Kelsey-Jicarilla Apache Heritage

Artist Statements

American Mosaic

My American Mosaic portrait series celebrates America’s rich multicultural heritage and traditions. The ‘melting pot’ metaphor is being replaced by new metaphors like ‘mosaic’ which suggests an integration that blends yet preserves each culture’s unique qualities rather than promoting one homogenous culture. The photographs illustrate the beauty of a diverse society and explore identity and self-expression.

I have attended many multicultural celebrations and festivals in Colorado over the last five years to find the individuals in this series, all of whom are proudly wearing their own traditional dress. It has been an amazing photographic journey that has enabled me to meet so many remarkable people whose ancestry spans the globe.

My goals for the project are to help preserve ancient traditions passed down through the generations and to encourage cross-cultural understanding, intercultural dialogue, and harmony. In an age of increasing intolerance, my series aims to represent and elevate all cultures in America.

NYC Days

My 'NYC Days' series was photographed during the years I lived in Manhattan from 2000-20 I I and captures a whimsical side of the Big Apple. There is a strong focus on the elements of art such as color, line, shape, and texture. Some images also challenge perception through fragmentation or reflections. The work was inspired by many legendary New York City photographers including Saul Leiter, Lee Friedlander, and Lisette Model.

With the city as my backdrop, I photographed performers, street scenes and events throughout the five boroughs. Having lived in the city during the September 11 attacks, the Iraq war protests, and a few failed romantic relationships, I turned to escapism photography to contrast the gravity of the times. The photographs reveal the creativity, energy, and occasionally, the absurdity of my New York City encounters.

Days Gone By

My Days Gone By series travels back in time to the early days in American history. From the perseverance and courage of pioneers to the legends and misdeeds of cowboys and Indians, these images explore the old anew as a way to remember, honor, and learn from our nation's past.

In pursuit of liberty, and driven in varying degrees by enterprises, desperation, and Manifest Destiny, the early settlers demonstrated immense grit and determination. These traits are particularly vivid in the West, even today. Yet for every storied myth, there is an evocation of hidden tragedy; one cannot view one without sensing the other. Such is America's history and legacy- a reminder of who we are as a nation, where we have come from, and where we may yet go.

Eclectic Nation

My Eclectic Nation series celebrates multiculturalism in America and honors its eclectic mix of people and their heritage. The series documents myriad cultural traditions at festivals in and around my community and illustrates the rich blend of traditional dress, dance, and rituals in America.

I have spent over a decade photographing and experiencing different cultures. I have great admiration for the beautiful traditional fabrics and ways people adorn themselves, which stems from my textile design degree. My goals for the project are to show the beauty of diversity in America and to inspire empathy and cross-cultural understanding.

Sublime Mysteries

My Sublime Mysteries series explores spirituality and mysticism across different cultures. The images examine how individuals attempt to unravel the mysteries of life by connecting with a higher consciousness.

The reportage images focus on religious rituals and idols, spiritual customs, and mystical places. The collage images, created from my photographs, are inspired by legends and mythologies about creation, life, and the afterlife. In all the images, I attempt to capture some of the mystery, wonder, and awe of spirituality.

When West Meets East

My When West Meets East series documents my travels to India to meet my husband’s family and to learn more about his culture. My first visit to this wondrous country was to attend our wedding reception in Kolkata. We returned seven years later with our daughter Sophie and introduced her to many ancient Indian traditions and customs. I photographed both private moments with family as well as public interactions with those I encountered in my travels. With over a billion people, India is the second-most populous country in the world. My images reflect the frenetic pace of urban life in India as well as much-needed retreats to more tranquil environments. As the world’s largest democracy and with its rising economic influence, India has become an influential regional and global power. However, it continues to struggle with huge economic and environmental issues as it attempts to modernize. My images observe the myriad dichotomies - opulence and poverty, ancient and modern, spiritualism and consumerism - that exist side by side in this mystical country.

My photos capture a sense of wonder and intrigue of the exotic and unfamiliar but also document universal themes of love, joy, sadness, and struggle. My goals for the project were to broaden my own understanding of my husband’s culture and therefore of him. Ultimately this is a story about love, acceptance, and the enriching experience of marrying into an Indian family.

China: Ancient to Modern

The photographs in my China: Ancient to Modern series document traditional and contemporary cultures in and around several ancient villages that sit at the base of the Huangshan Mountains (Yellow Mountains) in Anhui Province, China and also include images taken on a train ride from Huangshan to Shanghai. The picturesque villages were developed in harmony with nature, using the principles of Feng Shui, and date back hundreds of years to the Song, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. The photographs include cultural performances, spontaneous moments, landscapes, and portraits of the people I encountered while traveling in this historic region. I believe travel opens our minds to a world where our cultural differences can be a source of inspiration and new perspectives, and that photography can be a means to tell stories that connect people of all cultures.