Tag Archives: Columbia College

Filter Photo Fesitival Week: Ursula Sokolowska

This week, I am sharing a few of photographers that I met at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago….

Born in Krakow, Poland, Ursula Sokolowska studied photography at Columbia College and compled her BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I first saw her Constructed Family images a year ago at Filter and I was happy to see the continued progression of the series. Ursula will be exhibiting her work at the JDC Fine Art Gallery in San Diego, opening on December 7th, running through February 23rd, 2013. I am featuring work from two series, both incorporate projection, are deeply personal,  and both explore the idea of separation of the body from consciousness and objectification.

Her photographs can be found in many public and private collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Tanqueray. Selected exhibitions include The Travelling Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, Saatchi Gallery, Zoo Art Fair, the Royal Academy of Arts, London, United Kingdom, Minnesota Center for Photography, and Schneider Gallery, Chicago, IL. Her work has appeared in CameraArts magazine, Light & Lens: Photography in the Digital Age, and featured in the Chicago Tribune.

The Constructed Family series  examines the trauma and uncertainty carried from childhood. In particular, I am referencing my own upbringing as a Polish immigrant. There is an undercurrent of helplessness and misdirection linked to a sort of schizophrenic parenting, excommunication, and constant movement. Typically, the perception of children handed down by my elders was that children did not have a choice. Frequently, I heard a Polish equivalent of the phrase “Children should be seen not heard”. I am attempting to give these children voices.

These photographs are projection-based installations. 

The models are mannequins and their faces are projections. The faces of the children are slides that my father took of me when he was still involved in my life. The other slides are present day images that I have shot of my mom, my dad, and myself. My goal is to reconstruct my own childhood, empowering the past for better or for worse. The result is a troubling recreation of events that may seem disturbing but are far less in context to the real events that transpired. 

Untitled Series:The images presented pose several questions towards the societal view of gender as related to the biological roles that exist. By using the flower as the reference point, we see the inequality and the taint that is applied to a supposedly natural and beautiful inevitability. These human plant-life carry their own baggage that spews out of every orifice and drips moistly from their painted skin. Their reproduction is marred by the inner psychological turmoil as related to the divisions between sexual identity and biological reality, quite unlike their floral counterparts. 

The flower represents a self-sustaining sexual organism, one of which is free from divisions of sexuality and role yet forced by design biologically. When we admire what we see, staring at its naked form, we are free from imposing predisposed notions of sex and gender. Yet when we see human form, we cognitively associate our own psychological issues with role, gender and biological fulfillment subconsciously. With the flower there is no revolt against being more than what it was created to be. It exists to be seen and to reproduce year after year. It is perfectly content being an object to be admired on a singular level. 

The question remains why are we any different? By combining a seemingly natural and innocent vision of a flower and juxtaposing it with provocative cues, we explore the seemingly inevitable chain to biology that humans fight consistently. The fight to be more than just a sexual being content with reproducing itself and the psychological frustration that ensues. Each subject has his or her own issues with their design. These hopes and fears are explored by facing the possible truth that we may be nothing more than pretty flowers, waving their prospective parts in the open for all to see.

Dave Jordano, Hakeem’s Room

Dave Jordano, Hakeem’s Room

Dave Jordano

Hakeem’s Room,
Detroit, 2012
From the Detroit – Unbroken Down series
Website – DaveJordano.com

Dave Jordano received a BFA in photography from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit in 1974. In 2009 a major exhibition of his work on African American storefront churches was held at the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL accompanied by his book, Articles of Faith, published by the Center for American Places at Columbia College. Jordano has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is held in several museum, corporate, and private collections, most notably The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. His current project, Detroit Unbroken Down, documents the cultural and societal identity of his hometown Detroit. Jordano is represented by the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA, Michael Mazzeo Gallery, New York, NY, and the Stieglitz 19 Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium.

Jennifer Ray, Dumped Dog

Jennifer Ray, Dumped Dog

Jennifer Ray

Dumped Dog,
Louisiana, 2010
Website – JenniferRay.net

Jennifer Ray has exhibited her work widely, including recent exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), the Chelsea Art Museum, Hyde Park Art Center, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Chicago Cultural Center, and Recycleart (Belgium). Her work is also included in the  The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography, Vol. 2, published by Humble Arts Foundation, and is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the MoCP, and the Kinsey Institute. She received her MFA in Photography from Columbia College and is a visiting professor of photography at Oberlin College.

Dawoud Bey: Picturing People and Harlem, USA

Kenneth; from Class Pictures, 2007 (c) Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey, the photographer known for his large-scale portraits of adolescents published in the 2007 monograph Class Pictures, has two solo exhibitions currently on view in the Chicago area that span his nearly four-decade-long career.

First, the Art Institute of Chicago presents Harlem, USA (on view May 2 – September 9, 2012), featuring some of Bey’s earliest work candid;y documenting street life with a tremendous sense of empathy for a neighborhood to which he had great familial ties. The work, which the institute recently acquired for their permanent collection, is exhibited here for the first time since Bey’s first solo show at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. Bey, who teaches at Columbia College, explains in an interview with the Chicago Reader how he found inspiration for this series and for becoming an artist at the Metropolitan Museum’s 1969 exhibition Harlem On My Mind.

In addition, the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago presents Picturing People (on view May 13 – June 24, 2012) a career survey of his work “ranging from chance street encounters to studio portraits,” including a few pieces from his latest series Strangers/Community which features photographs of people from Hyde Park, Chicago, where he now calls home. On Saturday, May 26 Darby English, associate professor of Art History at the University of Chicago and author of How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness (MIT Press, 2007)hosts a free walkthrough of the exhibition.

