Welcome to our new column, Botanica World, in which we interview our favorite creative women about inspiration, sustainability, business, and social distancing for public health.
The objective of this series is to bring some positive content to the social media space.
Artists and creators have always persevered and thrived even in times of adversity, and we wanted to check in with our community to share experiences- we are all in this together.
Kourtney Kyung Smith, Photographer & Director
Common Body, Los Angeles
In this article, Kourtney wears Daisy Dress in Black and Astra Hi-Waist Briefs in Black, plus archive pieces from seasons past.
Where have you found inspiration in 2020?
Long walks with my partner. We walk every evening, which is our favorite time to talk through arial-view ideas about the world and dream up new possibilities.
What does sustainability mean to you or your business? What systems have you implemented to prioritize sustainability?
Sustainability is both like a form of spirituality and an art practice for me. It allows me to feel closer to the natural state of things and find more meaning in the objects I live with. I need to feel connected to my environment, so the majority of what I own is either secondhand, thoughtfully made from people I trust, or we made it ourselves. In this sense, sustainability feels more like a lens for me rather than a formula.
In recent decades, American Capitalism has encouraged us to limit aesthetic value to what something looks like, or optics, as a way to feed its own system. But I don’t believe holistic beauty comes just from what something looks like. It is the culmination of its history and its future lumped into one symbolic thing. An object’s potential beauty-meaning is tied to the way the material is sourced, constructed, profited from, and how it will be discarded in the end. It’s the difference between cultivating a garden and decorating with silk flowers. We often unknowingly sacrifice the real thing for the illusion of it — I think sustainability is the natural outcome of valuing the real.
Kandinsky talks about this idea with regards to the emptiness of things made for the moment, “This art, which has no power for the future, which is only a child of the age and cannot become a mother of the future, is a barren art. She is transitory and to all intent dies the moment the atmosphere alters which nourished her.”
My aim is to build my environment out of things that will continue on to be a mother of the future.
Who are the women in your community that inspire you? Do you have a mentor?
I feel lucky to know many women that inspire me in my community. Maria Dora, Valerie and Keren of LOQ, and Olivia of Nonna are a few women that particularly inspire me with their generosity and supportive natures. Their desire to empower people in their communities is rare to find mixed with such talent and know-how.
As far as mentorship goes, there is a mixed bag of film directors, artists, and philosophers I feel I learn a lot from. Claire Denis, Lucretia Martel, Céline Sciamma, and Agnes Varda are just a few.
What has been your biggest challenge in your career? How did you approach it?
My biggest challenge in my career has actually been internal. I feel like I live in a few different worlds and it’s sometimes hard to reconcile them. My satisfaction in photography comes more-so from the tactile nature of analog processes and the collaborative relationships I’ve built with my clients. Those things feel like they’re living and breathing to me rather than a static capture in and of itself. Academia and the film industry are arenas that best marry my interests: research, philosophy, psychology, history, and all of the arts. I’ve found ways to enter into the theory conversation in those spaces in the past year or two, which is especially fulfilling for me. My partner and I also have a project called Common Body which allows us to make art together. I’m learning to embrace the fact that I rely on the synergy these things to feel nourished and propel me forward.
Society is facing an unprecedented situation with the effects of COVID-19. What have you been doing to stay grounded and mindful during these times? Do you maybe have a recipe or favorite pastime to share while we are all at home?
I find little ways to connect with my body throughout the day. Things like opening the windows to feel the breeze, reading in the sunny corner of the room, and tinkering around on the piano are daily check-ins for me. I also had a stint during quarantine where I was revisiting all of my favorite “fantasy, fairy tale,& feel good” films at the time when I needed it most. That was a lot of fun and helped me experience enough whimsy to get me through those bleak few weeks. I’m planning to share that quirky list soon so someone else can share in the magic too.
Thanks to Kourtney for contributing to Botanica World! We are thankful for her work as a collaborator and as an advocate for sustainable living on social media. Follow her on Instagram at @kourtneykyung.