(de)Constructed: Forming New Photographic Realities
featuring photographs by Jamila Clarke and Annie Oldenburg
Curated by Zemie Barr and Shannon O'Connor from Wolff Gallery
On view at Port City Gallery January 8 – 29, 2016
In her essay, “La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness,” feminist theorist Gloria Anzaldúa writes about her experience as a Mexican-American and the constant negotiation of cultural, psychic, and national borders her everyday life requires. She embraces the inherent ambiguities of this hybrid consciousness, while also advocating for the constant examination and reinvention of this identity through lived experience. In two words Anzaldúa puts forth a call to action to the Chicana community: “Deconstruct, construct,” an invaluable strategy in the face of adversity, as it is not enough to simply interrogate the world around us to discover what it is not; we must use the information gleaned from critique to form something new from the rubble of deconstruction.
The photographers featured in this exhibition, Jamila Clarke and Annie Oldenburg, are both creating imagery that moves beyond capturing the world around them, and they are instead forming new visual landscapes using the photographic medium. What also brings these artists together is their skilled manipulation of images outside of the camera in order to achieve these conceptual and aesthetic results. Clarke’s vignettes incorporate the mystical and mythic into everyday scenes, often from a time long past, transporting viewers to a surreal dimension made possible by the artist’s skilled image editing in post production. In contrast, Oldenburg’s series Au Naturel depicts natural landscapes, which are altered digitally or cut and torn by hand in ways that abstract and ultimately disrupt how viewers might expect to see the natural world.
Much in the tradition of the Surrealists of the twentieth century who deplored the so-called “rationalism” that generated two World Wars, it seems as if many contemporary photographers like Clarke and Oldenburg are responding to the discouraging economic, political, social, and environmental climate we are now experiencing by eschewing straight photography in favor of image manipulation and photographic experimentation. Of course, these are not new formal strategies within the medium, but these particular instances communicate dissatisfaction with the status quo, while also inviting viewers to imagine the possibilities for what could exist instead in the hopes of moving towards a new consciousness.
About the Artists
Jamila Clarke is a fine art photographer whose focus is conceptual portraiture. She was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She studied Studio Art with a focus in Fine Art Photography/Digital Video at Oberlin College. Her work uses practical effects and digital postprocessing to stretch the truth to explore things that are experienced internally and usually unseen. Her work has been featured in various galleries and publications around the United States.
Annie Oldenburg is a conceptual artist working with the medium of photography to explore landscape, nature, and ecology. Oldenburg received her BA in Studio Arts from the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay and her MFA in Visual Studies from the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. She currently resides in Chicagoland where she actively creates art while teaching photography at Carthage College.