An Interview with Josi Etter

Josi Etter is a visual artist living and working in Rochester, NY. Josi was a Printmaking & Book Arts, artist-in-residence from 2019 – 2021 and currently teaches a variety of classes at Flower City Arts Center. Her exhibition, Stars + Bars: No Country for Beginners was on display in the Sunken Room Gallery at Flower City Arts Center throughout December 2021. Below, Josi answers questions about her artwork and process.

For those that were unable to see Stars + Bars: No Country for Beginners in person, can you describe the exhibition?

Stars + Bars is a critical view of a country filled with paradox and difficulty.

It is artwork about American people and places and their internal and external struggle.

I try to explain and visualize our discord in a subtle, graphic and aesthetic tale. 

It is a view from a foreign insider’s perspective. The work consists of etchings, sculpture and some interactive parts (“Merchandise Stand”, “American News Raffle” and the conceptual artwork: “Who is for sale?”).

Can you describe your latest body of work?

I come from a painting background and this show is something very new to me. 

The work is created using a “drypoint etching technique” with a combination of acrylics, pencil drawing and gold leaf. Color is used very sparse, lines and shapes are the main focus. It is a very precise and time consuming technique and requires a lot of patience. Etching does not leave a lot of room for errors. 

Although the lines are drawn fine, the work seems bold and is certainly figurative.

In addition, I enjoyed creating different kinds of three dimensional sculpture for the show and think that they are a good supplement.

What did you learn during your time as an artist-in-residence at Flower City Arts Center?

I learned that I am a very inquisitive person. I always want to see and learn what other people work on. It is very inspiring to have other artists and people around who create high quality work.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere. I look quietly around at people, streets, landscapes, nature, pictures and there it is….

Keep in mind that the American culture is still new to me, and therefore I do see things with “fresh, curious eyes”.

What is your favorite time of day to be in the studio?

The hard work is generally done in the morning. It is the most quiet time and I have the most energy. Though I collect ideas and sketches during any time of the day or during the stillness of the night.

What motivates you to create?

That is a really hard question to answer…

It’s an inner urge. I think it just has to get out! 

It’s like a cup which overflows and when it’s full, it spills over and that’s what makes interesting art then. Maybe that’s how it works?!

What do you think makes a good artist?

The ability to observe and to feel a lot of empathy for your surroundings. You have to be a good reader of the world and be able to find things within yourself to mirror them on to some sort of canvas. 

You also need time – time is a good teacher.

One has to find the intricate balance between truth, beauty and craftsmanship. That makes good art for me.

First Light Reception

Looking for an enriching and interesting event this weekend? I’d love to draw your attention to First Light, an off-site exhibition focusing on the stories of six women veterans through black and white photography and writing. First Light is the culminating event of a 12-week photography and writing program, Eyes Front, with Flower City Arts Center.

Eyes Front is a 12-week photography and writing program for women combat veterans; an opportunity for them to express, both visually and in writing, their unique experiences and to share their stories with the community. By engaging in an intensive creative experience, participants explore topics of importance to them such as why they joined the military, its significance for them, various issues they have faced, or other personal reflections. Participants were immersed in the entire process of photography – learning how to use a film camera, taking pictures at home and in the community, and printing their own black and white images.

This exhibition is up from currently at Image City Photography Gallery and will be open until September 1st. Join us for the exhibition reception tomorrow, August 17th 5pm-8pm!

Click here get more information about the event our click here to learn more about our Eyes Front program!

Body Autonomy and Femininity

What does it look like for a woman to have agency over her body? What does sexual sovereignty look and feel like in the bedroom and on the street? What sort of relationships evolve with self, soul, body and other when a woman stops seeing her body as a vessel of god’s will and a vessel of her own free thinking, powered by the divine creative principle?


When we begin to re-imagine the feminine in its entirety, and femininity as a powerful expression of sensuality and creation, a healing takes place within our minds, identities, and communities.

Good Wife Mock-up

Throughout my residency, I have used the camera within my domicile and in the studio to catalog an ongoing inquiry of my relationship to sensuality, intimacy, sexuality, performance of femininity and expression of empowered feminine principles. I have worked with significant feminine archetypes, costume, lighting, set design and movement to navigate feelings of isolation, desire, morality, and internalized oppression whereas my body has been the subject of considerable collective sexual objectification throughout my life.  As I reflect on my time at the Flower City Arts Center I recognize how much I continue to hold myself back in expressing my body, and my work, as my own. Too often, I seek external permission to be transgressive as a means of cultural transformation.

