FOTOFOCUS’ month-long celebration of lens-based art flaunts impressive female photographers.
“FOTOFOCUS aims to recapture the spirit of Cincinnati’s legacy as an epicenter of art production and creative exchange,” says FOTOFOCUS Director Mary Ellen Goeke. “And seeks to revitalize that spirit for the 21st century.”
The month-long, biennial celebration of contemporary photography and lens-based art will last at least the entire month of October with independent exhibitions at galleries including major art institutions such as the Contemporary Arts Center and the Cincinnati Art Museum; universities such as the Art Academy of Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP; as well as smaller, community spaces such as the Iris Bookcafe and the PAC Gallery.
By providing sponsorship, marketing, coordination efforts and administrative assistance to these independently programmed venues, FOTOFOCUS makes it possible to showcase the work of world-renowned artists, national and regional stand-outs, and emerging talent.
“FOTOFOCUS is a community phenomenon indigenous to Cincinnati,” says Goeke. “The biennial is a homegrown event the city can take ownership of that happens not just once, but every two years. FF presents a great cultural asset that can leverage Cincinnati as a destination. Most importantly, we look to bring institutions and people together around the most accessible art medium —photography.”
Co-chaired by James Crump, chief curator of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and Raphaela Platow, director and chief curator of the Contemporary Arts Center, the FOTOFOCUS committee includes members from institutions including the Taft Museum of Art, ArtsWave, the Weston Art Gallery, the Art Academy of Cincinnati and other major players in the Cincinnati art scene.
Envisioned by businessman/photographer/arts supporter Thomas R. Schiff, FOTOFOCUS grew organically from an organizing committee meeting in May of 2010 to become the largest and most dynamic photography festival in the region.
“Photography … confronts each one of us every single day, whether we are image makers or simply consumers of photographic imagery,” says Crump. “It is also a dominant medium of contemporary art, and we see artists adding photography to their diverse practices with increasing regularity.”
With an easy count of at least 80 female artists involved, not including those represented through juried competitions and group shows (which could put the number at more than 200), FOTOFOCUS commemorates the female gaze through the lens in a variety of exhibitions.
Take a closer look at some of our favorite female photographers and their exhibitions.
Anne Arden McDonald
Rituals and Enactments: The Self-Portraits of Anne Arden McDonald
Oct. 15, 2012 - Jan. 18, 2013 at the Iris Bookcafe, 1331 Main St., OTR, irisbookcafe.com
Multimedia artist Anne Arden McDonald is best known for her photographic self-portraits, which recall both performance art and installation. From the ages of 15 through 30, she would break into abandoned buildings or wander empty landscapes with her camera to build environments and create private self-portrait performances.
On her website, McDonald says, “The performances explore my relationship to the world around me and are part ritual, part dance and part daydream.” In an attempt to live her fantasies — such as being able to fly — while in an earthbound body, her photographs serve as a vehicle to reconcile what she refers to on her site as the human dilemma of being “both flesh and spirit — living in a body with a mind that dreams.”
Frustrated by worldly limitations, she adds that her images “serve as visual metaphors for struggles we face every day: tensions and balances, keeping hope alive against obstacles and living in a vulnerable way without being crushed.” Born in London and raised in Atlanta, McDonald now lives in Brooklyn, where she teaches at the Parsons School of Design.
Emily Hanako Momohara
Sept. 28 - Nov. 3, 2012 at the PAC Gallery, 2540 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, pacgallery.net
Photographer Emily Hanako Momohara’s collection of eerily beautiful conceptual landscapes, Recent Works, pays quiet tribute to her quest for information about her Japanese, Okinawan and Hawaiian heritage.
In the artist statement for her collection, Islands, from which the image “Island 14” is taken, Momohara explains that the photographs were inspired by a trip she took to Okinawa to investigate her family’s life there before immigrating to Hawaii.
After disproving old family stories — such as the tale that her great-grandparents lived on a secluded island only reachable by foot during low tide — and adding new knowledge to the legacy of her grandparents, she discovered, “Legacy is not factual, but fluidly ebbs with its human carrier. This is what happens when memory becomes collective and history is owned by those of us remaining. A story passes from one person to the next, to the next while the account alters slightly. In the end, the message may or may not resemble the original. Yet, whichever familial myth or fact one lives with, it influences, inspires and forms our memories and character.”
Intrigued by the concept of collective memory and its relationship to the imagination, Momohara blends reality and myth in her images to create landscapes that explore familial history, as well as the ideas of legacy, loss and belonging. Many of the photographs are inspired by specific Japanese scroll paintings that depict the natural cycle of the four seasons while simultaneously representing the cycles of life: birth, life, death and rebirth.
Momohara is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, where she heads the photography department. She earned her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from the University of Washington, and her MFA in Expanded Media from the University of Kansas.
