Student Artist Profile- Connor Certa

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Connor Certa holds two fish hooks in his mouth in February 2017 as part of his performance art– Photo Courtesy of Connor Certa.

Connor Certa, a recent transfer student from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, specializes in performance art. Certa is a sophomore majoring in the Visual Arts and plans to graduate in 2020.

Q – Describe your artwork.

A – My work is performance art, so I identify performance art as any sort of action that acknowledges performance. Everything that we do in our lives is performative. To distinguish performance art with everyday life, it is as if I were going into a certain space and say, “This is a performance” while having an audience around me.

Q – Can you tell me about a piece that you were particularly proud of?

A – I do a lot of work in public. One day, I went into the classroom at my previous school before the class arrived. Basically I tore off some of my clothes, went to sleep in the corner of the room, and just waited to see what would happen. How people would notice it? What would they do? Immediately people started referring to me as “It”; I was instantly reduced. They started coming up with their own ideas of what was going on or what was wrong with me. They took pictures of me and posted them on Facebook. I found it interesting to listen to their different interpretations. None of them thought it was a performance, though. They all thought it was completely real and it was weird because I was there for four hours, the duration of the class, and nobody did anything to help me (although they were talking amongst themselves like “oh, should we call a doctor or nurse? Or maybe security?”) But nobody did anything.

Q – How did you get into this?

A – I think any medium that you decide to do, whether it be painting, sculpture, or anything else, has different pros, cons, and goals. What you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re trying to say greatly varies from medium to medium. Certain things you want to convey through painting might not necessarily work in, say, a sculpture. I used to work predominantly with photography and video, and I wasn’t really getting my thoughts across so I decided to try something new. I was looking at work from Marina Abramovic, a famous performance artist. One of her performances seemed to have unlocked something inside of me and showed me the potential of what I could say, through performance.

Q – Do you have any particular inspirations?

A – I think it’s important for artists not to be especially inspired by other artists, because when an artist does a work, they have source materials. They’re being inspired by something so when you’re inspired by an artist’s work, you’re being inspired by something that’s already been interpreted. So I wouldn’t necessarily say Abramovic inspires my work, but she’s certainly someone I look up to.

Q – How have you found Montclair State to foster your creativity and drive as an artist?

A – I feel as though there’s definitely a lot more challenges at MSU in relation to what I want to do because my old school had a lot more freedom. However, I also find it interesting because it is a real campus, so you’re spending so much time in this one location, whereas at my previous school, the whole city was basically the campus. So I find Montclair interesting because it will allow me to do more public performances rather than in an enclosed space like a classroom, so I’m looking forward to that.

Q – Do you feel your art has helped you grow as a person?

A – Well, a lot of my work is based on my emotions or different events in my past. Some of them are a little bit traumatic. I confront it all over again with my work. It definitely helps me reevaluate everything, confront those demons, and hopefully make amends with my past.

Q – Who are your biggest supporters?

A – A lot of teachers have been really supportive and encouraging. At my previous school, I was studying photography for three months before I started focusing on performance. They could’ve easily forced me to take photos, but instead allowed me to follow my passion, being completely encouraging. Jessica Craig Martin was one of my previous teachers who was exceptionally helpful and supportive of my work. So much so, in fact, that I got a tattoo inspired by some advice that she gave me. She really was exceptional.

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