how prue stent went from instagram artist to global star
Prue Stent made her name online for her otherworldly use of bodies, beauty, gender and slime. Now she’s making her mark IRL, and trying to see things from another perspective.
Prue Stent und Honey Long
Being an artist is all about growing up. Long after you've lost your milk teeth you're still changing, evolving, bracing yourself for new experiences and trying to digest them through your work. This is where Prue Stent finds herself now. Recently returned from a residency in the US, she has a fresh Gucci collaboration in her pocket and a bunch of new projects on the horizon. It has been a big year for the artist, luckily she navigated most of it with her best friends and eternal collaborators Honey Long and Clare Longley.
To be clear, at 22-years-old Prue is hardly all grown up. She's still interested in bodies, women, beauty and ugliness. But as she moves from "internet artist" to real deal working professional, she's facing new questions like, how do you explore experiences that aren't your own? And, can you borrow points of view without stifling your subject? We spent a bit of time mulling it all over with her.
Looking back on the year, what was your biggest holy shit moment?
I think getting work overseas: Gucci, and then there were a few residencies with some of my favourite artists. Also just going full freelance. I quit my other job last year and really appreciate being able to support myself through my art and having that freedom. That's probably been my biggest achievement. Just not having to like, work in a hospitality job.
When people ask you what you do, are you comfortable saying, "I'm an artist"?
I usually say I'm a photographer. I feel a bit funny saying I'm an artist. I shouldn't, because I don't actually make any money off commercial photography. But I still feel a bit self-conscious about it. I guess it's the uncertainty of being an artist, that it doesn't really feel like a legitimate job and you never know when you're going to have to go and seek other work. But, yeah, it's just been so fun this last year.
With so much going on, do you feel like your art is changing?
Definitely. The biggest learnings have been from going to the US. Since coming back I've been thinking a lot about how important it is to represent a spectrum of people, skin colours and sexualities. My mind has been really opened. I've always photographed myself and Honey a lot, but that isn't enough. Especially not when there are so many people looking at my work.
That's been my big stepping stone, I'm just figuring out how to navigate it — reaching out to other people, learning more about their experiences, and exploring femininity in all its forms, not just as a female. I've explored all this on a personal level, I've photographed my mum and sister and Honey, but I want to break out. It's terrifying though, I know how sensitive and complex it all is.
I think a lot of people feel like that: they're aware of their space in a conversation, and how much their point of view is or isn't being circulated, but also asking how to respectfully engage with other people's experiences.
I'm kind of open to everything and anything, that's my approach. I'm working on a series with men exploring femininity through wearing women's clothing. I'm into looking at femininity in different areas, but I've spoken to a lot of people and it's a complex subject so I still have a lot to think about with that.
As you said you've always explored gender and identity from a very personal place. Is it intimidating to try and look at it more widely?
Yeah, definitely. I was trying to figure out if it was just me, or if it's become this terrifying subject to go near. A lot of the people I've been speaking to [for her aforementioned series] are like, "I really want to be involved but I'm terrified of the reaction." And they're the ones experiencing gender and identity conflict. I'm conflicted with that whole debate, I feel in a lot of ways people don't really want to talk about it at all, or it's stopping people from being able to talk about it. But maybe it's what needed, because there's so much out there.
It's tricky, if you only look at things from your point of view you're giving a narrow perspective. If you look at it from other people's there is a risk you'll do them a disservice.
You have a lot of responsibility, you're basically making that transition from being responsible for yourself to being responsible for someone else.
Do you think it's harder to be an artist in 2016 than it was in 2006 or even 1996?
Well in 1996 I was three, so it would be harder being an artist then (laughs). I feel there was a period where it was really great, where Instagram and being online was really great, and then all of a sudden, it felt like there are just so many people that are all like, oh I can do this too.
You have a very distinct style, and you've attracted a lot of imitators. How do you feel about people lifting your ideas?
I don't really care.There have been a few times I've been pissed off, especially when I was doing the pink drippy goo and all that stuff, I stopped doing it because it was everywhere. But it also made me realise that it's not that hard to do, and I needed to move in other directions, you can't be too possessive.
So imitation pushes you to be more creative?
Yeah definitely! I get bored, I'm doing stuff every day, I don't want to stay doing squishy pink things, so it's fine. Also I get ideas from things I've seen and will sometimes realise, crap that's really similar to that artist — you don't even realise you're doing it. My stuff is probably a combination of a billion artists.
Do you feel you've grown up a lot over the last few years?
Yes, I'm trying to think why. I'm more relaxed, I've realised you can't control everything and it's important to keep your friends close and not become competitive. Surrounding yourself with artists is also important. Like if my Instagram got deleted, I'd be really annoyed, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. The internet is such a funny place, I don't want to feel too attached to it.
Text Wendy Syfret