06 Jul Source Material
Partir De Mi © Diego Romo
Colorado Photographic Arts Center in collaboration with Humble Arts Foundation present:
CURATED BY JON FEINSTEIN & ROULA SEIKALY
August 13 – September 25, 2021
1070 BANNOCK ST, DENVER, CO 80204
FRIDAY, AUGUST 13 AND TUESDAY, AUGUST 31
Opening Reception: Come see the exhibit on Friday, August 13th between 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Masks are strongly encouraged for visiting.
This event is free and open to the public.
Special Programming: On Tuesday, August 31 at noon (MST), join us via Zoom for a discussion about the exhibit with participating artists and co-curators Jon Feinstien & Roula Seikaly of the Humble Arts Foundation.
PARTICIPATING ARTISTS AND SERIES
Julie Lee – A Mother’s Survey to Live Comfortably
Ina Lounguine – I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Alayna Pernell – Our Mothers’ Gardens
Birthe Piontek – Her Story
Jody W. Poorwill – Gentle
Diego Romo – Lo Que Construimos (what we build)
Pacifico Silano – Cowboys Don’t Shoot Straight (Like They Used To)
Aaron Turner – Black Alchemy
SOURCE MATERIAL PANEL DISCUSSION
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
By Jon Feinstein and Roula Seikaly
Source Material includes the work of eight photography-based artists who use found and vernacular imagery and photos from family archives to navigate personal and cultural history and trauma.
From the Dadaists through the Pictures Generation and beyond, artists have used found imagery as source material for larger ideas. Historically, these artists have used vernacular materials to critique popular media, express irony, or wax nostalgic.
Moving past these often impersonal traditions, the artists in this exhibition warmly visualize profound personal experiences and give new meaning to overlooked or forgotten histories and experiences. They use a range of approaches – from digitally manipulating found images to creating image sculptures – all with a sense of care that honors and elevates their past.
Alayna Pernell’s Our Mothers’ Gardens retrieves images of Black women from private and public art collections where they lived as unidentified collectible snapshots, robbed of their dignity and identity. Pernell intervenes by re-photographing these images with her hands cupped around faces or covering exposed flesh from our rapacious collective gaze. Her gesture is a loving act of service, as if to say “your life mattered, you are loved.”
In their series Gentle, Jody W. Poorwill rephotographs and alters their kindergarten portrait as a metaphor for self care. For Poorwill, this image of their 6-year old self symbolizes a childhood rife with conflict. While they spoke freely at home, in school, Poorwill was non-verbal, self-isolating and struggling to fit in and express themselves without words. Reimagining the photo as a still life, abstracted through multiple exposures or treated with deep blue hues, Poorwill gives this relic of childhood confusion a place to breathe. “I learned to listen to what my inner child needed,” says Poorwill, “to cultivate a safe space to grow, a place to be visible.”
Aaron Turner’s Black Alchemy pairs images from his family archive and images of historical Black figures including Drue King and Frederick Douglass to zealously deconstruct Black identity and the rigid cultural forces that shape it. His work scrutinizes a history that frames Black life as an abject experience, and holds focus in the present as that narrative is defeated.
Pacifico Silano’s collage-based Cowboys Don’t Shoot Straight (Like They Used To) piles memory and meaning into each composition, building a tentative experiential archive of queer life in the post-Stonewall era. The partial images of lithe figures extracted from the vintage gay pornography magazines he uses are simulacra for the millions who have succumbed to HIV/AIDS. Images once associated with satiation and personal pleasure leave us wanting to see and know more, striving for an ever-denied photographic completion.
Family photos are often our first introduction to the medium. Such images are fallible, memory-heavy records of the people, places, and events that shape our personal and collective histories. Julie Lee, Ina Lounguine, Birthe Piontek, and Diego Romo use this seemingly innocuous photographic form to explore loss, violence, and grief.
A Mother’s Survey to Live Comfortably addresses familial connection and violence through gesture. Using a visual approach similar to Pernell, Julie Lee captures a woman’s hands placed over the photographed faces of her loved ones. The gesture reinforces a potent somatic and psychological bond, metaphorically protecting them from the violence that too many in the Asian American Pacific Islander community have faced historically and currently as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ina Lounguine’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin features found images from a discarded wedding album. The poses are familiar to anyone who has celebrated their own or another’s wedded joy, but the reverse image aesthetic suggests something less than blissful. Lounguine’s addition of Braille text further adulterates the inferred purity of both the scene and the photographic image, indicating that there is more than one way to read a photograph.
Birthe Piontek’s Her Story takes up her mother and grandmother’s memory loss to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Piontek deconstructs old photos of her mother and grandmother and rebuilds them as hybrid sculptures that reflect memory as it contorts and fades. These new compositions defeat the image’s innate flatness, elegantly conveying the dimensionality of those she’s lost. Piontek’s process of tearing, reconstructing, and rephotographing signals the jaggedness of fading memory – distortions that might suggest the inability to remember someone as they once were.
Lo Que Construimos (what we build) is Diego Romo’s attempt to construct his family’s visual narrative through found images. Bereft of an immediate archive, Romo seeks images that stand in for memories and moments in his family history that were never photographed, here represented by gaps or glitches in the manipulated images. The series questions collective memory’s specificity, and makes room for experiential borrowing and adaptation.
Source Material’s borrowed images and the responses they elicit help us better understand ourselves and the world we inhabit. They build on previous generations’ dispassionate appropriation of found or archival imagery by centering what is most intimate or personal, and elevate care as a pillar of creative practice.
ABOUT THE CURATORS
Jon Feinstein is a photographer, curator, writer, co-founder of Humble Arts Foundation, and Content Director at The Luupe. Jon has curated numerous exhibitions over 15+ years at Blue Sky Gallery, PDX; The Ogden Museum for PhotoNola; Glassbox, Seattle; and Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, NY for ArtBridge and Photoville. His projects have been featured in Aperture, NY Times, BBC, VICE, The New Yorker, Hyperallergic, and Feature Shoot, and he’s contributed to VICE, Hyperallergic, Aperture, Photograph, TIME, Slate, Daylight, Adobe, and PDN. Feinstein received the 2021 Peter S. Reed grant for his series “Breathers,” and, alongside Seikaly, won Blue Sky Gallery’s 2019 Curatorial Prize for their exhibition “An Inward Gaze.”
Roula Seikaly is an independent curator and writer, and Senior Editor + Co-Curatorial Director at Humble Arts Foundation. Roula has curated exhibitions at SF Camerawork and SOMArts (San Francisco), Axis Gallery (Sacramento), Filter Photo Festival (Chicago), CPAC (Denver), Blue Sky Gallery (Portland), and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Her writing is published virtually and in print at Hyperallergic, Photograph, BOMB, Afterimage, Aperture, Strange Fire Collective, and KQED Arts. She and Feinstein were the recipients of Blue Sky Gallery’s 2019 Curatorial Prize for their exhibition “An Inward Gaze.”