PeopleView: Megan LaBonte
Daily inspiration in multiple media
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
By Tom Sturm
Photography By Paul Shoul
Photographer and multimedia artist Megan LaBonte was born and raised in the Pioneer Valley, and typically re-invents herself on a daily basis. Whether hula-hooping, gluing thousands of beads or sequins to a life-sized mannequin or staging the next shoot in her year-long self-portrait project 366, LaBonte approaches art with a zest that almost feels like desperation.
The way LaBonte expresses it, art is almost like air to her, a necessity without which her soul would shrivel and die. Though that may sound trite and perhaps a bit precious, it proves painfully genuine in her work, none of which ever appears affected or even tossed off, and is surprisingly original for so prolific an artist (her Web gallery at www.meganlabonte.com has hundreds of images).
Tom Sturm: What’s the latest thing you’ve finished?
Megan LaBonte: Yesterday’s photo. Let me see… that would be number 276. It’s a piece inspired by Ellen Von Unwerth; she’s a model turned photographer who’s done lots of really erotic stuff, but also worked for Vogue and Elle.
TS: You’ve said that you’re planning on assembling your 366 self-portrait project into a book. Have you got any further along on that, or are you waiting for the year to end?
ML: I’m starting to think about it more, putting feelers out about funding and stuff. I really don’t know how it all works—I’ve never published a book. I want to include concepts and drawings and writing.
TS: How have you been getting your stuff out to the world lately?
ML: Primarily Internet; I have Facebook, Flickr, and my own website at www.meganlabonte.com. I’ve also had a few shows, up in Goshen and in New York City.
TS: Recently you were blocked by Facebook for posting pictures containing “nudity.” What’s your response to this?
ML: It’s true. I have mixed feelings about it—although I think it sucks, I understand that Facebook is just too big an entity to possibly moderate that many people. The funny thing is that the picture that got me [temporarily] banned was a picture of my face photoshopped onto a mannequin, so, you know, doll parts.
TS: Do you have any other “mega-projects” in mind for when you finish 366?
ML: I do. I want to make an entire miniature downtown Northampton, kind of like in Beetlejuice. I haven’t quite figured out the logistics of it, but I want to finish it and then move away. I love it here, but I haven’t seen that much of the world.
TS: Do you ever get self-conscious about using yourself as a model/subject?
ML: Yeah, occasionally… I feel like some people look at me and think that because I use myself as a model so much, I’m narcissistic. I get self-conscious about that. In the actual art, I’m pretty much over feeling weird about how I look in the pictures. I’m finally looking at it like acting; being ugly in a picture actually feels really good to me.
TS: Have you thought about packaging your work for sale in the form of postcards, calendars or posters?
ML: Yes, I have—my dad’s been encouraging me to do that since I was, like, sixteen. I’ve sold a lot of prints at my shows, and I’m very into trying to market my stuff in other printed media.
TS: Have you done any illustration for books or promotional campaigns?
ML: No. I do a lot of storyboarding for my concepts, though—I got this cool little book from Acme Surplus. I guess my tarot cards are kind of like illustration—I’m trying to do the twenty-two major [arcana] cards.
TS: What do you envision as a great leap forward for your artistic career?
ML: I think I’m figuring out it’s not so much about making a big splash but more about just steadily keeping your momentum going. I don’t know that I want to necessarily get launched into something too big for me to handle; I’d rather go slowly. Showing my work outside Northampton… maybe even internationally… I’ve done a lot here; it’s nice, but this community has seen it. I’ve done a lot of store windows and stuff, and doing that show in New York made me realize how it’s great to have fresh eyes on my stuff.