We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristen Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristen, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Ever since I was young, I’ve loved art in all its forms. Art has always been the most important form of self-expression for me, whether I was creating it or being moved by it. I’ve struggled with my mental health throughout basically the entirety of my life, so having an outlet for all the strange, difficult things I feel has been my most important tool in understanding and surviving my mind and the world around me. I started drawing and doing digital art when I was 8 or 9 and, as I grew older, I found myself drawn towards more collaborative art forms like film and photography. I’ve found that nothing brings me more genuine euphoria than creating with other amazing, talented individuals. My greatest dream is to spend the rest of my life creating beautiful, authentic, weird, and emotional works with people I love, whose work I love. That’s why I decided to pursue a creative career. If we’re gonna spend such a large portion of our lives working, I wanted to spend it creating lovely things with lovely people.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My work typically centers around celebrating queerness and expressions of gender euphoria, examining themes surrounding death and horror, and discussing mental illness and recovery. It’s extremely important to me that my work feels grounded, genuine, and well-informed, despite some of its otherworldly elements. As a queer person, I get so tired of seeing work about queer people that is produced/directed/written by cis heterosexual folks, because very rarely are their depictions of queer people and their lives and struggles very authentic. The same goes for stories about people struggling with grief or mental illness, I’ve seen a lot of work that seems to be written by people who have little to no understanding of mental illness, and thus their depictions of it are overblown, over-dramatic, terrifying, or genuinely harmful. It’s so important to me that, if I have queer representation or depictions of mental illness in a piece, that they are genuine, helpful, real, and honest, and not harmful. That’s why I also think collaboration is so important, I feel like the more voices you have on a project, the more genuine it becomes, because it’s not just coming from one person’s perspective. Professionally I definitely still have a LOT of growing to do. I only just really “started” my creative career. I feel like I’m just starting to get some recognition for my work, as my films have started getting into festivals and I’m just starting to get hired to do creative work, as I just directed my first “professional” piece with PBS. It definitely wasn’t easy even getting to this early point, it’s so hard for people to take you seriously when you’re so young, especially in the film industry, especially as a queer femme working in largely male dominated industries. I’ve also struggled with major burnout after some projects where I did way too much by myself. I think the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far are to really advocate for yourself and put yourself out there and trust your creative voice, and fight for it to be heard. But I’m also starting to learn when to take a step back and trust others visions and talents. I think one of the biggest lessons I need to learn right now is to find balance between creating and my personal life and self-care and find ways to take time to rest and not try to force myself to create things when I’m not feeling inspired. We live in such a grind culture and, especially as artists, I feel like there’s so much pressure to keep producing content to stay relevant to some of the algorithms. I think finding space to rest and ways to create for fun is so important, not just for your physical and mental health but your creative health as well.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my friend was visiting (in non-Covid times of course), I would definitely take them to all my favorite spots. We could go to Stella’s Coffee Haus for coffee, of course. Then, perhaps we would go shopping at Ritualcravt, Twist and Shout, Herb and Arts or browse at Muntiny Information Cafe. Then, we could eat at the Welton St. Cafe, the Torta Grill, La Fogata, Perogis Factory, Pepper Asian Bistro, or Zeps. Then, we could see a show at the Larimer Lounge, Lost Lake, or the Hi Dive or we could go to Milk Bar or Tracks, or go to Dive Inn, the Hornet or Punch Bowl. Denver has so many amazing places to eat, drink, hangout, it’s so hard to pick!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to give a HUGE shoutout to to all my incredible friends, fellow artists and collaborators. This past year has really shown me the value of collaboration, and made me miss it dearly. I am so lucky to have so many wonderful and talented friends and fellow artists in my life. Whether they have helped directly with my projects or if they’ve just provided creative/emotional support throughout the process, my work would not be what it is without their presence in it. I want to thank them all from the bottom of my heart, for always encouraging me through all of my creative endeavors, no matter how insane, and for always inspiring me with their own amazing work.
Personal photo by Maighdeline Rose Gordon.