MEMBER MONDAYS is a weekly interview series highlighting current members & alumni of the Austin School of Film + Austin Cinemaker Space community! Each week, we’ll be featuring one of our incredibly eclectic community members and doing a deep dive into their work. Insight into what makes them, them.

Image-maker Fabian Villa is part of Essentials Creative, a multimedia art collective that focuses on bringing holistic and applied art experiences through photography, fashion, graphic design, video, projection, animation, music, and installation. We talked to the Essentials team (Fabian, Misa Yamamoto, Steven Casanova, Sixto Zavala, Adrian Orozco, and Andrew Anderson) about their creative and collaborative process, and the exciting exhibits they have currently going on in the Austin community.

How did you all meet and come together to create Essentials Creative?

Essentials: We first met in 2011 through our mutual friend and extremely talented DJ, Daecos. We worked together to promote monthly events highlighting his music, and we documented the experiences through photography and poster design. Over time, people started noticing our work–seeing themselves online, on flyers, in photos, across posters, etc. The events began to emphasize identity and fashion, as guests began expressing themselves more for the documentation. In 2014, we operated a professional photography studio before moving to Austin together in 2015, where we took root in the local production and photography scene. Collaborating with more creatives here in town really helped us access more Fine Art, design, and installation opportunities, which led us to today.

You guys are involved in several art forms such as photography, animation, installations and projection. You mentioned working together by adding layers to each project with the different skill sets you each possess. Can you delve into this creative, multi-layer process, and tell us how it all becomes one unified vision?

E: Each member of Essentials has independence to venture into their individual interests, which opens up space for experimentation and curiosity. Collective work is collaborated on with organic growth. For example, one image may have Fabian's signature photography and Steven's lighting dynamics while Misa and Sixto add their personal vision to the design and composition elements. Andrew elevates everything with his style of production, and Adrian tries his best to describe in words and sounds what six people are conveying through visuals! We all place a high value on trust in regards to direction and feedback, so each member's strengths and areas for development are brought into the light and on to the table. We normally practice three or more steps for revision on collective work, and our review process has a structure that emphasizes cooperation rather than control.

I like how you stress instilling a collaborative and diverse environment within your team/work and more importantly, evoking that as well for the people that look at your work. Can you delve into how this visual diversity came together and why it’s important to you?

E: Diversity in identity, perspective, and artistic direction are core values in both our group and our work. It's important for a number of reasons to us as artists, and perhaps even more importantly, to the world of art and design. Part of our goal is to amplify and uplift underrepresented artists, including the whole spectrum of identities that still struggle to find invitation into photoshoots, auditions, and the halls of galleries and museums, let alone the accolades that follow. We aim beyond simply depicting a diverse cast–we actively collaborate with them and include their voices and vision. Visual diversity, unique perspectives, unseen narratives, and stimulating concepts all naturally flow from there. The face of history as we know it, is just that: known. When you peek around the edges, aim the spotlight in another direction, and flip the scripts of power, then you start to envision a future worth depicting.

Your work is very stylized, modern and fashion-forward. You mentioned fashion is a main component and inspiration for you guys in your craft – specifically works from Nick Knight’s Show Studio. How does fashion speak to you and how do you use it to create narratives in your projects?

E: Fashion is a part of culture; it is tied to the very image of humanity (even with nudists, for exceptions make the rule!). Yet within fashion, each individual finds a look or a style that speaks to them, and that look allows them to speak to us. Fashion, where it is a means of self-expression and a performance of identity, is inseparable from narrative because every thread tells a story. Fashion follows narrative; narrative follows fashion. When we collaborate with models, we encourage them to bring their own looks so we can raise their voices alongside our own and that of fashion designers. Their story–their expression–engages, impacts, and shapes our concept. This conversation between what is said and what is unsaid creates tension alongside distinction, and each work has a seed of conflict that drives the narrative forward.

Let’s talk about some of the exciting events you have currently going on in Austin. You have an installation piece at the PrintAustin Invitational: Flux. Can you go into how you got involved in this event and the artwork you’ve contributed to this?

E: Yes, we are very excited about our current shows! Biochromatic was a site specific multi-sensory installation we created for San Antonio's 10th annual Luminaria: Contemporary Arts Festival at the invitation of fellow SA artist Joe de La Cruz, who sat on the festival's Arts Advisory Committee. Paloma Mayorga, Austin-based curator and Austin Chronicle's Best Visual Artist of 2017, encountered our work at that time and was very impressed by the compositions. On behalf of PrintAustin, she invited us to apply our multi-disciplinary approach to serigraphy for flux. We were ecstatic to produce a limited edition of five 2'x 6' Biochromatic prints, incorporating UV-reactive inks on transparent PETG and solvent paper. Each work interacts with site-specific ambient lighting to transform and highlight the multi-layered approach.

You also have two pieces—a fashion film and an image—that are part of Mexic-Arte Museum’s permanent collection and on display in their Fotografía y Nuevos Medios exhibit. What do you hope attendees will take away from looking at these pieces? 

E: Being included in a museum's permanent collection is an honor that so many artists strive towards, so first we are very thankful to all of our supporters and very proud to have come this far. This is a big step for museums in terms of representing more diverse identities and acknowledging the huge efforts in various media than often aren't located in the realm of Fine Art. We are proud to support our community and be a part of this global shift, and hopefully sooner rather than later everyone will be able to walk into a museum, gaze into the art, and see someone who looks like them looking back.

How did you get involved with our Austin Cinemaker Space community?

E: Before we found Austin Cinemaker Space @ Motion Media Arts Center, we operated our studio out of a collective house. But as anyone reading this may know, it is truly a trial to find affordable space for artists in Austin. When we were no longer able to stay at our location, ACS appeared to us like a blessing, too good to be true. We love this space–the studios, the quick booking, the community, and the growth! Seriously, everyone should be here. Now that we are becoming more comfortable in the space, we hope we can host some events here ourselves!

In what ways do you hope your work and efforts will contribute to the Austin community?

E: All of us working and growing here are changing the conversation on who is making art and who is represented in so many traditional spaces. We want to continue that work alongside you. Here in the artist community, we are always looking to reach other like-minded artists to collaborate with and bring into our Essentials universe. Our biggest hope is to inspire others to keep experimenting, keep sharing, and keep creating!