A Conversation with Justyna Badach

Justyna Badach, refugee, Philadelphia-based artist and museum professional, has brought her work to Syracuse. Badach’s Land of Epic Battles solo exhibition, on display now at Light Work, explores the hyper-masculine world of Islamic State group recruitment videos and exposes the futility of war.

Being able to create art about violence and masculinity is important to Badach, both as a woman and as an immigrant. Land of Epic Battles is a series of large, handmade dichromate prints composed using film stills from IS training videos. The Daily Orange talked with Badach about her work before her February 1 opening reception. The exhibition is on view through March 2, in the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery.

Jony Sampah: Can you please tell me what you’re working on?

JB: Well, I’m still working on the Land of Epic Battles series. There are a couple images in that series that I’m working on printing. And then, there’s a couple of offshoots of that body of work that I’m developing currently.

JS: How would you characterize your art? What is the mission of your art?

JB: Well, I have a research-based practice that involves looking at masculine tropes and how they’re communicated through popular culture. So, this is sort of the foundation of my work, and also I am looking at how I, as a woman artist, fit into the long history of masculine tropes within art.

Untitled Video Still (Palmyra #2), 2016

JS: What influenced this project?

JB: I actually have been working with appropriated imagery for a bit. In 2001 I had another body of such work in a solo show at White Columns. It was called Untitled: Epic Film Stills. And those were from movies like Wyatt Earp and Young Guns. I was also going through those films and looking for the single frames of landscape that appeared to be unclaimed, and primarily I was interested in that because I am an immigrant, a refugee, and the space of those films was very macho. It seemed to be very much tied into how I could access that space, both metaphorically and physically, as a woman and an immigrant, and kind of appropriate that history for myself. I was looking for these landscapes that were empty and I was picking up the single frames out of those movies. So I was working both as a censor and an editor within the context of those films. What I found is that these films seemed to fall into several categories, like mountains, plateaus, sunrises, and sunsets. And the images tended to look very similar from one film to the other. So those were then arranged into these kinds of sequences and printed (they were color, kind of very bright colors reflecting colder color). At that time it was still filmed that was being used, so very much a palette of Hollywood cinema. And then they were printed and mounted to curved aluminum so that they look like sculptural forms that float in space, resembling drive-in movie screens. I had a solo show of that work at White Columns in New York City that opened the Friday right before September 11th. So this show had been open for three days when the bombing occurred. The gallery is on 13th street, so the show closed, and I always felt like the work was cursed. The pieces were purchased, but they weren’t really shown again after that. I had put that work aside and started another body of work that involved the interiors of men’s homes and how they create these museums of the self.

Untitled Video Still (Killing the Apostates in Revenge for the Monotheists, Khurasan), 2016

JS: What are your long-term goals as an artist?

JB: My long-term goals are to continue making work, to push the boundaries of the medium, and to also push the boundaries of what kind of work is considered acceptable for a woman to create. A lot of the work that I do, the response that I get is like, when I was doing my bachelor series, people would ask me if my husband was okay with that, as if I need permission. And with this work, a lot of people ask, “Are you scared?” The idea of a woman working with subject matter that is violent, or to some extent threatening, is not readily out there. I think if a man were doing this work, it would have a very different response because there is this tradition of glorification of war. Most of those tableau-type paintings were done by men and it was, again, geared for a male audience. As a woman, I’m interested that we also live in a world that’s affected by war and violence. So I think it is important to have the female voice in that conversation. And so for me, that’s my goal: to really interject the female voice into what is essentially a global situation that we are also part of and yet oftentimes we are left out of the conversation.

JS: How did your relationship with Light Work start?

JB: I had a residency at Light Work in 2011 and that was the start of the relationship. I spent a month there working on printing the bachelor series and they’ve been tremendously supportive throughout my time as an artist. They’ve printed for me and John Mannion, who’s the printer there, is a huge resource. I just find them to be very open and willing to take on challenging work. I think because they’re a non-commercial space. They don’t have to worry about work that might be challenging or confrontational and yet important in terms of the dialog. I get their publication, Contact Sheet, and I just feel like they are a beacon for really important work that’s happening. They’ve had a lot of foresight in terms of recognizing artists who are doing important work and getting their foot in the door and giving them support at really critical stages in their careers.

JS: How do you think Light Work has helped you bring your art to the world or achieve your goals as an artist?

