Cali M. Banks, an accomplished lens-based artist, brings warmth and intimacy to her work, inviting viewers into a world where personal narratives intertwine with cultural heritage. Currently based in Syracuse, NY, Banks has built a remarkable career exploring the realms of experimental photography and filmmaking. With an MFA in Interdisciplinary Media Arts Practices from the University of Colorado Boulder and a BA in Art and Technology and Global Health Studies from Allegheny College, she has a solid foundation for her artistic endeavours.

At the core of Banks’ artistic practice lies a powerful mission: the reclamation of identity through auto-ethnographic storytelling. She fearlessly delves into the realms of public versus private narratives, challenging narrow and flattened definitions of indigenous art. Banks breathes new life into her cultural heritage, paying homage to ancestral rituals through her evocative photography and filmmaking. Her work possesses a raw quality that elicits a deeply emotional response from viewers. In the face of her imagery, audiences are compelled to confront their own perspectives on women’s bodies and grapple with society’s preconceived notions of what is deemed graphic.

Colour and symbolism play a vital role in Banks’ creative process. She artfully incorporates her personal experiences and background, infusing her work with poetic undertones. Her recent artistic endeavours have led her to discover the poignant connections between her surroundings in Brooklyn and Syracuse and the themes she explores, such as “home,” identity, and sensuality. Banks has developed her own distinctive style of documentary street photography, venturing into uncharted territories within her artistic journey.

Processed with VSCO with fs4 preset

Analogue techniques hold a special place in Banks’ heart, as they allow her to embrace the beauty of unpredictability. There are no guaranteed results or undo buttons when working with analogue, which only adds to the authenticity and genuineness of her art. She relishes the hands-on approach, where she has full control over the creative process. This intimate connection between the artist and her medium yields remarkable results, often exceeding her own expectations.

Processed with VSCO with fp8 preset

The genesis of Banks’ artistic exploration began nearly two years ago when she stumbled upon a tutorial in the Analog Cookbook. At that time, she found herself at a standstill in her work, searching for a new direction. Serendipitously, she had all the materials necessary to embark on this experimental journey. Banks was captivated by the way emulsion could be manipulated, folded, or torn. Emulsion lifts, a popular technique in experimental photography, became the cornerstone of her distinctive body of work titled “Close Enough To Touch.”

Within this series, Banks encapsulates breath, tactility, and layers of sensitivity, both physical and emotional. She delves into the realms of trauma, chronic illness, and the experiences of women, drawing inspiration from her own personal journey. Emulsion lifts and delicate beading act as a barrier between touch and the artist, symbolizing the imprints of trauma on the skin. However, amidst the layers of sensitivity, there is a reclamation of identity, a testament to the unwavering strength of Banks’ indigenous culture. By incorporating traditional beadwork in her signature style, she embarks on a powerful journey of reclamation, highlighting what feels truly genuine to her. Each beaded image holds a single blue bead, a “spirit bead” known in indigenous beadwork, serving as both a distinct signature and a heartfelt homage to her maternal grandfather.

Cali M. Banks infuses her artwork with warmth and intimacy, creating a profound connection between her viewers and the narratives she portrays. Her unique approach to experimental photography challenges conventional boundaries and invites audiences to reflect on their own beliefs, as well as societal norms. Her upcoming presence at the experimental photo festival in Barcelona promises an immersive experience for photography enthusiasts and art lovers alike, providing an opportunity to witness firsthand the emotional depth and visual allure of her captivating creations.