Triiibe: We need to start off by saying that we, being Alicia, Sara and Kelly are performance artists and Cary is the photographer. Triiibe is unique because first off, we are triplets. We have always been part of a walking performance. We become artists when we change our clothes. When we began making artwork as individuals, we realized that people didn’t give the same attention to the work that we were making as opposed to us walking down the street together. So, we started using us as a tool. We enjoy doing public performances and people don’t necessarily know about the events in advance. We enjoy making work that catches people off guard and by surprise.
JL: Jeffrey Keough, former Director of Exhibition at the Massachusetts College of Art recalled that during your undergraduate studies, you once created an art piece that measured the perimeter of MassArt similar to the Smoot measurement on the Mass Ave Bridge. Do you recall the first time you collaborated on an art project or performance?
Triiibe: The project we did at MassArt was a public installation where we used a pair of size 10 women’s shoes and painted feet to represent each person at the school. There were over 1,000 pairs of feet, which we identified by using each students id number. It wasn’t meant to be a measurement, but a way to create unity with all of the students at the school. As for our first collaborative performance, we dressed up as identical businesswomen and went to work every Wednesday for 10 weeks in a row in downtown Boston. We would do synchronized actions like sipping our coffee and marching in a row. That was in 2001.
JL: Cary…you took a different route during your career, first being a National Geographic photographer for over 30 years, now a member of Triiibe. How did this collaboration begin?
Cary: I took a different route because I wasn’t a triplet, and it was much tougher…(laughter). I started as a photographer when I was a kid and then straight through college at Boston University. I had a darkroom at BU and was involved with the BU newspaper and yearbook. While at BU, I took a job with the Boston Globe, which launched my career in photojournalism and lasted close to 35 years with National Geographic. During that time, my interest in photography changed from pure photojournalism to conceptual photography. By the time I retired from The Geographic in 2006, I was well beyond what the National Geographic found acceptable. In my own mind, what I wanted to create for them and what they found acceptable for their magazine was beginning to part ways.
The collaboration with Alicia, Sara and Kelly began with the retirement of George Greenamyer. My close friends Rick and Laura Brown were having a retirement party for George. George is kind of famous for looking a little like Santa Claus. He’s got a big white beard and he always wears overalls. So this character dressed like George came into the party. And then another one came in and then George came in. I turned to Rick and said, “Who are they?” He said, “Oh, those are some of my students.” I then said, “I’d really like to meet those twins.” Rick then said, “it’s better then that, they’re triplets.” He then arranged a dinner for all of us to meet.
JL: Who came up with the name Triiibe?
Triiibe: It started as “tri-be” which was our email address a while ago, and I don’t remember who actually came up with it. We changed it to Triiibe to have the three “i”’s representing the triplets.
JL: Do all of your ideas come from the collective, or do you ever take suggestions from outsiders?
Triiibe: We always take suggestions from outsiders. Our make-up artist Rae Bertellotti gives us suggestions and so does Cary’s wife Babs and their son Yari who also work with us. So far, we haven’t picked an idea from friends or someone’s initial concept and done something yet from scratch because we have a long list of our own we haven’t got to yet.
JL: How do you go about creating work that isn’t about being triplets?
Triiibe: Well, we’re kind of over the fact that we are triplets. We want to make work that is about identity and social issues.
JL: I have been watching your careers blossom since 2008. First at the Photographic Resource Center Benefit Auction, then at the interactive performance “Profile” at Samson Projects, and most recently I learned that Triiibe was awarded one of the 2009 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowships. Do you feel things are finally starting to align for the collective?
Triiibe: Yes. We’re starting to get our work and name out there. We’re going to be in a group show in New York this October and we’ll have a show at Gallery Kayafas in the spring of 2010. But, yeah it’s nuts!
JL: Rumor has it that Boston University’s College of Fine Arts has offered you a solo exhibition in the 808 Gallery in November 2010. How do you plan to fill that place?
Triiibe: That’s the big question. We feel that space is unique and a great opportunity for us. It has a lot of windows that opens up to the public. So initially, we have been thinking of doing an installation, performance and photography, but we can’t go into specifics because we just don’t know yet.
JL: There was a political slogan that was very dominant during the 2008 Presidential Campaign and it read, Change is Coming to America.” As artists who use social and political commentary as part of their message, what concerns you the most about the future of our country?
Cary: I think the thing that concerns us most is that Obama will get bipartisanship, that people will start talking to each other, that everyone will be happy, the country will calm down, and there will be nothing to do as artists anymore that is politically interesting. That’s a big concern of ours.
All images are courtesy of the artists and the author.