JB: For me, when I did the residency, it was a huge help to have a month to work on just my own work. I tend to be pretty rigorously focused on work but having the time to just be there, seven days a week, working on things, was really great. I tend to think that I could get more done than I do and so sometimes I’m really frustrated. Because I have all these ideas for work that I can’t produce as quickly as I have the ideas. So having the support of their staff was really crucial. And I did have a lot to do with that body of work, more than I thought before I arrived. And out of that residency, I basically had a traveling solo show and a publication and an artist’s book. So, they were hugely important. I think had I not had that residency, it probably would’ve taken me a year, maybe even a year and a half, to finish all the work that I did in a month there. And then in this case, I feel like we’re in a precarious time right now due to this discussion of ISIS and the global network of terrorism and what it means, and also of men, and how the social changes are taking place now in terms of where men fit into society, and what drives joining these groups and getting immersed in this dark culture on the web and becoming consumed in it. I think it is an important discussion to have. Because there are clearly changes happening in the social fabric on the global scale and these terrorist groups are symptoms of that. I feel like much of the discussion revolves around government propaganda or trying to calm the masses, yet it’s not really addressing what’s driving people to join these kinds of groups. So I think that Light Work, rather than pushing work that’s decorative or easy, has taken a huge step. And again, the catalog is a huge thing for me, to have the work together in book form along with this larger body of work. Because the images are not singular. They’re meant to be seen as more than one or two images. So the opportunity to have a sequence of images together, which is how I tend to work, is really important to understanding the work overall. And it’s really important, what they’re doing for me as an artist now that the work has come together as a body.

“Land of epic Battles” exhibition, Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery, Light Work, Syracuse
Photograph: Julie Herman

“Land of Epic Battles” exhibition, Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery, Light Work, Syracuse
Photograph: Julie Herman

JS: Let’s talk about gender. You previously mentioned how your work is influenced by you being a woman. How do you think being a woman makes you view these things differently?

JB: There’s a philosopher, Alain de Botton, and in The School of Life, he talks about changes in current society in terms of rituals that propel people from being children into adults. So, he says that, traditionally, mandatory military service in Eastern Europe served as a kind of ritual as you went from being a child to being an adult and marked a certain stage. Once you passed through this stage there was a level of respect and belonging, but now many of these societal spaces have been dislodged. That military service no longer exists for men. For women, he also talks about how marriage and childbearing are no longer important. But he says that women have adapted better to the breakdown in these social norms and in many ways they have benefited women. But men somehow have kind of become boys who are lost. So, they’re looking for a sense of belonging. Botton says there are actually two places that men could go: either to this global consumerist, competitive market that’s essentially about making money and accumulating wealth, but with no point. You’re just accumulating and competing for the sake of competing, but there is no meaning attached to it. Or you drop out. And he talks about the many boys who drop out and what they’re drawn to. The body becomes this point of sacrifice. It’s something that’s basically used up. And so, in that respect, as a terrorist somebody can easily say “okay” to blowing oneself up, since the body is this useless thing to be sacrificed, it has no meaning. That could be something attractive for somebody in that frame of mind. As a woman, I think often times I’m somebody looking from the outside in at a violent culture and trying to understand that. And I think in many ways, as I said before, women are fundamentally affected by male culture because we’re still living in a male culture. And so, the decisions that men make about wars, about conflict, women suffer the consequences of that and yet have very little voice. And I think there’s a cultural glorification of conflict and consumerization of conflict. Even reality TV is all about driving conflict, right? As a way of selling to audiences. I’m trying to understand all that, and as a woman, I feel like it’s just such a dangerous territory to be slipping into culturally and socially.

Untitled Video Still (Ahmed al-Rifi Shrine Ta Afar), 2016

JS: Why did you choose to bring your art to Syracuse?

JB: I think amazing art happens in many places. If I were interested in a commercial gallery, Syracuse probably is not the place because there just isn’t the collector base. But you guys here at Syracuse University have an amazing art history program. You guys have an amazing school of journalism, there’s also an amazing art program. You guys are actually in a place where there is a lot happening. This kind of belief that art only happens in big cities, I think is foolish. I don’t think that big cities are necessarily the best places to make art. And I don’t think that the audiences for art are necessarily the best in big cities because you’re essentially competing with so many different things. Sometimes work that’s more difficult and requires a little bit more time of the viewer is just going to get glossed over in a big city because there are flashier, easier things to see. So, I think Syracuse actually is a really great place with a lot happening. There’s a huge intellectual community, and it’s very highly respected, and a network of people who are doing really great things. So I’m really excited to be here.

JS: What is your opinion on the NEA/NEH/CPB cuts and how do you think they affect people’s attitudes towards the arts?

