I think artist Becca Cerra is among many truth tellers. Unique in artistic approach and disciplines, Becca's work challenges unrealistic, perfectionist beauty standards and misconceptions around mental health. Her work also calls attention to disability stigmas. "My art is a necessary respite from these messages, showing beauty in unexpected and unconventional ways," she says. "I aim to shatter assumptions, educate the public, and empower individuals living with disabilities."
Learn more about Becca right here. In this interview she shares about her process, the art she has been making, and the resources she has accessed to move her career goals forward. In particular, you will read about "Altered Aesthetics," a project that focuses on people living with amputations. Recently exhibited with Made Here, "Altered Aesthetics" continues to show, traveling from venue to venue.
Becca, I am so interested in your interdisciplinary practice - from sculpture to performance art. When did your approach of blending disciplines first start?
I started combining visual and performing arts during my senior year of college at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). I was splitting my time between my sculpture practice, dance rehearsals, and acroyoga classes and felt like I couldn’t justify spending so much time participating in dance and acrobatics when I really needed to be preparing for my senior thesis. But I wasn’t ready to give those activities up so I found a way of bringing them into my visual arts practice and blending media to create something that felt uniquely my own.
I was first introduced to your work via your project Altered Aesthetics. Exploring the body seems to be an ever present theme and subject in your work, particularly body image. What kind of stories or messages do you hope to convey by talking about and being curious about the body?
Rooted deeply in visual art principles, my project “Altered Aesthetics” pushes the boundaries of contemporary art by combining sculpture and the human body in unexpected ways. Through my art, I shed light on Western society's unrealistic standards of beauty and perfection. I offer new perspectives on how to defy these expectations. I am driven to create my work because beauty standards, mental health, and disability stigmas are pervasive, sneaking into nearly every form of media we consume. Having lived with disabilities for much of my life, I have an intimate knowledge of the stigmas and limiting perceptions people with disabilities face. My art is a necessary respite from these messages, showing beauty in unexpected and unconventional ways. I aim to shatter assumptions, educate the public, and empower individuals living with disabilities. My artistic practice is a catalyst for a societal shift in which all are revered for their unique and inherent beauty.
Altered Aesthetics is a traveling show now. How did you envision the project from an an art project and to an exhibition?
When I first had the idea for Altered Aesthetics, I wasn’t really sure what form it would take or how I would go about creating it. So I applied to Forecast Public Art for a research and development grant which I received and used to help me troubleshoot the idea. Once I got started I realized how powerful the work was going to become and I just didn’t stop until it was complete. One of the perks of the way I work, is that it requires multiple collaborators and project partners who each have their knowledge and experiences that they are bringing into the work. So as I became more sure about the direction of the work, the others involved were able to connect me with resources they knew of to help get Altered Aesthetics viewed by more and more people.
What’s next for Altered Aesthetics?
I initially debuted Altered Aesthetics in September 2018. Since then it’s been featured in several other exhibitions, magazines and online publications. My goal is to keep exhibiting Altered Aesthetics for quite awhile. It’s about to come down from an exhibition in downtown Minneapolis with Made Here and move to Hudson Hospital in Wisconsin where it will be on view for 3 months. In 2020, it will be at the Phipps Center for the Arts and Hopkins Center for the Arts. I’m currently looking into how to get it displayed at Mayo Clinic and a few other locations. I want to keep expanding the scope of my work and reach more audiences so I am open to suggestions!
What kinds of art resources have you used to expand your work and network? Have you received grant funding?
I’ve participated in several artist residency programs which have given me access to a global network of artists to call on for support as needed. I’ve received funding from the East Central Regional Arts Council, VSA Minnesota, Puffin Foundation, Forecast Public Art, and private donations when I ran a GoFund Me to support Altered Aesthetics. A few years ago I participated in Forecast’s Making it Public series and have since attended a few workshops they have hosted regarding career development. Jen Krava from Forecast has been a huge help to me, by connecting me with other artists further along in their careers who have provided me with insight and guidance in the early stages of my career. I also have taken a few workshops from Springboard for the Art’s Work of Art series which were invaluable.
How do you approach setting and sticking to art career goals?
When I get an idea in my head, I don’t stop until I see it through. When I decided that I’d become an artist for my career not just as a hobby, I knew it would mean making sacrifices and working really hard even on days when I don’t want to. What has helped me a lot, is to look at my art as a business. Yes it’s my passion and the thing that brings me joy. It’s also a business, and I need to run it as such.
Right now I’m completing a business class with Women Venture which has really helped me clarify my career goals and identify what my next steps are. In 2017 I took what felt like a big leap forward by establishing an LLC and this year my big goal is to write a business plan, which I’m currently in the process of doing with the support of Women Venture’s class. It has helped me figure out how to make a sustainable and profitable career as an artist. It hasn’t been easy but I’ve been learning a ton and receiving great feedback from viewers and customers as I get clearer and clearer in my path.
Beyond Altered Aesthetics, are you working on anything new?
Yes! Right now I’m in the research and development phase for another sculpture/dance hybrid, this time centered around mental health. I’m currently working to find funding for this project so I can really get started. I’m also working on several commissions ie: wind chimes, door handles, coat racks, candle holders, bottle openers, trivets, etc. which are all such a blast to work on.
Where can we find you online?
All images of Altered Aesthetics is courtesy of the artist.
Artists I Admire is a series of interviews with artists I think highly of.
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I try to post interviews 1 or 2 times a month but sometimes there's a longer break, because life can get busy. I am sure you can relate!