall message. For us both, this is our biggest selection of work ever displayed in a public setting to date. It has been a tremendous amount of labor, not to mention a big investment both monetarily and emotionally, which is why it was very important to us to select photographs that were personally meaningful. Once this was decided, it all came together very organically. Even though the style and content of our photographs are distinct, there is a tangible dialog between them.
PT: Is it important to you for those who view the show to know your history? Why you’re putting the show together? What did you want it to say?
HG: With most art, knowing its history makes the message that much more powerful. So yes, it is important, but we also hope the work speaks visually by itself. We put this show together simply because the thought excited and empowered us. We wanted to have an exhibition and didn’t want to rely on others to make it happen. We wanted the show to acknowledge our individual journeys as artists, but more importantly our kinship, and its pivotal role in our success.
I saw something the other day that read, “When we have each other we have everything.” That is the epitome of our show’s message. Too often women are seen as competitors instead of allies. From the beginning, we have embraced and supported one another unconditionally. We have made space for the other and that is what has opened more doors and allowed for more creativity. If nothing else, this is the message of Feminine Architecture.
PT: Can you talk to me a little bit more about the importance of your friendship in relation to your creative practices? How important is female friendship? I truly believe that women supporting women in the arts is one of the best creative stimulants.
NL: I think our friendship has played a huge role in our creative development. We each needed the support from each other in the beginning, so mutuality was important in our creative manifestation. It has been such a blessing that we were both in a similar state of mind to give that to each other, both working in the same medium and both just ready to trust our power. The timing of our friendship could not have been better. I can only speak for myself, but I really needed a friend when I met Haley. I am all about high vibration connections with women now, and I listen much more to my intuition, which is profoundly connected to my art. Feminine energy is an essential component to my life. It always has been.
PT: Something I ask everyone we interview is about the color Pink. How does Pink play into your work, either directly or indirectly? The exhibition as a whole? Do you have any general thoughts on the color?
HG: To me, there is nothing more expressive and raw than color. Ever since I was little, pink has always been one of my favorite colors. My complexion is peachy and it is my power color; I feel my most alive and beautiful when I’m wearing it. I also happen to live in a pink house. It is a compelling color to me, therefore many of my photographs have pink themes and I will often go out of my way to capture it. Strangely enough, none of my photographs for Feminine Architecture are pink. There was a moment when we were considering curating an entirely pink show, but the way color is expressed in our exhibition morphed into something very different. There is a conversation with color. Many of Nora’s photographs are wild and fiery -- they are warm blasts of bold pinks. Mine are more subdued and predominately blue. The warm and cool balance of palette makes the colors more pronounced and the interplay between them more intriguing. I hope viewers get a sense of our language with color and its importance to both of us.
PT: What’s next for the both of you? Individually?
HG: I am fairly confident that Nora and I have a lifetime of collaborations ahead of us. We are kindred spirits and have eerily common life goals. I believe we were brought together for a reason and it’s exciting to think about our potential as friends and artists. In the near future, I hope we can put together a group show that expands upon the themes we have been exploring through Feminine Architecture.
For me, I just want to get back in my creative groove. I hope to carve out space for myself weekly to shoot. Since the election and our exhibition opening, my camera and I have lost touch with each other. I want to rekindle that connection and get working on all the projects I have whirling around in my head.
NL: We are both taking a color photography printmaking workshop at the end of this month actually. I want to collaborate with Haley as much as possible, but in a natural way. We recently began a project with an art collective based abroad. Honestly, it has been challenging to complete the project and I am not entirely sure where it will go. Forced collaboration is tough. I have no idea what is next for myself, but I like not knowing.
PT: Any advice for young emerging artists working in the same realm?
NL: I feel pretty young and emerging myself, and I hope I always feel that way, but I will share advice a friend shared with me. I was complaining to her, saying it’s so hard, that I never have any money, that I never feel satisfied. She said that it will always be a struggle and to get used to it. That woke me up and, in a sense, relieved me. I would rather struggle for myself, fighting to know myself and share my piece, than be struggling with my identity within the context of someone else’s vision.
Another tiny piece of advice is just keep on keepin’ on. Don’t ever stop, just change shapes. Take a new angle, don’t try to fit in a smaller space necessarily. Perspective and being continually open to my own evolutionary flow has helped me along a lot. You are fluid, not fixed.
HG: Only listen to the voice inside you for validation. If you believe in your work and what you’re creating excites you, that is all that matters. Truly. I also believe that art is one of the best ways to foster community. Encourage and support other visionaries. It is so easy to think that what you’re doing is unimportant or frivolous. Let others know that you see them and appreciate their creative force, especially those who are underrepresented in the arts and creative fields. Go to museums, attend exhibitions, buy local and original zines/artwork. Art is about the soul. Art is about being open to everything and everyone. Don’t limit yourself.
PT: Is there anything you would like to add that we didn’t touch on in the interview?
NL: This is our last interview for Feminine Architecture! It has been a wild ride. The show comes down soon and we will miss the experience, but I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we don’t want to hear ourselves for a long while!