JB: I actually am a museum professional. I work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. So, the Trump budget on the arts affects me on so many levels as an artist, but also as somebody who is entrusted with caring for the cultural heritage of this country and keeping it safe and visible for future generations. The NEA has been an easy target for ultra-conservative politicians and groups since the 1980s. It’s very sad because, I think on many levels, how a society treats its art programs and cultural programs speak volumes about who they are and what that society values. If you look at countries that have corrupt governments, or governments that are weak and falling apart, they also tend to lack art, funding. And in many ways, the arts are intricately tied to innovation and to intellectual development in this country. People come specifically to the United States because of the arts. People go to museums, they want to go to the MET, they want to go see Lincoln Center. And so the cuts are a huge step backward. But I also think the arts are an easy target because it is easy to say, “Well, the arts don’t serve a purpose.”

Untitled Video Still (Killing the Apostates in Revenge for the Monotheists, Khurasan), 2016

JS: My last question is, how do we get people to care about the arts?

JB: I think dialog is important. There will always be people who are not going to care. Art is a little bit like a gift, and the person needs to be ready to receive it. You might be giving them the gift today, but they might not be ready to receive it until ten years from now. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it to them. Because in ten years they might have this awakening and say, “Wow, I remember when I saw that and that’s what that meant.” So I think it’s important to engage people in the dialog. And it’s important to have art that not necessarily just about them.

I know there’s a push for creating work that people see themselves in and, yes, that is important. But it’s also important that people see others in the work because they need to step outside of their own mind and be able to step into the mental space of somebody else. It’s just as important that they inhabit a world that’s completely unfamiliar, foreign, that they didn’t realize existed. That’s how you expand yourself and your psyche.

Justyna Badach’s family arrived as refugees in the United States in 1980. She currently resides in Philadelphia, where she is an artist, educator, and museum professional. Her work has been exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad and is in the permanent collections of Cranbrook Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, Museet for Fotokunst Brandts, Odense, Denmark. Her artist book is in the Special Collection at the Rice University Library, Houston, TX, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA and Haverford College. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including; Queensland College of Art Griffith University in Brisbane, Art Wonderland Space in Copenhagen and the Temple of Hadrian in Rome to most notably in the US at the Corcoran Gallery, D.C., Portland Art Museum, James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA, and Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago among others. Badach participated in the residency program at Light Work in 2012.

Gallery Talk: Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa

Join our current exhibiting artist Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa for an informal gallery talk about his exhibition One Wall a Web and his role in curating and jurying The Trouble with Flesh: New Work by MFA Candidates.

Stanley will speak Friday, December 2 at 5pm and there will be time for questions and conversation following.

RSVP on the Facebook event here.

Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa’s One Wall a Web is an exhibition that gathers together work from two discrete photographic series that he made in the United States: Our Present Invention (2012–2014) and All My Gone Life (2014–2016). Both the series and the exhibition draw their titles from the poetry of Muriel Rukeyser. One Wall a Web not only explores the mutability of archival images, but the ongoing presence of history in the present day. According to Wolukau-Wanambwa, the exhibition attempts to address “the normalcy of fear, separateness and violence in a moment suffused by them, but also in a culture riven by the habitually limited prescriptions of images.”

Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa is a photographer, writer, and editor of The Great Leap Sideways. He has contributed essays to catalogues and monographs by Vanessa Winship, George Georgiou, and Paul Graham, written for Aperture magazine, and is a faculty member in the photography department at Purchase College, SUNY. Wolukau-Wanambwa participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence Program in May 2015.

Reception for Aspen Mays: Newspaper Rock

January 13 – March 6, 2014
Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery
Gallery Talk: Thursday, January 30, 6pm
Reception: Thursday, January 30, 5-7pm

Join Light Work and Aspen Mays for the reception for her exhibition Newspaper Rock.

Aspen Mays approaches her art-making practice with some of the same methods she learned acquiring a degree in anthropology. By embracing the art and science of photography her projects often begin by tracking down information, ideas, and experts in a variety of fields, including astronomy. She collects, unearths, and creates images and objects that celebrate the complex and sublime beauty of the physical universe. Her images question our capacity to comprehend, while expressing our deep desire to find meaning in the unknown.

