Patrick Di Rito - Artist Interview
In 2018 artist Patrick Di Rito debuted his first solo exhibition, Dusty Rose: A Queer Color Series and book release in the multifaceted art complex The Bakery. The exhibit drew the audience in through monochromatic themed photographs depicting queerness, depression, suicidal ideation, isolation, and loneliness. The body of work was visually striking, however the real beauty was within Di Rito’s uninhibited ability to exploit design. The artist’s scrutinizing eye left no detail unaccounted for. The drive behind Di Rito’s creative desire is impressive. When it comes to exploring mediums, his passion to create is limitless.
Patrick Di Rito is an Atlanta based artist who graduated in 2012 from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Summa Cum Laude earning a degree in Architecture. Di Rito went on to attend artists residencies at the Atlanta Printmakers Studio and the Hambidge Center. In 2018, Patrick graduated from WonderRoot’s Hughley Artist Fellowship with a group exhibition at MOCA GA.
During our conversation, Patrick shares with Rigby Ink life growing up and how a body of work spanning 3 years became Dusty Rose. We also discuss artistic challenges such as sparking creative energy after a 40+ hour work week and creating mental space to pursue passions.
Rigby Ink: Where did you grow up and how did Atlanta become home?
PATRICK DI RITO: Where do I begin? I guess technically speaking I’m from the suburbs of Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. When I was young our family moved to Nebraska for my dad’s job. It was a middle of nowhere city…population 5,000. We lived on a former cornfield next to a soybean farm. Very Nebraska.
I remember it was right after the Olympics and I was 6-years old when my family moved to the Atlanta suburbs. That’s where I lived up until I attended Georgia Tech in 2008.
RIGBY INK: I always like to ask people how would you describe yourself as a kid? What were you like?
PD: I was quiet and introverted…like really introverted. I grew up with 4 brothers and sisters and it’s kind of hilarious that each of us including my father were very quiet individuals. Despite there being a total of 7 people in the house, it was a quiet home growing up. My mother was the extrovert and it drove her nuts. I vividly remember sitting down to dinner and because I spoke so little my mother would require me to stand up at the table and share something that happened in my day.
As a kid, I mostly kept to myself and I found enjoyment in painting and drawing. The basement was a sort of makeshift studio for me. I would spend most of my time there exploring creatively.
RIGBY INK: At what point growing up did you pick up a camera?
PD: It was my mom who was the photographer in the family. Growing up while she was still working semi professionally I had no interest in it. However, at the time that my mom’s interest in photography was fading was when I began to experiment with her camera. It was almost as if a switch went off…when she put the camera down for the last time is when I picked it up and “borrowed” it. I kept my mom's camera with me for months at a time and just started shooting anything I found interesting.
While in Georgia Tech I helped start an architectural criticism publication called Gray Matter(s). I contributed to the publication by photographing and writing articles. I think I’d have to say that was the real step towards my career in photography. After graduating I began to shoot documentation style and more artistically. I also discovered Flickr and Tumblr around that time. It was from there that I grew more and more involved in the photography community.
RIGBY INK: You have your hand in a variety of creative projects. Everything from design, architecture, drawing, and photography- as someone who also works full-time how do you create space for those passions?
PD- I would have to say that the biggest challenge I feel is my personal level of energy. Although I have a strong desire to pursue projects outside of work…it is a challenge to harness the energy to move into that creative space after a 10 or 12 hour work day. Ironically, I find myself at work thinking, “if only I was home working on this or that project…” The truth is that my job takes up a lot of mental energy and by the time I’m home I’m just way too tired to start anything. I’d love to get to a place when I had the ability to work less and pursue my creative projects more.
RIGBY INK- Dusty Rose was 3 years in the making. How do you discipline yourself to successfully see a project through despite those challenges?
PD: It was 3 years ago when I first began shooting the images that would become Dusty Rose. Initially, it was me photographing The Queer Color Series, a theme I wanted to explore. As I shot a series of work I began to show excerpts of it. The first of which during a group photography show at Mammal Gallery. Making those very first images was so much fun. I just wanted to keep shooting and exploring. Then various opportunities came about and I was able to show new work as I was creating it. During my residency at the Hambidge Center and then the Hughley Fellowship at WonderRoot. It was soon after that when I released the book, Dusty Rose and showed the collection in its entirety at The Bakery.
RIGBY INK- You’ve shared that Dusty Rose was a 3-year process. In that body of work, you explore topics of depression and loneliness. How was that journey for you emotionally? Was it a heavy exploring that or did you find it to be more cathartic?
PD: For me, most of the process wasn’t going back to an earlier time. I was in it. I’ve had periods of depression on and off since 2012 and I’m on my second therapist. I also didn’t realize that I struggled with anxiety disorder until I saw my first ever therapist. A few members of my family had issues with anxiety and growing up I thought I had a clear understanding of what that looked like. Until that point in my life, I would have never identified as having anxiety based on what I had seen. For me, I assume it showed up in different ways.
Photography in many ways helped me through those feelings. Its one of the reasons why I began shooting more personal work. I began by challenging myself to a Project 365 in which I attempted to shoot one photo a day. It was a crazy goal and I think I got to day 170. From there I went for something more realistic and did weekly photo project, Project 52 up until around week 30. That was when I began shooting for the Queer Color Series. The combination of these photo projects allowed me different ways to explore mental health and depression. There are some photos throughout the project where I was very literally trying to portray death and show my pain. The images were dark and shot in black and white with blood everywhere. It was both a literal and metaphorical middle finger to the world. However, when I made the Queer Color Series I went in a different direction. I made visually beautiful photos around the idea of suicide. By making those images, it gave me an outlet to release those feelings. At least for me, it felt like a healthier outlet rather than sitting in emotional darkness.
RIGBY INK- How do you navigate exploring each medium?
PD: Its been interesting because I’ve always had some overlap in my work. These days there are even more projects that I’m undertaking while working on my next body of work. I can remember back to teenage years while I was painting. The still-life I was painting needed to have a plane painted in it, but I didn’t have a wooden plane. So naturally, I taught myself how to make a wooden plane and incorporated it as a prop into the still-life painting.
I’ve had a natural inclination to construct various elements of my work and that is something I’m exploring much more going forward. I’ve been teaching myself how to sew and design clothes as part of the overall creative direction of these photos I’m making. Designing and building my own light fixtures as well as furniture has also been something that I found to be important to me. My future work is taking on a holistic approach to encompass all aspects of creating an image to really tell a story.
RIGBY INK- What is the secret to avoid distractions?
PD: Something I’ve found to be helpful has been to sign up for shows. Placing an outside deadline on my work gives me a sense of urgency to push through even on the nights where I could easily say I didn’t have the energy for it. I’m not really entering a show looking to win necessarily, but to be able to say to myself, “oh shit, this is has a Sunday deadline.” I’ve always felt that having those deadlines helps to push me forward. The internal stress allows me to just say, “fuck it” to whatever excuse I would make to prevent me from completing a task and get into the studio.
RIGBY INK Ink: What are some of the things that you're excited to be working on in the future?
PD: The direction I want to move in is to incorporate more set and clothing design. Elements that aren’t photography. I’m even working with a friend on a furniture and lighting collaboration. A part of what I enjoy most from the work I do is making things. Going forward I hope that I can make the time for more exploration.
To learn more about Patrick Di Rito visit:
Words Aileen Farshi
Images compliments of Patrick Di Rito
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.