Strength On Point

I recognize I am taking part in the cultural changes currently underway. Yet, I am still finding my voice, learning how to amplify it in an ocean of wisdom that continues to build momentum against systemic oppression of the feminine, nature and a queer, inclusive future. This is to say there is work to do, and I am here to do it. My mission at this moment is to come into more clarity, synthesis, and efficacy in implementing my vision, my philosophy and my dharma in the world. I am here to be a leader, a cultural change agent, and it is my commitment to be very good at it.

Myths of the Sacred Wound opens Saturday, April 6th-27th. Opening Reception from 5-8pm Saturday, April 6th. Live Performance at 7:22 pm.

Failure is Not an Option

Bad News.


I sent my 4×5 Portra 160 film and one roll of Portra 400 120mm film from the last three studio sessions I have done with the hopeful anticipation of getting back some beautiful images. I was going to take these large format film sheets and make composite images for my final prints for my show opening April 6th.


One-for-one, the 4×5’s were unexposed. The questions that arise here are:



We used the meter and set up the lighting. Yes, the lens cap was off,. Yes, slides had been removed. We even used my digital camera to set our exposure and aperture to get a good idea of out lighting situation. Likely, they’d be a little underexposed, but since I’d be scanning and digitally printing I had some room for error. I could always bring up the exposure in photoshop.

Louis Chavez in the Studio


But something, somewhere, at some point, got lost in translation.


Edgar at Praus couldn’t figure why. Megan Charland promised it would drive her mad until she figured out what could have happened; she’s reaching out to fellow film heads to get some answers. Louis Chavez was incredulous.


Personally, I had to take a moment to just allow the disappointment to sink in. There is heartbreak here. It’s sort of the worst case scenario when it comes to film development; your film doesn’t turn out or is ruined at some point in the development process.


I watched. I breathed. I bathed.


Then, I made dinner. And in the middle of making dinner, surrounded by potential turmoil and the churning of a New Moon in Pisces, Mercury stationing Retrograde and this unfortunate failure, I had a resolve.


This is a test. A test of my resilience, my creative perspective. A test of surrender, problem solving and determination. I wasn’t gonna get caught up in a failure spiral. Instead, I was going to be a f*$king bad a$$ and turn this all into creative potential immediately.


I wrote a blog post for my Creative Cycles Mentorship page (here). And I decided to focus on what WAS working and what I had to work with.

Set Design for “The High Priestess”


Good News.


The 120mm film that Louis Chavez shot for me turned out great. I have also used my digital camera as a back up in every one of my sessions to ensure there was some form of an image to work with. You know, just in case the film sucked or turned out poorly.


I have time, resources and community support to work my final images into something beautiful, profound and important. I have time after my show to reshoot in film if I so desire (which I do).


My resolve was to understand and accept that a failure within a process is not a reflection of my identity. I failed, but I am not a failure. The failure is an opportunity to learn, grow and develop my character, my creative ingenuity and my problem-solving skills.


This failure gives me an opportunity to ask the images what they want and need from me and how I can be in service to their final expression rather than take a controlling and perfectionist driven position.


Surrender, allow flow.


My resolve was to focus on what WAS working and what I DID have rather than drowned in the despair of what wasn’t available and what didn’t turn out.


Isn’t that such an important lesson for life situations?! True creative mastery and flow evolve from focusing on what is right in front of you, giving attention to what is working and allow THAT to drive you forward into the next stage of success.

This Is All For Me

Today is the first day of a New Year on the Gregorian Calendar. A societally ordained freshness slated for beginning new patterns of self.


I am focused on two things:


1) Boundaries


2) Imperfection


My word for the year 2019 is “Boundaries.”


As a caretaking, creative, femme, empath, socialized by family and society to disregard my own needs, wants and desires, BOUNDARIES become a sanctuary in which I can rage, create and divine myself without apology.

Rage, Create, Divine, 2018

My Boundaries are Sovereign. My Boundaries are my Sovereignty.