Find a reviews of both of the exhibitions at the Chicago Reader: ”Two Exhibitions Trace the Journey of Dawoud Bey;” or at Chicago magazine: “A Window into Dawoud Bey’s Photography.

And watch a three-part video series on our Vimeo page in which Bey, in conversation with Carrie Mae Weems at Aperture Gallery (February of 2008 during his exhibition of Class Pictures), discusses his approach to portraiture through the Harlem series, how he collaborates with subjects to highlight gestures, and how his subjects end up reacting to the project.

Aperture magazine subscribers can also read philosopher and art critic Arthur C. Danto’s analysis of Harlem, USA in issue 189.


Harlem, USA
Exhibition on view:
May 2 – September 9, 2012

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois
(312) 629-6100


Picturing People
Exhibition on view:
May 13 – June 24, 2012

Gallery Walkthrough with Darby English
Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The Renaissance Society
5811 S. Ellis Avenue
Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall 418
Chicago, Illinois
(773) 702-8670

Matthew Avignone

I thought sharing the work of Matthew Avignone would be an appropriate follow up to yesterday’s Mother’s Day Exhibition.  Last year Matthew submitted an image to the Father’s Day Exhibition with the explanation that he was the oldest of five children of different races adopted by his parents and that he was working of a series about his unique family titled Stranger Than Family. It’s a body of work where the images transcend the subject matter, but stay rooted in the celebration of the ordinary within an extraordinary family.

The Avignones

Matthew recently opened an exhibition of Stranger Than Family at the David Weinberg Photography Gallery in Chicago that runs through May 24th. 

Installation shot of Stranger Than Family

Matthew holds a BA in Photography from Columbia College  in Chicago, was nominated for the 2012 Baum Award for Emerging American Photographer, took 2nd runner up in the Photography Book Now Competition presented by Blurb and was exhibited in the Pingyao Photography Festival in Pingyao, China. His first artist monograph An Unfinished Body currently resides in the permanent collections of the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, NY and the International Center of Photography, New York, NY. The book, An Unfinished Body, is a handmade signature sewn book consisting of 30 family documents and 50 original photographs.

Stranger Than Family
For many, when hearing the word ‘family’ brings other words
to mind: mom, dad, brothers, sisters, love, and birth. But what if you were
flown into your mother and father’s arms not by a stork but by a Boeing 747. My
siblings and I came from foster mothers and lonely orphanages to parents and a
little home in Illinois, some of us healthy and some with life-inhibiting
special needs. Once we might have all been strangers, but with time, love, and
perseverance we are fortunate to call ourselves one family.

MoCP in Teaching Artist Journal

MoCP Picture Me Program students, Senn High School

MoCP’s Picture Me program, in which we host intensive after school photography programs in three Chicago high schools that share the vast educational resources of the museum and Columbia College with Chicago teens, was featured in the latest issue of the Teaching Artist Journal. Read more (download PDF of article). Garfield Refining . plants .

Collection Artists: Features and Exhibitions

Bea Nettles, (paper by Marilyn Sward, printed by Audrey Niffenegger), Birch Bark, 1995

The Gainesville Sun featured a story on the life and work of collection photographer Bea Nettles. An exhibition of Nettles’ “untraditional” photographic work is currently on display at the Harn Museum of Art, through September 26. Throughout her career as an artist, Nettles mixed photography with painting, sculpture, and drawing techniques as well as with fabric, paper, and found materials. The works on view at the Harn are specific to Nettles’ experience as a mother – a “visually poetic study of her daughter, Rachel, and son, Gavin, as they mature in their first decade of life” as the Harn describes. An interesting tidbit – Nettles once served as a lab assistant to Jerry Uelsmann (also a collection photographer).

Lillian Bassman, Carmen, New York, Harper’s Bazaar, 1963, printed 1994

Eryn-Ashlei Bailey of the Conducive Chronicle wrote a lovely feature on fashion photographer Lillian Bassman last week. Avidly experimental, Bassman made black and white photographs with unusual compositions, blurred outlines, and dark silhouettes. She abandoned her studio in the 1970’s, after decades of trying to reconcile her artistic interests with commercial demands, and left behind many of her film negatives. In 1991 hundreds of Bassman’s lost negatives were discovered and returned to the artist, who set about reprinting them. In the process, Bassman decided to reinterpret her images from the 1940s and 1950s, often giving the images a dramatically different form. Read more about Bassman, her abandoned negatives, and fashion photography struggles in this New York Times article from 2009.

Judy Natal, Ladder, 1999

Photographer and Columbia College professor Judy Natal has been working on her Future Perfect series, which focuses on “sites that fabricate nature, not through duplication but simulation as the modeling of natural and human systems, in order to gain insight into their functioning.” Natal’s photograph of Biosphere 2, a built environment meant to represent Earth’s many ecosystems (including rain forest, desert, marsh, and mini-ocean), was featured on the Nevada Museum of Art blog this week. Of her artist-in-residency work at Biosphere 2, Natal says her images “depict, with transparency, the fabrication of environments that ultimately appear natural. It is my intent to seek out sites where this process of chaos has been repeatedly transformed.” Read more about her residency with the University of Arizona B2 Institute here.

Ben Gest, Jess & Alan, 2004, 2004

Images by Ben Gest and Glenn Rudolph have been selected for the Silverstein Photography Annual (SPA) at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York City. The SPA is part of the gallery’s ongoing effort to provide exposure to emerging artists whose work incorporates the medium of photography. The gallery will host a opening reception for the exhibition on March 27 from 6-8pm.