Tag Archives: Studio Art

Kerry Skarbakka

Last year, Center awarded Kerry Skarbakka the 2011 Excellence in Teaching Award for his passion in the classroom. After experiencing his photographs and teaching philosophy, it appears that everyone would benefit from a semester with Kerry.  His high spirited photographs, thoughtful approach to his own image making, and profound understanding what it takes to give students an informed visual language in an “image-prolific” society, make him a force to be reckoned with. He was recently celebrated for his teaching in PDNedu.

We are a visual culture wherein photography has become an
exceedingly powerful form of communication. Moreover, the development of
digital technologies in the past ten years has wiped traditional artistic
boundaries away. As a result, it is now vital to educate students to have a
broader vision. As an artist, it is imperative to be aware of the language of
photography and to understand the responsibility image making has within our
culture. To be a successful communicator, it is necessary to learn the tools
and skills inherent within this practice. More importantly, is the
understanding of how to control the medium and apply its principles with
thought and sophistication.

He is a self processed  performance-based photographer, using his own body and physical prowess to create his images and video. He received his B.A. in Studio Art with an emphasis in Sculpture  from the University of Washington School of Art and his MFA in Photography from Columbia College in Chicago. Kerry’s work has been exhibited internationally in museums, galleries and art fairs. He has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Fifty-One Fine Art Photography in Antwerp, Belgium, Irvine Contemporary in Washington DC, and Lawrimore Project in Seattle. His work has been exhibited at the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia, Ahlen Art Museum, Ahlen Germany and the Warhol Museum. Publications include Aperture Magazine Afterimage, Art and America and ArtReview International Additionally, Skarbakka has received funding and support from the Creative Capital Foundation, the 1% for the Arts (City of Seattle), the Chicago Center for Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council. He is represented by Fifty One Fine Art Photography in Antwerp, Belgium and Contemporary Wing in Washington DC. Currently Kerry is faculty of Digital Media and Photographic Studies at Prescott College.

The Struggle to Right Oneself 

Philosopher Martin Heidegger described human existence as a process of perpetual falling, and it is the responsibility of each individual to catch ourselves from our own uncertainty. This unsettling prognosis of life informs my present body of work. I continually return to questions regarding the nature of control and its effects on this perceived responsibility, since beyond the basic laws that govern and maintain our equilibrium, we live in a world that constantly tests our stability in various other forms. War and rumors of war, issues of security, effects of globalization, and the politics of identity are external gravities turned inward, serving to further threaten the precarious balance of self, exaggerating negative feelings of control. 

This photographic work is in response to this delicate state. It comprises a culmination of thought and emotion, a tying together of the threads of everything I perceive life has come to represent. It is my understanding and my perspective, which relies on the shifting human conditions of the world that we inhabit. It’s exploration resides in the sublime metaphorical space from where balance has been disrupted to the definitive point of no return. It asks the question of what it means to resist the struggle, to simply let go. Or what are the consequences of holding on? 

Using myself as model and with the aid of climbing gear and other rigging, I photograph the body as it dangles from dangerous precipices or tumbles down flights of stairs. The captured gesture of the body is designed for plausiblity of action, which grounds the image in reality. However, it is the ambiguiy of the body’s position in space that allows and requires the viewer to resolve the full meaning of the photograph. Do we fall? Can we fly? If we fly then loss of control facilitates supreme control. 

It is necessary to point out that I do not consider myself a glorified stuntman; nor do I wish to become a sacrifice to art. Therefore, safety is an important factor, however the work does carry with it a potential risk of personal injury as I engage the moment. This is unavoidable as much of the strength of the images lie in the fact that they are all recorded on location. The images are layered with references to an experienced background in sculpture and painting, and the cinematic quality of the work suggests the influence of commercial film. The dimensions are important to establish a direct relationship between the image and viewer. 

The images stand as ominous messages and reminders that we are all vulnerable to losing our footing and grasp. Moreover, they convey the primal qualities of the human condition as a precarious balancing act between the struggle against our desire to survive and our fantasy to transcend our humanness.

Review Santa Fe: Aspen Mays

Over the past month, I shared the work of photographers who attended Review Santa Fe in June.  Review Santa Fe is the only juried review in the United States and invites 100 photographers to Santa Fe for a long weekend of reviews, insights, and connections.  

Aspen Mays is creating new spaces in photography by “making sense over the specifics of knowing, mimicking the capacity of Science to call into question above it’s capacity to provide answers.” Much of her work is based on observation, research, documentation, and concept, but the photographs also are delicate and intriguing as objects.

Aspen grew up in Charleston, South Carolina,  holds a BA in Anthropology and Spanish from The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and graduated with an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2006, she was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship for study in Cape Town, South Africa. More recently, honors include a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Chile, Santiago.  She currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

Sun Ruins:

Just days before one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded devastated central Chile in 2010,
I arrived in Santiago to begin a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Chile’s Astronomical
Observatory. I used an abandoned darkroom at the Observatory for my studio, and it was
against this backdrop of destruction that Sun Ruins was conceived. During my residency, I had
access to rejected prints, negatives and ephemera from the lab’s archive, and Sun Ruins brings
together two series that I created from this material. Both components call into question the
expectation of photography as a documentary and categorical medium and each explore—to
different ends—the visualization of knowledge in both studio art and observational practices. 