Her fieldwork has included a year in Chile in the Atacama desert and in Santiago at the University of Chile’s National Observatory, known locally as Cerro Calán. Because of its high altitude, dry air, and almost non-existent clouds, the Atacama desert of Chile is one of the best places in the world to conduct astronomical observations. In the desert, with only the naked eye, Mays could view the night sky in stunning clarity and detail. “The Milky Way is so bright in the desert that it casts a shadow on the ground,” she says. As she stood in the light she realized, “I knew something that is impossible to know, an awareness of how tiny I am and how connected.”

Mays’s search for sublime ambiguity took her on a recent cross-country trip through the Petrified Forest in Arizona to view Newspaper Rock, a giant prehistoric petroglyph covered with hundreds of messages, symbols, or stories. Confounded by the meaning of these drawings incised in rock and occurring all over the world with amazing similarity, scientists argue they could be of religious significance or perhaps astronomical guides. Mays was drawn to the mystery and presence of a hand-drawn message from prehistory and began to think about them in relation to her collection of darkroom tools. Cobbled together with tape and cardboard, her collection of hand-made dodging, burning, and masking tools had its origins in the Cerro Calán darkroom. Placing them on photographic paper and working directly with light itself, Mays creates her own abstract patterns, forms and pictograms, enigmatic taxonomies of a disappearing photographic process. In a conversation about this exhibition Mays asked, “Which is more profound, using cameras to image the cosmos or the anonymous woman in a hydrangea garden?” Throughout this exhibition Mays explores this dilemma with great curiosity and delight as she invites us to consider small and big questions we can only dimly comprehend.

Aspen Mays grew up in Charleston, SC. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009 and a BA in Anthropology and Spanish from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2004. Her solo exhibitions include Every leaf on a tree at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; From the Offices of Scientists at the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL; Sun Ruins at Golden Gallery, New York; and Ships that Pass in the Night at the Center for Ongoing Projects and Research (COR&P) in Columbus, OH. Mays was a 2009-2010 Fulbright Fellow in Santiago, Chile, where she spent time with astrophysicists using the world’s most advanced telescopes to look at the sky. Mays lives and works in Los Angeles, CA and Columbus, OH where she is an Assistant Professor of Art at Ohio State University.

www.aspenmays.com

2013 Light Work Grants in Photography

2013 Light Work Grants:
Laura Heyman, Jared Landberg, Janice Levy
August 19 – October 25, 2013
Light Work Hallway Gallery
Reception: Thursday, September 26, 5-7pm

Light Work is pleased to announce that the recipients for the 39th annual Light Work Grants in Photography are Laura Heyman, Jared Landberg, and Janice Levy. The Light Work Grants in Photography program is a part of Light Work’s ongoing effort to provide support and encouragement to artists working in photography. Established in 1975, it is one of the longest-running photography fellowship programs in the country. Each recipient receives a $2,000 award, has their work exhibited at Light Work, and published in Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual. The judges for this year were Christopher Gianunzio (Assistant Director, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center), Akemi Hiatt (independent curator), and Chuck Mobley (Director, SF Camerawork).

Laura Heyman
Laura Heyman — Stevens Yvens, Grand Rue, March 2011

Laura Heyman submitted a group of photographs from her on-going series, Pa Bouje Ankò: Don’t Move Again. Since 2009 the artist has been traveling to Haiti to set up a free, outdoor portrait studio in Port-au-Prince. Heyman is interested in questioning whether it is possible for a first world artist to produce work in the third world without voyeurism or objectification. Her project has continued to evolve over the years and now includes various expanding populations tied to future development and reconstruction.

Laura Heyman is an artist and curator based in Syracuse, New York. Her work has been exhibited at Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia, Gallery 511, New York, NY, The Deutsches Polen Institute, Darmstadt, Germany, Ampersand International Arts, San Francisco, California, Light Work Gallery, Syracuse, New York, P.S. 122, New York, NY, Senko Studio, Viborg, Denmark, and The National Portrait Gallery, London, UK. She is the recipient of a Light Work Mid Grant in Photography, NYFA Strategic Opportunity Stipend, and a Silver Eye Fellowship. Her most recent curatorial project, Who’s Afraid of America featuring the work of Justyna Badach, Larry Clark, Cheryl Dunn, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Zoe Strauss and and Tobin Yelland, was exhibited at Wonderland Art Space, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Jared Landberg
Jared Landberg — Adirondack Power and Light, 2010

Jared Landberg is captivated by remnants, abandoned structures, overgrown paths, found ephemera, and expansive views. His site-specific photographic projects capture what is left behind in the wake of progress. Past photographic essays have included a nuclear power plant, mental health asylum, and a government munitions base. Landberg is currently photographing the community of Cortland, New York and the Hydrofracking controversy. The artist plans to create a book of photographs, archival and found photos, maps and an assortment of texts.

