Ellen Kuntz chose a curious way to overcome self-consciousness — photograph herself.
With her vintage look — dark hair, pale skin, full lips — Kuntz is a classic beauty. But like many teenagers, she didn’t think so. When her folks bought her a camera at age 17, it was a liberating experience for Kuntz, who is now 22.
Always artistic but never quite finding her niche, Kuntz got acquainted with her new digital Nikon, taking classes at the Billings Career Center and envisioning a new, more fantastical world.
“There are endless possibilities to the camera," she said. "I feel like I can express myself with it. If you want to use fantasy, you can manipulate the photographs. You can experiment. I never run out of material, I just run out of space on my memory card.”
At 18, Kuntz began turning the camera on herself, at first because as her own model she was easy to work with, and cheap.
“When you take self-portraits, you make yourself vulnerable,” Kuntz said. “You look at the photo objectively, though, and you’re not focusing on questions like, ‘Do I look fat?’ It helped me love myself.”
A two-month trip to Europe last year altered Kuntz’s prospective on art. She traveled across Europe, to London, Paris and Prague, and fell in love with was Berlin.
“It has an interesting history and culture. They are very art centered and the food was delicious,” Kuntz said.
When she returned to Billings, she worked as an assistant to Kibler & Kirch owner and creative director Jeremiah Young, which gave her access to a store front on North Broadway. The location of the former InStep shoe store at 108 N. Broadway will be transformed into her bedroom on April 22, complete with her bed, dresser and decorations.
There will also be dozens of self-portraits of Kuntz in a mosaic pattern in the one-night installation, “Lost In My Bedroom,” open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. And the surprise is that nothing is for sale.
The exhibit is a look into Kuntz’s creative process because she said it all starts in her room.
“The physical representation of my mental space is my room. It doesn’t follow rules and it is colorful,” Kuntz said.
A show she was part of last fall at Montana State University Billings, included two glass cases she decorated to look like her bedroom. The show, curated by MSUB senior Jamie Winter was named for a feminist essay by Virginia Woolf, “Room of One’s Own,” and all of the participating artists responded to that idea.
Kuntz was disappointed in her piece, believing that it could have been much better. She has spent months turning that disappointment into something she could be proud of.
The self-portraits at the installation are in garish pink or blue. Kuntz said she was experimenting with gel filters on her lights and trying to break out of her mold of using muted colors.
“The basis to the show is just to have fun. Art doesn’t have to be serious. I wanted to reflect the way I feel. I am having fun with color and space; I want to loosen up the grip. I’m so young, I don’t want to be pigeonholed.”
With bags of glitter for party favors, balloons to play with, and all of Kuntz's favorite treats to eat, including cupcakes, we can't help but have fun.