“I want to help showcase ALL tonalities. I think all color is beautiful and I wanted to highlight the importance of balanced colors.”
Jerad Armijo is a New Mexico-born visual artist, whose delicate, pastel-hued compositions offer us a fascinating glimpse into an ethereal world of his creation.
He first became interested in photography during his mid-teens. ‘Obsessed’ with the work of master photographers, Richard Avedon and Robert Mapplethorpe as well as Andy Warhol, he spent much of his free time in his high school darkroom, experimenting with different processes, manipulating the aesthetic of the film photos he had captured. A la Avedon and Mapplethorpe, and to a lesser extent Warhol, his predominant focus at the time was people: landscapes would not pique his interest until several years later.
Like Georgia O’Keefe whose paintings he asserts ‘exude the brilliance of color’, (something he himself set out to achieve in his own work), he found inspiration in the unique topography of New Mexico. The rugged, peaks, plains, and plateaus, of his home state, provided a willing subject for his enigmatic vision, as well as a unique ‘sense of freedom’.
“…being in the middle of nowhere, away from civilization, where no one can find you. We as humans are never actually “free”, and it’s one of the few times where we can experience true freedom”
In photography he would also find an outlet for his chromesthesia (a form of the rare neurological condition synesthesia, in which colors are perceived in response to stimuli such as words, numbers, or in his case, music). He discovered he had it during his early teens, but it wasn’t until five or six years ago that he fully allowed it to imbue his work.
“I had to figure out an elegant way to showcase it which was a bit troublesome at first. As sounds change in music, so do the tonalities and shapes in my head. I started to find shapes in nature to replicate those that appeared in my head from music, and slowly added colors back into the landscapes. I started this process slowly. In the beginning, I was very controlled with my colors, whereas now I’m more lenient with showcasing my synesthesia.”
His aim is to create work that is balanced in terms of composition, shape, and color, one he has achieved emphatically. Through a combination of clever framing, an extraordinary eye for chromaticity, and at times, innovative techniques, Armijo creates exquisite scenes, bathed in a mélange of pastel hues.
His images often seem to depict a reality different from our own. Actual places, suffused with his subconscious are rendered otherworldly, or at times, surreal. For Armijo, colors have the ability to evoke a litany of different emotions, and he seeks to engender a sense of peace, and tranquillity; a reverie from the often harsh verities of everyday life.
“It’s easy for me to escape reality with my synesthesia. All I need is music, to be in a different state of mind. I want you the viewers to be able to experience a slight moment of what it is to have synesthesia, the feeling of escaping reality through color and shape. My work consists of a variety of concepts such as minimalism, surrealism, color theory, poetry, and abstractionism to help give depth into what my synesthesia is to me.”
Like so many others, Armijo was blighted by depression during his early twenties, to the point where he contemplated ending his life. He eventually made the decision to leave the south and head north, to Oregon, in search of a clean slate. Though initially, he found his new surroundings offered sanctuary from his past experiences, he soon realized he still bore their scars, and thus, turned back to his camera, in search of meaning.
“I used art as a mechanism to translate the negatives of past events into a positive. It’s through this alchemic process that I was able to better understand what happened, learn to grow from those situations, and realize those events make me who I am today. I am now able to accept the past and give viewers a taste of what I consider true balance, through my artwork.”
All images © Jerad Armijo
NB: The 2022 Color Photography Award is open for entries until June 30. Enter here.