There is a program. It’s called “Being Nice.” “Being Pleasant.” “Being Helpful.”


All these programs are about feminine socialization. “Be Nice,” teaches women to put men’s sexual needs, preferences, desires and feelings before there own. Not universally and not only men and not only women who date men. But for me personally and for many women I have spoken to, concern for hurting a man’s feelings during a sexual encounter has kept us silent to our own boundaries simply because we did not want to “hurt his feelings.” Literally, put our own bodies boundaries and desires second to the feelings of the other. This. Infuriates. Me.


“Be Pleasant” keeps us silent in the face of injustice ON A DAILY BASIS.


“Be Helpful” conditions us to prioritize the needs of others and the domestic duties, primarily unpaid in a capitalist industry that eats away at our time and our sovereignty. I get it, we need to feed and bath and clean up after ourselves. But who made us believe we had to feed and bathe and clean up after the patriarchy. I’m angry and I’m already cutting off my own tongue not to speak against it. Internalized Sexism.


The primary Boundaries I am focusing on our my internal Boundaries.


Listening to, honoring and enforcing these Boundaries will lead to healthy external Boundaries. I am reclaiming my time, my energy and my daily ritual habits to give my life force over to my Purpose which is to Teach, to Write, To Heal and To Create Art.


This will bring us to IMPERFECTION.


Every. Creative. Impulse. Has fallen victim to an internal bottleneck.


(I speak for myself)


PERFECTION stifles creative expression. So, I invite myself, in light of this new day, to be messy, imperfect, undone, and unfinished and allow that to be what is present. I surrender to the chaos of the eternal divine beginning. She is a master of becoming.


It becomes less important to me if you understand this or find it appropriate or interesting. I trust it is for those who need it and who will it and for them, it will be as sweet an adaptogen as can be distilled from thought.


When you are looking at my images in April. When you are wondering where the ideas and meaning come from, know they are threaded here in these words, on this day of liberation.


I will be imperfect and impolite. I will be bloody and clear and direct. I will not apologize.

A Day at the Museum

I had the opportunity to tag along with the Studio Photography for Teens class on their trip to the George Eastman Museum and document the experience. At the Museum we all met David Levinthal who gave us a tour of the exhibition of his work, David Levinthal: War, Myth, Desire. As he walked us though the exhibition Levinthal explained how he began taking photographs of toys and where the inspiration for many of his photos came from. He talked about his love for history and how it has influenced so much of his work over the years, and how pure experimentation and curiosity has affected his work as well.

Levinthal stated that problem solving is a very important part of this work. In fact, he said that was one of the main reasons he began to take photos of toys to begin with. He explained that early on he didn’t like to shoot in a studio and the toy dioramas allowed him to shoot almost anywhere and use simple lighting techniques as opposed to large studio lights.

At one point in the exhibition we saw an example of a diorama he had used. We got to see first hand the scale of the sets he was working with as he explained where he got his materials from, and how he composed many of his dioramas. He also showed us the notes and small stick figure drawings that he makes when planing out a diorama. He stated that he often has an image in his head and used this method to create it.

After Levinthal had walked us though the exhibition and explained his process and the thought behind much of his work, the students had a few moments to roam and take everything in for themselves. We then returned to Flower City Arts Center, where the students then had the opportunity to show Levinthal some of their own work. He helped them with their dioramas and he gave them some tips on how to get them to perform the way they want, as well as feedback on their photos. Then he stayed and talked with the students about their work and their interest in photography until it was time for the students to clean up for the day.

Over the next couple of days the students continued to work and create their own photos in the style of David Levinthal. Not only did the students take digital photos of their dioramas but they had the opportunity to use a Fujifilm Instax Wide instant film camera. After compiling so many great images the students crated an online exhibition of their own work.

Interview with Louis Chavez

This week we launched our fourth online exhibition: One Year Later | Experiments in Process by Louis Chavez. I first met Louis last summer when I gave them a tour of our darkrooms. I remember being slightly taken aback when they were only interested in film processing, and not printing. Part of the magic of the darkroom is the print after all! I soon discovered that Louis made digital prints from their negative scans – the print was still an important part of their practice. Over the past several months I’ve really enjoyed watching Louis experiment in our darkrooms. Louis has also been an active member of our Darkroom Club where they’ve brought in their color film photographs. Learn more about Louis’ practice in my interview with them below.