Jared Landberg is a photographer and bookbinder based in Syracuse, New York. He was a graduate fellow at Syracuse University and received his MFA in photography in 2010 and his BFA in photography from Indiana University in 2005. He has recently exhibited in the Syracuse area at the Everson Museum’s Fit to be Bound exhibition as well as various local galleries. He has worked as a consultant on book projects with past Light Work residents Christian Patterson and Valerio Spada in addition to assisting and consulting photographer Lucinda Devlin. Jared’s influences range from photographers such as Robert Adams, Jem Southam, Lewis Baltz, and Frank Gohlke to the writings of J.B. Jackson, Paul Virilio, and Leo Marx. He currently photographs the landscape of central New York State, with a large format camera, natural light, and flash, using both B&W and color film. His imaging intent is that of historic preservation through documentation of place with a focus on the colloquial subtlety, and personal as well as collective narratives regarding societal theories, place, and it’s usage.

Janice Levy
Janice Levy — Falcon Market, Riyadh, KSA, 2011

Janice Levy submitted a series of photographs taken in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. While living in Riyadh for ten months the artist taught photography at the largest all women university in the world, Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University. Saudi Arabia invests in the illusion of wealth and prosperity but Levy’s photographs show something entirely different. “In addition to revealing the neglect of the underclass, the photographs reflect my own reaction to living in a nation where isolation causes xenophobia, adherence to Sharia law justifies oppression of women, and an absolute monarchy hides its dictatorial power behind a veneer of paternalism.”

Janice Levy is a professor of photography in the Department of Media, Arts, Sciences and Studies, in the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York. In 1990 she was awarded the prestigious three-year National Kellogg Fellowship Award for Leadership. The Honickman First Book Award recognized her work twice. In 2004, she was among eleven finalists for her work Out of Place, photographs from Madagascar. In 2012 she was highly ranked among 49 semi-finalists for her Saudi Arabia photographs. International Photographic Awards (IPA) awarded her an honorable mention in 2013. Publications include What I See Who I Am: disabled students explore their world through photography with the help of photography students at Princess Nora University. Recent exhibitions include Les Yeaux du Monde, Charlottesville, VA; Gallery Notre Dame, Dijon, France; Les Amis du 7, Dijon, France. She was interviewed by NPR’s Robin Young for Here and Now about her experiences teaching and living in Saudi Arabia and was the keynote speaker for the 18th Julia Reinstein Symposium, Elmira College, Elmira, New York.

Find more information about Light Work Grants in Photography:
www.lightwork.org/grants.

VIDEO: Jason Lazarus on Too Hard to Keep (Syracuse)

Check out Light Work’s Vimeo page for an exclusive new video with exhibiting artist Jason Lazarus. Lazarus discusses his Too Hard to Keep project, including his process of working through the vast archive of images and installing in the gallery.

Be sure to visit Light Work to catch Jason Lazarus: Too Hard to Keep (Syracuse) before the show closes on May 31st!

Special thanks to Azhar Chougle for his work on this video.

Adam Magyar: Kontinuum

Adam Magyar: Kontinuum

Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery at Light Work: January 14 – March 15, 2013

Artist Lecture: Thursday, January 31, 5p

Gallery Reception: Thursday, January 31, 6-8p

Urban Video Project, Everson Museum of Art site: January 10 – February 2, 2013

Hot Chocolate with the Artist: Friday, February 1, 6-7p

Light Work is pleased to announce the exhibition Kontinuum, featuring the work of Adam Magyar.  The Hungarian artist has been receiving significant international attention with his art that explores concept of urban life. Magyar depicts the synergies of people, the cities they inhabit, and the technological support structures created to facilitate life in large cities. He explores the flow of time and life through multiple photography and video-based series, three of which will be presented in Syracuse.

Magyar uses unconventional devices, such as an industrial machine-vision camera that relies on scanning technology. Utilizing software and drivers which he programs himself, Magyar creates constructed images that capture moments in time and place that can neither be seen with the bare eye nor conventional optical cameras. The resulting photographs break with traditional Renaissance-defined perspective. The images combine the aesthetics of classic photography with a technology that redefines our understanding of linear time and singular space in a perfect blend of science and art.

While Magyar uses technology rarely applied in fine art, his emphasis is on basic questions of how we understand ourselves within society and as that society. Seeking to find an objective way to see the world around him, he has turned to a technology that captures time as well as the flow of society, while eliminating most other elements that make up urban life. In the end, Magyar scrutinizes the transience of life and man’s inherent urge to leave some trace behind.