To create the series Punched out stars, I used a hole punch to physically remove each prominently-visible star from twelve found silver gelatin prints of unknown dates (and various dimensions ranging from 15.5” x 11.75” to 4.25” x 6.5”). The photographs are thus rendered non-informational, and the circular hole-punched shapes become the index for the missing celestial objects. The photographs are literally made fragile from this intervention, as new and unforeseen constellations are revealed from folds on the paperʼs surface. Metaphorically, the very notion of classification as a human endeavor is likewise destabilized. In some prints, the night sky is reversed (seen as white), a typical printing method employed by astronomers in order to view individual stars as black and therefore more discretely measurable points. 

The Sun 1957 is the collective title of 25 silver gelatin prints that depict the Sun from a mid-century international survey of sunspots. Finding the film negatives separated from contextualizing logbooks and labeled only by month and the year 1957, I loosely followed this organizing principle by making contact prints of the negatives in grids. The prints were all made onsite using vintage paper (11.5” x 15.5”) that I found in the darkroom, and the unpredictability of the expired paper resulted in splotches and artifacts on the print surface that call to mind the sunspots themselves. The prints are assembled chronologically by month into a larger grid to formally suggest the shape and structure of a calendar. The internal logic of such a calendar creates an encompassing yet mysterious picture of the Sun for that year. Some months are represented by numerous negatives (and therefore prints) while other months are recorded by far fewer images. There is no record of November. 

Medium Festival: Kurt Simonson

Featuring photographers seen at the Medium Festival in San Diego….

Sometimes the best part of attending a Photography Festival is not just the lectures, workshops, exhibits, and reviews, it’s simply sitting next to someone you don’t know while enjoying a beer. You learn about their life and interests, and discover over the course of the festival, what a great person you’ve met and realize you’ve begun a friendship.  This was the case with Kurt Simonson.

Originally from St Paul, Minnesota, Kurt is an artist/educator based in Long Beach, CA. Kurt’s work is regularly exhibited throughout the country and internationally, including recent exhibits at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the Foto8 Gallery in London. His work has been featured in Fraction Magazine, he received a Curator’s Choice award from CENTER Santa Fe, and he was chosen as a finalist in Photolucida’s Critical Mass 2012.

Kurt teaches at Biola University in La Mirada, CA, where he is the Associate Professor of Photography in the Art Department. He received a B.S. in Studio Art from Biola University, a Secondary Education Credential from Whittier College, and an M.F.A. in Photography from California State University, Long Beach.

One of the projects that he brought to the Medium festival was Northwoods Journals, work that explores “the tensions surrounding our ideas of home and community, pilgrimage and displacement, belonging and connecting.”


Northwoods Journals

I must have been ten or eleven years old when I first ran across the peculiar envelope that bore my grandmother’s shaky handwriting: “not to be opened until my death.” Tucked in her top dresser drawer amidst other valuables, its striking phrase burned into my memory at a young age. I don’t know exactly when, and I don’t know how often, but I know I visited the envelope numerous times, pondering what could be inside. What could be so important (or tragic) that it must be kept secret in this way?

 I have never been able to shake the hold that piece of paper had over me.  More than just a letter—I was haunted by what it represented. Loaded with latent meaning, yet withholding its story, the letter is my experience of growing up in Minnesota. My family roots go deep into the folklore of the rural Northwoods and retain their hold, despite time and distance. It’s a place where my grandfather was a lumberjack, and a place where cars go to die; it’s where kids have playtime adventures, and where secrets go to be buried. It is a merger of myth and memory that grows more complex as time passes.

Greer Muldowney, Cheung Sha Wan #3

Greer Muldowney, Cheung Sha Wan #3

Greer Muldowney

Cheung Sha Wan #3,
Kowloon, Hong Kong, 2010
From the 6,426 per km2 series
Website – GreerMuldowney.com

Greer Muldowney is an artist and photography professor based in Boston, Massachusetts. She received an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Studio Art from Clark University, and MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She has worked for photographers Stephen DiRado and Henry Horenstein, and has acted as the curator for the Desotorow Gallery in Savannah, GA and as an assistant curator at the Panopticon Gallery and Panopticon Imaging in Boston, MA. She currently teaches at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and the New England Institute of Art.

Steve Aishman

I particularly like photographers that think outside the box, and that means Steve Aishman is high on my list. How can you not like someone who has projects like Throwing Fast Food, Death and Candy, Silly Putty Rorschachs, and Portraits of Guys I like with Bill. Only someone who was born in Michigan, grew up all over the world, has an undergraduate degree from Princeton in Astrophysics, an MFA from Tufts in Studio Art, has been a photo Prof. at SCAD for 6 years and teaches at the SCAD campus in Hong Kong, can create a statement like this:

I strive to make work that reminds me of nothing.

I am interested in working with a new philosophy that does not rewards the view for making an association between what they are seeing and something they have seen before. Rather, with my work, I want to reward the viewer for seeing the world with new eyes.

Most people seem to hate my work.
So if you’re interested in this philosophy, please contact me and maybe we can put on an exhibition together.

Oh, and most importantly to Steve, is his awesome wife, Heidi Aishman, who is also an artist and a two year old son named Bill.

The two series featured below, Throwing Fast Food and Super Flowers are his take on Dutch Master Still life painting. He began the series by asking what images the Dutch Masters would have painted if they were alive today. So Jacob Gillig’s still life of fish from 1636 became his Fish-Fillet frozen still in mid-air, today.

Jacob Gillig (Utrecht c. 1636-1701), Various fish on a stone ledge

Images from Throwing Fast Food

Images from Super Flowers