Creator Labs is Up For Its Third Installment

Creator Labs is Up For Its Third Installment

Creator Labs is Up For Its Third Installment

Welcome in Season 3's cross-cultural artist and creators from the Google x LENS visual art program.

Welcome in Season 3's cross-cultural artist and creators from the Google x LENS visual art program.

Text: Valerie Stepanova

Since making its big debut a year ago, the Google x LENS visual art program dubbed Creator Labs continued to support rising talents in the creation of new work and amplify important cultural narratives.

"The ten artists participating in Creator Labs were chosen for their ability to author distinct, concentrated visual essays from sincere, personal points of view," the program's mission statement reads. "Their stories illuminate under-celebrated figures, widen narrow definitions and interrogate human nature to discover new truths. By initiating Creator Labs and bringing attention to the careers of these creators, Google hopes to aid in their continued creation of authentic work."

Today, we're bringing you Creator Labs' next installment: Season 3, featuring artists and image-makers like Andrew Thomas Huang, Natalia Mantini, Josh Goldenberg (Glassface), and others. All film and photography created in the program has been captured on Pixel.

Take a look at the artists featured in Creator Labs: Season 3 below:

Andrew Thomas Huang Self Portraits

For his latest Creator Labs project, image-maker Andrew Thomas Huang continues his exploration of the Asian-American experience, incorporating themes that he touched upon in his last film Lily Chan and the Doom Girls. Quite a departure from filmmaking, his current self-portrait series sees Huang once again return to the heavy VFX image-making that brought on collaborations with the likes of Björk, FKA Twigs, and Thom Yorke.

In these new self-portraits, the Los Angeles-based artist reimagines himself as each of the three mythological dragon kings from Chinese mythology. Known as the Lóng Wáng or 龍王, the figures of the dragon kings appear throughout Chinese literature and the arts, each associated with color and meaning and representing the essence of ancestry, summer, and spring.

Kennedi Carter Cowboys

Born and raised in the South, Kennedi Carter has deep ties with the land and history bound to it.

“I find myself circling back to the relationship Black American’s have with nature and agriculture," Carter says, reflecting on her experience of growing up in the South and examining the deep ties she has with the land and history bound to it.

Drawing inspiration from her childhood experiences in rural America, she creates images which “connect to the outdoors,” allowing her to feel closer to her ancestors "while also providing an opportunity to reflect upon “Black American life post-slavery.” For her new series, Carter documented the ties between agriculture and horsemanship in Black southern communities.

“Despite the fact African Americans, Native Americans, and Mexicans made up a majority of the cowboys that existed in America, their presence has been seemingly erased from the contemporary Americana,” she points out. To redress that erasure, Carter’s images serve as a necessary record of American heritage and history.

Natalia Mantini Community

Photographer Natalia Mantini looks to her personal community for inspiration, focusing on what she refers to as the “strong feminine energy within Black, Indigenous, and people of color.” Her approach to portraiture and commitment to sharing the stories of BIPOC subjects is especially evident in her images of Yalitza Aparicio — the young star of Alfons Cuarón’s Oscar-winning 2019 film Roma — and of Los Angeles’ community of Latinx artists, both shot for The New York Times, to which she is a regular contributor.

For Mantini, who identifies as Latinx and has deep familial ties to Mexico, the subjects of her images for Creator Labs have a diverse range of backgrounds, including artists and healers that serve as an embodiment of “radical beauty.”

Andre Wagner Self Portraits

Here we have another self-portrait series — but this once coming from Andre Wagner, a street photographer whose unique aesthetic and uncanny ability to be in the right place, at the right time landed him on the pages of The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and Vogue.

With the onset of the pandemic, however, Wagner’s creative landscape — the public spaces and crowded streets he traveled — has drastically changed. “I turned the camera on myself more than I normally would,” he notes of his Creator Labs series. Indeed, while one of the hardest parts of the pandemic for Wagner has been his separation from the streets, the accompanying isolation has provided opportunities for creative and personal growth. “Looking back and slowing down helps me build a vision for the future,” the photographer reflects on his time in isolation.

