Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and for Somerville-based multimedia artist and photographer Jaina Cipriano, art allows her to express complex emotions in a way that words can’t.
“Photography and set design have become like a language for me that allows me to talk about things and communicate things to people where I don’t have to use words, because words sometimes feel like they get in the way,” Cipriano explained.
Related to this, her latest exhibition — hosted Cambridge Art Association at Darwin’s Ltd, Mt Auburn St (148 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge MA), digitally and in-person — explores childhood trauma and how it impacts the journey into adulthood, ultimately making us who we are today, for better or for worse. The works on display include seven whimsical, thought-provoking photographs that offer a sense of the emotions felt during the transition from child to adult.
These themes can be seen in the photograph “Homesick,” for example, which has an overall darker, more melancholy tone than other photographs within the exhibition. The dark purples and blues shown alongside the portrait of a woman holding a bouquet of seemingly dead flowers add to the image’s evident idea of longing for a place that gives a sense of familiarity when you need it the most.
It is needless to say that the COVID-19 pandemic also rocked Cipriano to her core and forced her out of her comfort zone, as many other creatives also experienced. Now, she looks back at how the pandemic affected her working style and how she approaches new work, including the works shown here: “When the pandemic started, I had just made a short film, so I had been spending four or five months in the film world. I hadn’t taken any photos, and I was so excited to get back to, like, working with people, and we wrapped the film like two days before the whole world went into lockdown,” she recalled.
Although the pandemic canceled Cipriano’s initial photo plans, it led to her using herself as a subject in her pieces via dabbling with self-portraiture, to communicate her feelings to herself. Some of those pieces can be seen in this exhibition. “It’s almost like a feedback loop for me,” said Cipriano. “Like [this work] was [me] trying to communicate feelings that I didn’t have words for, but it was also, now, almost like communicating [those feelings] to myself because, during that period, it was too hard to know what to feel, everything felt awful.”
At the basis of Cipriano’s work, she also grapples with the idea of being stuck in a state of mind, feeling, or even in one’s own thoughts. She sees her latest work as a continuation of this idea and how the audience sees themselves in it. “The grouping of photos I put together here is really about personal freedom and trying to find that for yourself, and how it’s never really looked the way I thought it was going to look, and it’s never fully complete either,” Cipriano explained.
Cipriano’s work featured with Cambridge Art Association can be found here. They are also available for sale via the same link.