Our FALL 2013 interview series begins with local icon photographer Shannon Dorn, Art Director at Solsis Productions. Ms. Shannon Dorn has been a mainstay in the cultural community, inspiring soul sisters and brothers alike with her creative genuine spirit and bravado. Collaborating with local artists to bring the subculture of Vegas to life, she has left an illustrious mark on the scene.
INTERVIEW BY JORGE LARA
VIMMAG: Greetings Shannon, how have you been? The first art show I attended of yours was Welcome to the Slums, how was that experience for you?
SHANNON DORN: Hi Jorge, I have been doing good! I have a lot of things I am working on right now and loving every minute. Welcome to the Slums was an amazing comic book inspired art series that came to life with a lot of work and determination. It took over two years to complete the series and we showcased it every month from June to December in 2012. We traveled (a group of artists) to San Diego and displayed the series at a party block from Comic Con convention. We traveled to Denver and had a show at the Art Haus Gallery in the Rhino District, and showcased in Vegas at The Arts Factory, The Ogden, and The Box Office. The experience has been out of this world. A simple idea to create a comic book, turned into SolSis Productions, an amazing mix media art series, and now we have a script for a comic book series and are seeking artist to do the illustration for the book. Welcome to the Slums became a movement, a culture, and a way of life for me. So the experience was amazing and is still as amazing as I move forward in life.
VIMMAG: You've collaborated with Dray Wilmore, on 702 Subculture calendar, having art shows at Huntridge Theatre and collaborating on a limited edition calendar. How did that come about and what was the end product?
SHANNON DORN: Yes, back in 2004 I was part of The Five finger miscount art crew, which was Dray and Ice Berg Slicks crew. At that time the art and music scene was very small but great in so many ways. In the underground, as I would call it back then, there were a ton of talent visual artists and some amazing hip hop groups. Throughout high school hip hop culture inspired me to be creative and thorough my photography I wanted to share the culture that inspired me so much. Saying that, I had a brilliant idea, inspired from the movie “Calendar Girls”, to make an art calendar that promoted the art and culture in Las Vegas. My plan was to reach the masses, so that people would begin to see the art scene developing in Vegas. So I teamed up with Dray and photographer Garald Todd to create this black and white, hip hop style art calendar. The calendar had 13 models that so bravely bared their souls to expose the culture in Vegas. These models modeled nude in outdoor location around the Las Vegas valley. Some were photographed at a skate park at 4:00am, a dark alleyway at 4:00am and on mountaintops to get that beautiful sunrise so early in the morning.
It was a lot of work but without the people involved we would of never made that calendar. I did reach the masses; I sold calendars in Europe and Canada via EBay. I sold out of the calendars that year…. In doing so there was a demand to make another art calendar for 2006. And we did! 702 Subculture presents the Painted Desert. This Calendar was another collaboration now having the models bodies turned to canvas. 10 artists Body painted 13 girls. This was the beginning of the body paint craze that is still happening in Vegas. Artists, Vezun, Dray, KD Matheson, Jason Profant, and several graffiti artists worked with me on this creation. I photographed all the photos this year except July which is a photo taken of me by Garald Todd. In the First Calendar, 702 Subculture, Garald shot 6 of the months and I shot the other 6. He taught me a lot in photography and I am very grateful to have worked with him.
As far as art shows at the Huntridge, I was never a part of the art show themselves, that was 5 Finger Miscounts doing, but I did photograph many art and music events there.
VIMMAG: You are the Art Director of Solsis Productions, how did the idea of it originate? What's the main focal point of the endeavor?
SHANNON DORN: Well Solsis Productions came about when Kat and I began our comic book inspired art series Welcome to the Slums. We needed a crew name and Solsis was just who we were. We called ourselves the soul sisters. We did a photo shoot a while back that was a silhouette style photograph inspired from the Charlie’s Angels logo, but instead of holding weapons we 3 (Kat, Breann, and I) held spray cans and records wearing Afros. This soon became our logo as it was fitting with the soul sister vibe.
The main focus was to have a production team that worked together to create artwork. It starts with an idea that Kat and I have and then we aim to inspire others to work with us so we can display their talents and skills through art. With the artwork we then showcase the many talents at the art event. Whether its dance, art, music, styling, etc. We work with talented artists of all kinds
For example, each model we work with has a distinct style and some have great talents. Many of the models we work with are musically talented or dance savvy and some are just beautiful ladies who support art and culture. We hand choose everyone we work with. We like to work with artist who are creative, those who inspire and those who are positive. We aim to keep the true culture alive in Vegas.
VIMMAG: Tell us a bit of your inspirations growing up. What is your earliest art experience? How did that affect you in the long run?
SHANNON DORN: While I was young my friends were my inspiration. Today friends are still my inspiration. I had a best friend Fallene, whose family was very creative and artistic. They had a house of 4 kids and 2 adults that acted like (responsible) kids. There were many late nights of singing, laughing, creating, and expressing at The Bakers house. She had a playroom like no other with costumes and props and games and snacks and trampolines and a pool and a HUGE teeter-totter that her dad made from the poles that go around a large trampoline….. Basically her house was a huge playground. In our teen years we liked to get dressed up and take photos in front of a white sheet. This was the beginning of my photography inspiration.