The exhibition features custom-framed digital silver gelatin prints and pigmented inkjet and will be accompanied by a 48-page monograph on the artist. The Light Work-curated show will then travel throughout the country.

From January 10 through February 2, Magyar’s video Stainless will be featured at the Urban Video Project’s Everson Museum of Art site. The video will run Thursday–Saturday, dusk–11p. The Urban Video Project (UVP) invites the public for “Hot Chocolate with the Artist.” The special event is scheduled for February 1, 6-7p at the Everson Museum of Art, 401 Harrison Street, Syracuse, NY. Urban Video Project is a multimedia public art initiative of Light Work and Syracuse University that operates several electronic exhibition sites along the Connective Corridor in Syracuse, NY.

About the Artist:

Magyar’s work has been exhibited in various solo and group shows internationally including Helsinki Photography Biennial in Finland; MFAH Mixed Media event and the Graduate School of Design Harvard University in the USA; Berlin Selected Artists exhibitions in Germany; the Ethnographic Museum Budapest and Faur Zsofi Gallery in Hungary; Rhubarb Rhubarb in the UK; and Karin Weber Gallery in Hong Kong. His work is part of numerous collections, such as Deutsche Bank, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, and the Bidwell Projects. His photographs have been published in the book In the Life of Cities by the Graduate School of Design Harvard University, Light and Lens by Robert Hirsch, and in photography magazines including PDN and PQ Magazine in the USA, Flash Art in Hungary, Digital Camera Magazine in UK, and Katalog in Denmark. He lives in Berlin. His work can be viewed at www.magyaradam.com.

Also on view at this time is the Light Work Grants exhibition, featuring the work of the 2012 Light Work Grant winners Dennis Krukowski, Tice Lerner, and Sayler/Morris.

For more information, please contact Light Work, 315-443-1300 or info@lightwork.org.

Contact Sheet 169 — Shen Wei: I Miss You Already

Contact Sheet 169

Shen Wei: I Miss You Already

Exhibition Dates: November 5–December 14, 2012

Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery at Light Work

Light Work is pleased to announce the solo exhibition I Miss You Already by Chinese artist Shen Wei. Wei uses his self-portrait series as a place for self-discovery and contemplation. Each image captures a momentary experience that describes the coming together of person and place. Many of the photographs are intensely sexual. His images invite others into his solitude by quietly beckoning or openly drawing the viewer in. They tease the camera, and therefore the viewer, in various degrees. That Wei is an attractive and physically fit young Asian man plays an important part in how his work addresses desire in the context of identity and bridges cultural and sexual barriers.

His overtly sexual photographs push against the boundaries of Wei’s conservative Chinese upbringing, which occurred at a time when even art students did not get to study the nude body and would learn to draw the body from sculptural busts. Moving to the United States in 2000, Wei was confronted with very different societal attitudes toward the naked body and sexuality, and his response to these issues has become central to his work. It is not important to Wei that his photographs be understood in only one way, and he acknowledges that his work may be interpreted differently from country to country. He has also seen a shifting of social norms. Even in China it is now increasingly acceptable to depict the naked body, especially in art.

Wei uses his series to push against cultural boundaries, but in image after image he also explores his own comfort level with expressing his sexuality. Throughout the series we observe Wei trying on one environment and identity at a time. Although the images are constructed, the emotions are authentic. We see a young man asserting himself in front of the camera and claiming his right to define himself and his sexuality.

— Hannah Frieser

Shen Wei’s exhibition catalogue, Contact Sheet 169, is now available. Subscribers should be receiving the catalogue in the mail shortly, or view the catalogue immediately by visiting the Contact Sheet Digital Archive. Subscribe at any level, including the free trial subscription, for access to Light Work’s newest publications online. Contact Sheet 169 may also be purchased from the Light Work Store.

About the Artist:

Shen Wei has exhibited his work internationally at venues such as the Museum of the City of New York and Lincoln Center Avery Fisher Hall in New York, NY; the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, PA; the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, FL; and the CAFA Art Museum in Beijing, China. Wei’s first monograph, Chinese Sentiment, was published by Charles Lane Press in 2011. Wei is the recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Artist Residency, the Asian CulturalCouncil Arts & Religion Fellowship, the Griffin Award from the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Urban Artist Initiative New York City Fellowship, the Light Work Artist-in-Residence Program, and more. Wei’s work is included in permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Museum of Chinese in America, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York, NY; the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA; the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, PA; the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, IL; the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, FL; the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa, FL; the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, IN; and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. He is represented by Daniel Cooney Fine Arts in New York, NY. Additional images by Wei may be viewed at www.shenphoto.com.

