Fellows Friday: Q&A with Visual Artist and Filmmaker Tiona McClodden


Tiona Nekkia McClodden, 2016 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Our “Fellows Friday” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

This week, we speak to Tiona McClodden (2016), a visual artist and filmmaker whose work explores gender, race, historical archives, and social change, driven by an interest in, she says, “contemporary renderings of the works of underrepresented figures in Black American history.” McClodden’s interdisciplinary approach encompasses documentary film, experimental video, sculpture, and sound installations. From January 26 – April 2, McClodden’s work will be included in One day this kid will get larger, a group exhibition of emerging contemporary artists, at DePaul Art Museum in Chicago.

Tiona McClodden FF Q&A: Content Block 1

How did you become an artist? Is there a particular experience that drove you to this choice?

I think I would have to say in high school I really tried to approach school presentations with a very strong investment in the aesthetic. The experience that really pushed me towards an experimental film and visual arts practice was being in college and having a moment where I realized that college was not going to allow me the skills to move on really ambitious ideas. I dropped out, got a mentor, and refined the skills I needed at an aggressive rate, and I started making work. This was an important move that really was a difficult one because you are often presented with the college MFA structure to becoming an artist, but for me that structure was suffocating and, quite frankly, stifling in a way that was harmful.

What was the first work of art that really mattered to you? Did it influence your approach to your work?

All of my work matters to me, but the first work of art that actually made me feel firm in my point of view as an artist was completing the first movement of my four-part Be Alarmed series. It was such a massive undertaking, and the years it took to create the series were really tough because at times I didn’t know if I could finish it. From that experience, I have approached my work with immense preparation and outlines due to its serial nature. Most of my [projects] have several parts, so it’s necessary for a script to exist to maintain the cohesiveness of how the parts work together, or not. Finishing that first movement also gave room for my ambition. I now know I can produce large, concept-driven work, and have it be engaging.

Tiona McClodden FF Q&A: Content Block 2

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