Studio Visit: Tess Cortes
We explore how things change over time, especially in the time of COVID. We join producer Susan Byrnes as she visits with artist Tess Cortes in Kettering.
I love the way time gradually unfolds in Tess Cortes’ video series Houseproud. Her videos start as traditional looking still-life pictures, but then, she brings the objects to life through digital animation.
Cortes shows us a motionless world that begins to float and shift, changing right before our eyes. Her studio is a repurposed basement bedroom in her home. And that’s where the magic happens.
"I start by getting out some objects, like for instance this milk glass, and then I set it up over here," Cortes gestured. "I just buy some fabric to set as a backdrop, and then I set some of the objects to photograph."
She made an arrangement of household items and vintage dish-ware that’s been passed down in her family.
"I have kind of little stations set up, and then this is where it all comes together,” she said proudly.
Cortes sits at a desk where she’s surrounded by computer monitors. Her cat Ray and I looked on as she clicks a file.
"This is the latest one I’ve done," she said. "It’s a milk glass object, so we have a vase, and a couple of containers, they’re white, and somewhat translucent, but then I have them on a white background, and then I do have some dried plants from my yard. So what happens is within the span of a minute I take some of these objects and I start fading them over time, so the plant kind of disappears in the background first, and then from left to right the different glass objects kind of disappear."
Until a single bone china plate with a border of tiny painted roses is left. Even that finally fades.
"I do want it to change slowly over time," Cortes said. "So in that way it might fool the eye a little bit, if it moves very slowly or changes very slowly, and that’s kind of how time is, especially if we look at our faces or our family members. Some things they change and we don’t even notice they change right away. When I think about working in time, I thought about, 'Well what does that mean?' You know I think as you get older, time has a different significance. I’ve approached middle age and parenting kind of simultaneously, so I think family histories and family stories, I want to weave that history and bring that history into what I’m doing. What I’ve noticed as I’ve been working on this is with the pandemic and people working in their own homes more now, I think there’s been a lot more work being done introspectively or with your immediate surroundings. My work definitely fits in that. For me it’s out of convenience, just because I am a working mom so I’m home a lot with my family. So I think when people were stuck in home or needed to stay home, their art became a lot about what was happening in their surroundings."
The meaning of home has changed for everyone. Cortes’ art reflects her personal experience and our current culture. Her videos offer us something to revisit when our memories of COVID begin to fade.