Susan Worsham: Bittersweet/Bloodwork

Susan Worsham—Bittersweet/Bloodwork
Exhibition Dates: September 4–October 19, 2012
Gallery Reception: September 13, 5–7 pm

Light Work is pleased to announce the exhibition Bittersweet/Bloodwork, featuring the works of Southern photographer Susan Worsham. The photographs were taken in and around Virginia, where her family has passed but the soil remains rich with memory and metaphor. All together, the photographs and accompaniments in Bittersweet/Bloodwork speak of the poetry of childhood, nature, discovery, love, and loss.

When Susan was just eighteen her brother took his own life after severing his spinal cord in a motorcycle accident. As a young girl she had already lost her father to a heart attack, and finally in 2004, she lost her mother as well. According to Worsham, “Shortly after my mother passed I came across a set of antique veterinary slides. They were some of the most interesting things that I had ever seen. They seemed to hold beauty and death at the same time. I framed ninety of them in a long wooden frame resembling the shape of the slide itself. It was the first piece of art that I made after my mother died.”

The story came full circle one day when Worsham’s oldest neighbor Margaret brought out her dissection kit and microscope slides. She had been a biology teacher, and was holding the same sort of slides that fascinated Worsham. Margaret’s microscope and slides have since become a metaphor for Worsham’s desire to look deeper into the landscape of her childhood—from the flora and fauna to the feelings, Margaret calls it ‘blood work’.

The exhibition features a selection of Margaret’s dissection tools alongside her microscope, as well as audio of their various conversations about plants, life, and death. “I can remember one particular time when I visited Margaret,” says Worsham. “I looked out of her large picture window and saw what looked like a nest or hammock of small red berries draped between the winter trees. I asked Margaret what it was. She answered, ‘Why, that’s bittersweet. Bittersweet on Bostwick Lane.”

Worsham took her first photography class while studying graphic design in college. In 2009 she was nominated for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography, and her book Some Fox Trails in Virginia won first runner up in the fine art category of the Blurb Photography Book Now International Competition. In 2010 she was awarded the first TMC / Kodak Film Grant, and was an Artist-in-Residence at Light Work. Her work is held in private collections, and has been exhibited at the Corcoran Museum during FotoWeek DC, The Photographic Center Northwest, Silver Eye Center for Photography, and Dean Jensen Gallery. She was recently named one of PDN’s 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch in 2011.

Also on view at this time is The Other New York: 2012, featuring work by Sarah Averill, Bang-Geul Han, Mark McLoughlin, Jan Nagle, and Matthew Walker. TONY: 2012 is organized by the Everson Museum of Art in collaboration with ArtRage—The Norton Putter Gallery, Community Folk Art Center, Erie Canal Museum, Light Work, Onondaga Historical Association, PuntodeContacto/Point of Contact, Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, SUArt Galleries, Urban Video Project, The Warehouse Gallery, City of Syracuse and XL Projects. Major funding is provided by The Central New York Community Foundation through the John F. Marsellus Fund.

Gallery hours for these exhibitions are Sunday-Friday, 10am-6pm (except school holidays), and by appointment. To schedule an appointment, please call 315-443-1300. Both the exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. Paid parking is available in Booth Parking Garage.

Light Work invites groups and individuals to schedule tours and gallery talks of the exhibition and facility. Light Work is a nonprofit, artist-run organization dedicated to the support of artists working in photography and electronic media. Light Work is a member of CMAC, the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers at Syracuse University.

For more information, please contact Jessica Reed at Light Work, 315-443-1300 or jhreed01@syr.edu.

Capturing Identity: Selections from the Light Work Collection


Michael Bühler-Rose

Capturing Identity: Selections from the Light Work Collection
August 15 – December 14, 2012
Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery
Schine Student Center, Syracuse University

Light Work is pleased to present Capturing Identity: Selections from the Light Work Collection in the Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery. This exhibition, curated from the Light Work Collection by Museum Studies candidate Lindsay Erhardt, features work by Barry Anderson, Justyna Badach, Michael Buhler-Rose, Neil Chowdhury, Kelli Connell, Jen Davis, Rachel Herman, Laura Heyman, Ayana V. Jackson, Shane Lavalette, Ohm Phanphiroj, and Michael Tummings.