Polaroids from ‘Stay the Same Never Change’
Oct. 4 - Oct. 31, 2012 at the Convergys Gallery, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, 1212 Jackson St., OTR, artacademy.edu
Photographer and video artist Laurel Nakadate delves into the female body’s intimately powerful hold on the male gaze with her Stay the Same Never Change project. The collection of over 150 Polaroid stills from her 2009 independent film, Stay the Same Never Change, captures the mainstay of feminine lure while intertwining themes of power and loneliness.
Filmed in Kansas City in 2007, the 93-minute fiction is comprised mostly of amateur actors and is said to be reminiscent of Harmony Korine’s Gummo, a loose narrative that follows residents of Xenia, Ohio after a devastating tornado, and Stephen Soderbergh’s Bubble, which had no script and cast non-professional actors. Nakadate is considered a controversial artist, who isn’t afraid to cross boundaries as she explores male and female dynamics through sexual indulgences and a series of disconcerting events, all while showcasing what most would want restricted to bedroom-only access.
In a 2006 interview with The Believer, she said, “As people who make things, we have the ability to think of the most vile, awful things we can imagine, but it doesn’t mean we believe those things. I allow myself to go places in my videos that I would never go in my real life.”
Now residing in New York City, she graduated Yale University with a Master of Fine Arts. Nakadate’s work has appeared at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Asia Society, New York City; the Reina Sofia, Madrid; the Berlin Biennale, Berlin; Grand Arts, Kansas; and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York City.
YWCA Women’s Art Gallery
Landscapes of the Mind Metaphor, Archetype and Symbol: 1971 – 2012 Nancy Rexroth, Judi Parks and Jane Alden Stevens
Oct. 5, 2012 – Jan. 10, 2013 at 898 Walnut St., Downtown, ywcacincinnati.org
Artists Nancy Rexroth, Jane Alden Stevens and Judi Parks (who is also curating the exhibit) offer a look into how metaphor, archetype and symbol intersect to transcend ordinary reality in Landscapes of the Mind. Each body of work that makes up the exhibition — Rexroth’s Iowa, Alden Stevens’ Secrets the Land Told Me and Parks’ City Shadow: Mythic Journey of the Hero — was shot twenty years apart by mixing the technologies and cameras of each photographer’s time.
Parks was asked to curate a show for FOTOFOCUS by the co-curator of the YWCA Women’s Art Gallery, the only art gallery in Cincinnati to exclusively show women’s art. The co-curator wanted a show consisting of Parks’ work and also the work of two other female photographers. “Nancy Rexroth and Jane Alden Stevens immediately came to mind,” Parks says.
“Nancy is an icon within the photographic world, having published in 1977, the first fine art monograph shot with a plastic toy camera called the Diana,” Parks says. “Her book, Iowa, is used in college classrooms today. She has been credited with crystalizing the plastic camera genre.”
The dreamy, imperfect and nostalgic images of a vaguely remembered childhood in Iowa, all taken with a Diana camera, catalyzed a new genre of photography. While it’s hard to get a copy of the original book, for the first time, in this exhibit, viewers will be able to see new photographs from Iowa’s archive of 16,000 negatives. Rexroth’s work can be found in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts; and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
Alden Stevens’ work, Secrets the Land Told Me, examines the process of apple growing and harvesting in northern Japan. Parks calls it, “extraordinarily beautiful,” and “layered with meaning.” According to Alden Stevens’ artist statement, “Raising apples using traditional methods in northern Japan is a laborious, hands-on process. The intense engagement farmers have with their orchards is evident throughout the growing season. The trees, landscape and the fruit itself combine to form a fascinating environment that bears witness to the effects of human intervention,” adding, “In the process of cultivating apples, the land is both injured and healed.”
All of Alden Stevens’ work draws on history and her fascination with the impact that humans have on the environment. A current professor at UC’s DAAP, her photographs can be found in the permanent collections of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Cincinnati Art Museum.
Parks exhibits her 1990s work in City Shadow: Mythic Journey of the Hero, which looks at community and culture: “How the age-old archetypes and symbols arise in figures we disown in our community. The Beggar, the Hermit, the Fool, our Priests and Priestesses, the Artist …This body of work seeks to give visible and tangible form documenting abstract psychological theories and principles,” Parks says.
With a genesis in her daily freelance newspapers, magazine and Associated Press assignments, the images were inspired by the nature of the human condition and raise questions about the nature of identity and how we occupy our places in the world; “how we each strive, succeed, fail and struggle, sometimes against great odds, to reach fulfillment in our lives,” says Parks.
Today Parks works with artists in all media who exhibit at her studio, 313 gallery, in the Pendleton Arts Center.
To learn more about FOTOFOCUS, go to fotofocuscincinnati.org.