Empty Spaces, Part 1

By Jaina Cipriano | September 25, 2020

Empty Spaces is an archive of this historic time and my reaction to it, but it is also an archive of my history and how it began to leak through my bones as I sat alone for months. I am a photographer, production designer and filmmaker—the common thread is that I am a collaborative artist.

I fought for that role. I experienced an isolated childhood growing up in a religious cult. When the lockdown hit I was frozen—my calendar full of growth, expansion and connection slowly drained. The best laid plans, right?

The year 2020 was supposed to include my next two short films, building my first interactive museum installation and leading the set builds at some local theaters. My entire year was derailed. This is not a unique narrative, I know that now, but when it happened I was scared.

My immediate reaction was dramatic, explosive almost. Knowing it was unfair to unload on those close to me, I was only able to fully express my distress and fear during my weekly hour of therapy, and that was not enough. I use the world to connect to myself. It’s the only way I know how to do that. I find myself mirrored in everything I love and do. Sitting alone day after day, I was beginning to lose my connection to the world and subsequently to myself.

A chunk of an unemployment check went to buy stage makeup. As I was testing it out on my skin, something lit up inside me. I began to make myself into characters that felt safe experiencing the emotions that I did not admit to within myself. I went out into many suddenly silent spaces and performed for myself. These moments alone, covered in paint or grime, baking in the start of summer sun, I began to connect again. I found humor in this absurd new world and my place in it.


“Just like nana” (2020)


The best part of working alone is the chance to enter the flow state. With my type of photography this is usually impossible because I must collaborate with my subjects or converse with curious passerby. The pandemic kept strangers at more than an arm’s length and I loved that. I had the space to really sink into what I was doing and to begin to learn more about myself and my process.


“Narrow escape” (2020)

Anxiety lifted. I was present in my body. I connected with my truth—that no matter where I am, no matter how bad things get, I can always come back to creation. I have the power, even if in a small way, to make my own reality.


“Nightmares” (2020)


“Smoke Break”

“What’s Left to Celebrate?” (2020)

Copyright © 2020 Jaina Cipriano
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  1. Maria on September 25, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Omg these are awesome, great job!

  2. Joanne Tarlin on September 26, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Wonderfully expressive.

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