Anthony Prince Leslie The Ville

While Prince's previous Creator Labs project, In My Feelings, explored the effects of (and solutions to) coping with the effects of the pandemic, his current venture explores what he refers to as The Ville — an “Afro-modern interpretation of fantasy” that reconfigures traditional African aesthetics and colonial fashion. Incorporating fanciful, one-of-a-kind costumes in highly stylized locales, the images from The Ville call to mind performance artists like Nick Cave, noted for his “sound suits” and in-situ activations which draw upon the aesthetics and performativity of African culture.

As with In My Feelings, which encouraged viewers of the work to visualize better realities, The Ville is presented as a fictional world “where you can be free,” a fictitious landscape in which “everything that riddles has a rhyme.” Prince’s reimagining of a joyful, holiday fantasia told through the lens of “Afro-modernism” is all the more powerful — and timely — in a year marked by the reckoning of racial inequality in America.

June Canedo Self Portraits

Artist June Canedo’s latest series for Creator Labs continues to explore the intersections of femininity, migration, and manual labor.

As with her 2019 short film titled What Is the Story of Your Name? Qual é a História do Seu Nome?, her current project draws inspiration from the archetypal figure of the domestic worker.

“I’ve been doing a lot of research on the aesthetics of domestic labor and came across a lot of reading on the history of bandanas," Canedo explains. Transforming the bandana from a daily item worn by domestic workers into a symbol that foregrounds their status in society, she fashioned a bandana made from pano de chão, cotton thread and an everyday wash rag. Adding a personal biographical detail, Canedo hand-embroidered a quote — "What is the story of your name?” appearing in Spanish —attributed to her mother, who was herself a domestic worker for 23 years.

As the final step in the project, Canedo photographed herself wearing the bandana. The resulting triptych of self-portrait images is at once a meditation upon themes of migration and labor, as well as a deeply personal reflection on Canedo’s own personal link to it.

Tim Kellner Distant

As with his earlier projects for Creator Labs, filmmaker and composer Tim Kellner looks to nature for inspiration while also reflecting upon his relationship to it during the pandemic lockdown.

“Like many people over the last 7 or 8 months, I’ve been completely separated from most of my close friends," the artist notes. "I started to feel increasingly distant and separate."

The resulting images, which make up Distant, reflect Kellner’s own struggles with isolation and his creative drive to address them. Through the project, Kellner was able to reflect upon his emotional state and connect with others who were experiencing the same thing by virtue of sharing it with the world.

"It was comforting to know that other people felt the same way as I did.”

Mayan ToledanoNo Mamés Part 2

Continuing her Creator Labs series titled No Mamés, Israeli-Moroccan photographer Mayan Toledano returns to Mexico City’s vibrant LGBTQ+ scene, profiling a new group of subjects as she explores the community’s dynamic culture, a space she described as “family-like.”

As with the first installment, Toledano aims to emphasize the inherent beauty of her subjects while also reflecting upon local traditions and customs. And, as with her earlier iteration of the project, Toledano foregrounds her subject’s bedrooms as the setting for their portraits. Shooting in her subject’s bedrooms as opposed to a studio, Toledano notes, is a leveling process: “They are letting me in, and I like that equality in how I create the work.”

Josh Goldenberg (GlassfaceUltradreamer: Episode 3

Artist and image-maker Joshua Goldenberg, who works under the moniker Glassface, found himself once again exploring the impact that the global pandemic has had on artists and their creative process.

“I think we all feel the chaotic energy of the country and world,” he says. As with his prior Creator Labs project, Ultradreamer: Episode 2, Glassface’s third installment of the series also seeks to understand how “chaos affects, informs and benefits both mental health and creative processes.” But whereas the second episode turned the camera on Glassface himself, Episode 3 finds the artist profiling the Grammy-award winning producer Teddy Walton. Having collaborated with some of music’s biggest names — Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, Drake and many others — Walton’s creative process, Glassface notes, “thrives with a bit of chaos.”

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