We had the good fortune of connecting with Austin Irving and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Austin, what habits do you feel play an important role in your life?
Cultivating and practicing daily habits is a necessity for me. I thrive with structure and can very quickly start feeling anxious and depressed when I lose sight of my routine. My daily mediation practice is the most important – not only is it something that I really look forward to, it is also something that helps me tremendously in keeping my clarity and focus. I took a course on Transcendental Meditation in February, 2015 and I have been meditating every day since – I am not exaggerating when I say that it has been completely revolutionary. One of the cool things about mediation is that it lays the groundwork for having an effective mindfulness practice – another daily habit that helps me to succeed. I am a highly sensitive person and while this can be a superpower as an artist, it can also make every day things harder to navigate. By practicing mindfulness and observing my thoughts and feelings, I am able to put some distance between myself and some of the more intense emotions that come with being overstimulated, thus creating more mental space for focusing on the tasks at hand.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
For the past fifteen years I’ve traveled around the world making and exhibiting large format analog photographs of spaces that find, follow, comfort, frighten, delight, and haunt me. It is a ritual that helps me make sense of the world and, as I discovered, a way to make visible the hidden aspects of myself that would otherwise remain occluded – visual clues into my inner landscape. In early 2017, the power of my practice to illuminate subterranean currents of internal dissonance, and ultimately initiate self-healing, became apparent via a photographic series aptly entitled: CORNERED, which debuted in Los Angeles in 2018. I realized that these images were visual representations of body dysmorphic disorder: a corporeal prison in which I was trapped. As this revelation dawned on me, I revisited my previous work and noticed that many of my projects such as NOT AN EXIT and WINDOWS, have not only been about investigating tensions that exist in physical environments, but also a subconscious investigation of the veiled inner friction I was experiencing but could not yet articulate. These breakthroughs lead to my seeking help through an intensive outpatient Dialect Behavioral Therapy program. Over the following two years I worked extremely hard to sever the toxic link between my self-worth and my appearance, and transform my relationship to my body, food, exercise, clothing, other bodies, mirrors, advertising, group activities, and my family. There were countless times when I felt there was no end in sight, and it was only with the help of my incredible therapist, friends, and family that I got through the darkest of the dark. National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. And those numbers hardly surprise me as nearly all of my friends and acquaintances have revealed to me that they too have engaged in some kind of disordered eating behavior or suffer from a negative body image. I often notice my ire rise when I think of the vast amounts of mental energy and money expended on self-shaming, dieting, fitness fads, plastic surgery, clothing, and beauty products, that could all be spent in more useful, more necessary ways. Now that I’ve fully absorbed the impact of these paradigm shifts in both my artistic practice and my outlook on life, nothing matters more to me than utilizing my unique perspective to be of service to others who may also feel trapped, specifically within the context of eating disorders, body image, depression and anxiety.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Los Angeles is a treasure trove of fun and interesting things to do, places to visit and things to eat. I love that we are so close to so much beautiful nature, I would for sure take my friends hiking on my favorite hiking trail: Los Liones Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains – the views are spectacular and even when the fog comes in it is truly magical. I am also quite fond of hiking Mandeville Canyon and I would be remiss if I didn’t also take my friends to frolic with my doglet Kodak at the Huntington Dog Beach. And I love love love going to the movies – the Laemmle theaters and the Aero are some of my favorites, as well as the ArcLight (I like the Hollywood location best!). I love to go thrift store shopping, there are several locations of the Jewish Women’s Council Thrift Stores that always deliver, can’t miss those. There is so much good food in this city, we are very spoiled here – I adore this little Argentinian place in Culver City called Grand Casino Cafe. Noshi Sushi is ridiculously good and has been a favorite of mine for Japanese food since I moved here in 2010. And lastly, because it is so much fun and there are endless food options, I would take my friends to Grand Central Market – the Filipino rice bowls at Sari Sari Store are outta sight!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There is no way that I would be able to succeed in making my work if it weren’t for the huge number of exceptional people in my life. My family has been extremely supportive, as have my incredible friends and my terrific boyfriend. It is important to invest in relationships that lift you up and I have been so so so lucky to have an abundance of people who have been there for me every step of the way. My education at NYU was extremely valuable and I am forever grateful that I was able to study with so many wonderful professors. Their passion, attention to detail, mentorship, and encouragement were incredible gifts that have impacted my artistic practice in a very major way. Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a little credit and recognition to my beloved dog, Kodak. She is truly an earth angel and has been such a wonderful friend – she is just the best.
All images © Austin Irving