Megan Charland: You only recently started incorporating photography into your art practice. Can you share what this medium adds to your practice and what using a camera means to you?

Louis Chavez: I’ve been into photography since I was a kid, mostly shooting with cheap toy or thrift store cameras, but it was only this year that I began to focus on learning the ins and outs of shooting with a film SLR. Using a camera allows me to represent my surroundings as authentically as I possibly can, and it has been one of the best ways for me to share these stories and bring visibility to queer and other marginalized communities.

MC: You almost exclusively are shooting film, correct? Why film photography?

LC: Film has always struck me as so much more warm and vibrant. The tones you capture when working with photo emulsion are unlike anything you see with digital, and you can alter your entire feel by choosing a different film stock. Along with photography, I have also done a good deal of screen printing, which often incorporates photo emulsion into the process of making your screen. Transferring an image to emulsion, via lens or a transparency sheet, is such a cool and interesting technique.

MC: I’m looking forward to seeing your upcoming newsprint zine you’ve been teasing – what can we expect from this project? Have you seen your zine practice shift since you started working with photography?

LC: It was never meant to be a tease so much as it’s more a matter of indecision. I find it difficult to choose which images to put in print, because that always feels so final… but making that commitment is also the point. In keeping with the tradition of analog media, I think photo work ought to be put in print, and to be shared with your audience in a tangible form. With photo zines, I tend to be more concerned with the quality of the output — from the paper type to the ink quality. For my online exhibition here, I really wanted to share a culmination of this year’s work — both online and in the form of a tabloid-sized newsprint zine.

MC: For your online exhibition here you shared different processes you’ve experimented with over the past year. What does 2018 look like for you? Are there any additional processes you are looking to experiment with, or current processes you are excited to master?

LC: I began scanning my own film this year, utilizing the facilities at the Flower City Art Center, and it has encouraged me to pick up my own scanner in order to gain a more thorough understanding of scan techniques and color correction. My goal is to have a minimal setup of bulk film, developing supplies and a scanner in order to produce images at the most inexpensive rate I can. Aside from that, I’d like to further explore documentary and editorial projects, and begin to work as a photographer on a semi-regular basis.

Interview with Citlali Fabián

This week we launched our third online exhibition: It is called the American Flag by Citlali Fabián. Citlali was an artist-in-residence here at the Center this summer where she started working on a new photographic project. This online exhibition is a culmination of her three month residency – and I’m already looking forward to having Citlali back here in Rochester next year!

Megan Charland: For this project you used a Fuji Instax camera. Why did you decide to use instant film for these photos when you primarily photograph with black and white film?

Citlali Fabián: Different projects requires different ways to approach them. In the case of this particular project I think shooting in color was necessary to me because showing color from the flag and the houses were important to collect more information and to exalt the flag’s presence. Also instax film help me to creat photographic objects with a unique essence.

MC: Is this project complete? If not, at what point do you think it will be finished?

CF: Not yet. I have a clear idea about how I want to finish it. But unfortunately my time here went so fast. I’m planing to come next year to finish it and publish a book about it.

MC: You started It is called the American Flag while a resident here at Flower City Arts Center this summer. What do you plan on working on once you return to Mexico this fall? Do you see a Mexican Flag project in your future?

CF: I’m planning to finish a long term photographic project called Apuntes sobre mi madre this fall.  It is a wet plate collodion project that I will show next year in Houston and Rochester.

I don’t think I will do a project about the Mexican flag because it has a different impact. I don’t see Mexican flags there every three four houses as here.  They have a presence on government buildings, during the World Cup or at Independence Day on September 16th.

MC: You recently completed a Certificate in Photographic Preservation and Collection Management from the George Eastman Museum. How does this professional experience impact your personal art practice?

CF: This experience let me see and start to plan better ways to develop my career. But definitely the best and more constructive part to me was been able to see master pieces from different renowned artists. That experience changed and opened up my mind. I believe as visual artist part of our duty is saw art because we grown from it. I feel so lucky to been able to see images that I knew from books and to be able to appreciate their without the glass between us. My favorite so far Julia Margaret Cameron images.

