Christina Balch and the “Awake” Project

Christina Balch is a Digital Producer at Arnold, but like many others at the agency, she is also an artist in her free time. Christina developed the “Awake” project, which is a new approach to the selfie that promotes authenticity over vanity. She photographs herself shortly after waking up in the morning and posts it on Instagram for the world to see. She started the project in 2012 and continues it today. We sat down with Christina to talk about her project, being a part of the Reclamation II exhibit, and how her job at Arnold has influenced her artwork.

In your words, what is Reclamation II and how does your project, “Awake”, fit in with the theme?

CB: Reclamation II is an exhibit featuring emerging female artists from New England, most of which finished school somewhat recently. The curators chose work by women artists that focus on feminism and domesticity. My piece is the “Awake” installation, the only ongoing project in the exhibit, and it pulls from the feminist performance-based art of the 1970s. The project lives on social media and in the digital world, which some feminist artists of today are doing, but isn’t frequently seen.

What inspired you to start your “Awake” project?

CB: First thing was my really short hair at the time. I would wake up in the mornings and it would be sticking straight up and all over the place. I took selfies, sent them to a few friends, and they would laugh and generally respond positively. But I didn’t post them online because they weren’t attractive photos. Soon enough I started thinking, “Who says these photos have to “attractive” to post them online?” So I started posting these photos as a project in 2012 and now it comprises of almost a thousand selfies.

Do you have any type of rules or guidelines for these photos?

CB: Sort of. When I started this project, I came up with a routine and made myself rules. Since I’m not a morning person, this routine of snapping a photo of myself right after I woke up helped me to get out bed. But now that I’m a couple years in, the rules aren’t that rigid. I don’t take photos every single day, but do try to have a few per week.

Has art always played a big part of your life?

CB: I’ve considered myself an artist for as long as I can remember. It’s always been really important to me and I studied Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University. I currently have an artist studio at Vernon Street Studios, which is a giant, old factory building that now houses artist studios in its top three floors. I’m still expecting to see a ghost or two when I’m working in my studio late at night, but haven’t seen any yet.

How many exhibits have you been a part of throughout your career?

CB: In total, I’ve been a part of 20 shows — a couple solo ones in Boston — and about half of them have been group shows in Los Angeles, where I’m originally from. I’m also fortunate to have done a show in London and a Ted talk a couple of years ago.

How has your day job influenced your photography?

CB: For a long time I kept them separate; for me, the “Awake” project is the first time I allowed my digital producer work to seep into my art. It’s very much inspried by social media, the connotation of selfies and the use of selfies as shareable, non-traditional advertising. And working at Arnold, a high creative environment, has definitely allowed me to be more comfortable using this digital medium.

Nave Gallery
Somerville, MA
December 5-20, 2015

About Reclamation II
Following in the footsteps of women’s rights leaders, activists, and makers, today’s female artists are reclaiming feminism, reclaiming domesticity, and reclaiming their role as makers and creators. Through art, women are reclaiming their powerful place in society.