Identity can be personal, cultural, and religion-based, or determined by a relationship. It can be something forced upon you, defined for you, decided by you, and taken from you; yet, in many ways one’s identity is ever-changing and therefore indefinable. Through portraiture, and using photography as the tool, many artists today are asking us to question how we identify others and ourselves. Their imagery, consequently, is redefining and challenging our stereotypes and our understanding. It is important that artists take on this challenge—they become a vessel to bring about change, even if this change happens to the smallest degree.

These images are connected by pursuit of the distinguishable, the classifiable—identity. They are meant to stir something inside us—when we look upon them, we are made to think, question, challenge our upbringing and what we have been told. As we gaze upon them, they will gaze back. All of these photographs have and bestow power and it is left up to us what we do with it.

Photographs in this exhibition come from the Light Work Collection. With donations from the Artist-in-Residence Program (AIR) or artists receiving a Light Work Grant, the collection is constantly growing. It contains all original work, including color and black-and-white photographic prints, alternative processes, as well as computer generated imagery, collages, artist books, and installation pieces. The collection can be viewed and accessed through the online database via the Light Work website. Having a permanent collection exemplifies Light Work’s commitment to contemporary photography and the creative process.

Light Work invites groups and individuals to schedule tours and gallery talks of the exhibition and facility. Light Work is a nonprofit, artist-run organization dedicated to the support of artists working in photography and electronic media. Light Work is a member of CMAC, the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers at Syracuse University.

For more information, please contact Jessica Reed at Light Work, 315-443-1300 or jhreed01@syr.edu.

Urban Video Project – The Other New York: 2012

Karen Brummund—401 Harrison Street
UVP Everson site
September 6–November 4, 2012
Thursday–Saturday, dusk–11pm
401 Harrison St, Syracuse, NY 13210

Urban Video Project, Light Work, and the Everson Museum of Art are pleased to present the video 401 Harrison Street by Karen Brummund at the UVP Everson site as part of The Other New York: 2012. This exhibition is part of a community-wide, multi-venue biennial exhibition that is the result of a major collaboration among fourteen art organizations in Syracuse. This ambitious project aims to highlight the rich talent of artists across Upstate New York, with a special focus on Central New York and the surrounding counties.

The Everson is I.M. Peiʼs first museum commission. His art museums are commonly seen as art objects for art objects. They are sculptures in the landscape. Shortly after the Everson, Pei built the Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca. In the 1960s, Pei continued to work in “the other New York,” including campus buildings in Syracuse, Fredonia, Rochester, and Buffalo. Whether one is walking across campus or through parking lots, watching the sunset or desolate streetscapes; Peiʼs geometry and concrete offer a visual dialogue with the environment.

In this site-specific video installation, images of the form and materials of both art museums are projected onto the Everson Museum. The images capture the light, surfaces, and depth of the architecture. The video uses images from two different buildings, analyzing how Peiʼs ideas bridge individual communities. These disparate places are abstractly connected through the architect’s development. The plaza is not only infused with the presence of the Pei’s forms, but also the conversation that takes place through his practice.

The projection acts as translucent paint altering the building. As it blends with the concrete facade, one becomes more sensitive to the details of the place. While visitors sit or walk through the plaza, 401 Harrison Street invites pedestrians to slow down, meditate, and be re-familiarized with our shared landscape.

For more information on TONY: 2012 gallery talks, tours, artist lectures, receptions, YouTube interviews, online activities, and venue maps please visit www.everson.org

TONY: 2012 is organized by the Everson Museum of Art in collaboration with ArtRage—The Norton Putter Gallery, Community Folk Art Center, Erie Canal Museum, Light Work, Onondaga Historical Association, PuntodeContacto/Point of Contact, Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, SUArt Galleries, Urban Video Project, The Warehouse Gallery, City of Syracuse and XL Projects. Major funding is provided by The Central New York Community Foundation through the John F. Marsellus Fund.

GENERAL INFORMATION
Urban Video Project (UVP) is a multimedia public art initiative of Light Work and Syracuse University that operates several electronic exhibition sites along the Connective Corridor in Syracuse, NY. The mission of UVP is to present exhibitions and projects that celebrate the arts and culture of Syracuse and engage artists and the creative community around the world. Light Work and UVP work closely with collaborative partner Everson Museum of Art in determining exhibitions and programming for that site. Light Work is a nonprofit, artist-run organization dedicated to the support of artists working in photography and electronic media. Light Work and UVP are members of CMAC, the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers at Syracuse University.

For more information visit www.urbanvideoproject.com.