Plastic Waste

Through my documentary photography I explore the human condition and the individual paths people take on their journey. Photography for me, has been an exploration of self-discovery as I tend towards issues that have affected me personally. My hope is always to raise an awareness and open the door for conversation.

Plastic waste picked up along Hamlin Beach

Plastics: Our Human Waste has been an education unlike no other. The evolution of this project came about due to my anxiety over litter. It seemed to me that many of the issues I document have

Go Green, Braddock Heights Beach

Black Plastic, Braddock Heights Beach

no concrete solutions. Litter on the other hand seems an easy fix. Don’t litter. Recycle. Pick it up. I am now aware that it is not that easy. My approach to Plastics came about after spending a day at Hamlin Beach along the shore of Lake Ontario. Looking around I was blown away at the amount of litter washed up. This wasn’t just any old litter, it was all plastic.

Bottle caps in all colors and sizes are strewn across our parks and beaches. To be recycled, a plastic cap must be kept on the bottle otherwise it is considered a contaminant. Caps get into our waterways most often by way of littering. Littered bottle caps are washed into storm drains, making their way into bodies of water. Eventually breaking down, the plastic become false food for marine life. Photo by Daryl Thaler. #KeepTheCapAttached

Picking up this plastic as though it were sea glass, I started sorting by color, shapes, and size. Working my way through Braddock, Durand and Webster beaches picking up plastic became a daily routine. The enormous amount of multi-colored plastic waste became overwhelming.

Plastic tampon applicators are abundant along Lake Ontario beaches. Photo by Daryl Thaler. #Refuse

Researching plastic in Lake Ontario was scary:

In 2012 and 2013 NGO 5 Gyres sampled areas of Lake Ontario, they recorded levels of plastic as high as 1.1 million particles per square km. – NOW Toronto News

Alex Mifflin of NOW Toronto states, “Just like the infamous garbage patches of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, our own backyard has been turned into a plastic soup – only our lakes have even higher concentrations of plastics than the biggest ocean garbage patches.

Plastic debris recovered by Juan Pablo Munoz’s marine biology lab at the GAIAS Institute in the Galápagos Islands. Photo by Ben McLauchlin

I raised an awareness within my own family. Thinking we have a relatively small footprint, I was so wrong, plastic is used in every facet of our lives. It is my hope that these images alongside the actual plastic collected from the shores of Lake Ontario will raise an awareness in you.

Sea life sculptures made from discarded plastic found in Binghamton, NY by Ben McLauchlin

Saturday, August 19th, I will be hosting an Artist Talk on Plastics: Our Human Waste at the Flower City Arts Center. I have several guests joining me to include photographers who participated in documenting plastic and litter Jacalyn Meyvis and Erica Jae, my husband, Daryl Thaler who ventured out with me weekly collecting plastic waste along beaches and Ben McLauchlin, a Rochester native and Binghamton University student focusing on environmental studies and graphic design. Ben has participated in research in the Galapagos Islands studying plastic and will be talking about his experiences as well as sharing his images.

While at the talk you can check out images of plastic collected along Lake Ontario beaches and litter from Rochester area parks, the actual plastic that was swimming in the lake, and some cool artwork created by local artisans from the plastic.

Mermaid created out of plastic waste found along Lake Ontario beaches, by Kelly Cheatle of Airigami Balloon Creations

Remember: Reduce. Recycle. Reuse. Refuse.

Plastics – Our Human Waste

Passionate about litterplastic pollution?

When I started working on my personal project as a Photography Artist in Residence at Flower City Arts Center, I had no idea it would change how I see the world as much as it has. I mean litter, how original can I be with that subject? I photograph people…yet to my surprise I have raised my own awareness!! Excitedly the community is joining me in cleaning up our Lake Ontario shoreline and parks in Monroe County and beyond, you can too!

I will be hosting plastic picking pop-ups as a part of my upcoming exhibit Plastics: Our Weakness. Perhaps we can start a movement together.

Unlike mini Clean Sweeps these events will be freelance so to speak. You will need to provide your own gloves, nifty grabbers, and bags for sorting. I have no doubt plastic litter will inspire the artist activist in you!!
I’ll be in the north side parking lot along the shoreline, furthest to the east in a dark blue, rusty ford escape. Message me at arleen.thaler@gmail for more details!

A small portion of plastic litter picked up along the Lake Ontario shoreline this summer.