In high school I took a photography class junior and senior year. Junior year I went to a photo exhibit that the senior photography class had on display. It was a contest that each school in Clark County entered and then was judged. In school we did black and white photography, so the color category stood out to me. I decided at that moment that I was going to enter the contest when I was as senior in the color category and win 1stplace. And I entered it, and I won 1stplace in the color category between all the high schools in Clark County! This was my inspiration to keep it going.
VIMMAG: You are showcasing your new art series at Let Em Have It Salon for their grand opening this September. How did you meet Fallene Wells?
SHANNON DORN: Fallene is a childhood friend. I met her when I was five. She lived across the street and the day she moved in I went over there and introduced myself. We were great friends for a long time. After the Baker family moved away from the neighborhood we didn’t see each other too much. After high school she moved to Denver and it wasn’t until she got married and had her bachelorette party in Vegas that we met up again. Fallene was my best friend and she inspires me in so many ways. She has followed her dreams and is living her dream. I am very honored to be a part of her dream as a salon owner. She will rotate artwork out of her salon monthly with a new mural painted by an artist every 3 months. She is an awesome fashion designer, who was featured on Project Runway a few years ago and has had many Large Fashion Shows in Denver. She is an awesome hairstylist with a dream to open her own salon. She is amazing!
VIMMAG: You are an acclaimed photographer in your own right, this season you are photographing select interviews for Vim, starting with professional dancer, Torrey Cole. What are you most looking forward to?
SHANNON DORN: I am looking forward to meeting all these talented people. I love to photograph females, as you know, and to photograph a dancer means there will be some great creative energy at the shoot. I am excited to meet Torrey and to create some amazing images with her!
VIMMAG: Tell us about your new art series, how did that come about?
SHANNON DORN: The new art series came about because we knew we needed new art for the show in Denver show since we already showcased Welcome to the Slums in Denver last year. We originally were going to work on Welcome to the Slums part 2, but with life and its journeys we took a different route. This series is quite different than my prior work. It was a challenging series but so far it looks amazing! The new series is titled, Eternal Roots. Inspired from the four earth elements, earth, wind, fire and water. There are four Goddess who represent an earth element in the series. There are four models that we worked with and four different artists. We worked with 2 make up artist and 1 hairstylist for the shoots. This is a much smaller series but I think it’s good to make this show more intimate.
VIMMAG: Lets talk local inspirations, what music art, people, events have inspired you?
SHANNON DORN: Local inspirations. I have been inspired from the day I saw the sidewalks filled with art on the corner of Colorado and Casino Center. First Friday has been a big part of my life and my connection with art. The artist that I meet is my inspiration. Hip-hop culture has been a big part of my work. Soul, Funk, Reggae, Hip Hop, influence and inspire me. One of my favorite local events is The Get Back at the Beauty Bar on First Friday. The music of course is great, but the rawness and realness of the event inspires me greatly. All the DJ’s only spin Vinyl records, they are always in the back yard of the space, right in the alleyways, and they make a party go down till early in the morning. I love it because the break-dancers come out that night and do their thing, which makes the night complete.
I recently went to The Beat Coffeehouse on a Monday night for Human Experience this was very inspiring. Spoken word in a coffee house with talented people, you can’t go wrong. I highly recommend people checking it out. The night I was there, the subject that kept coming up was Inspiration! So perfect.
The Arts Factory is a place where I feel at home. A creative and fun place that has been there since the beginning. I love creating and visiting my fiends gallery in the Arts Factory, Alex Huerta, PeaceNart Studio.
And lastly the Slums inspire me. Shopping carts have inspired many photographs and many locations for photo shoots. But graffiti is my all time visual inspiration. It is the beauty for the city. Well most of it is.
VIMMAG: Do you have any future aspirations you are looking to accomplish? Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years? Or is time irrelevant when it comes to dreams?
SHANNON DORN: In three years I want to have a live workspace in Las Vegas and a house or condo on the beach in California. I have some plans to get me there and am working them out as we speak. I will share those with you later.
VIMMAG: It's been great to have the opportunity to be interviewed you and I'm looking forward to collaborating with you this season on VIM. What's next for you?
SHANNON DORN: Same here. Thank you for letting me be a part of your magazine. I think having a magazine promoting the culture in Vegas is a great idea and I support you in your venture.
Currently right now I am prepping for the Denver show.
I have a photo-shoot of my dog mini and me this weekend. Two talented photographers from Imagine Studios, Shaun Bruscher and Steven Reyes will be doing our photos. These photos will actually be the ones you use for the interview.
I will be traveling to Utah to be with my family at their cabin they like to call the Luv Shack the first week of September.
I have some other things in the works but are keeping them top secret until I have all the logistics panned out. I will say this, that I will always be creating and moving forward to make my visions a reality.
Thank you Jorge for all your support. Let’s keep the culture alive!