From Rashid Johnson’s continuing series of photographic self-portraits in reference to important figures in black history to Shana Moulton acting as the main character “Cynthia” in her ongoing video series, each of the artists in How Do I Look? uses their own image or facsimile thereof to convey their ideas with strikingly different results.
Sheree Hovsepian (b. 1974 Iran, lives NY) and Heidi Norton (b. 1977, lives Chicago) met at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and have collaborated on a photographic series of diptychs titled Knowing Me, Knowing You 2005-present (yes, the ABBA song!). They photograph people and places which, when placed together, provide insight into their identities. One pair features head shots of 2 women — one fair skinned with curly hair and the other dark skinned with long locks titled Portrait of Someone Who Looks Like Me. Hovsepain is Iranian and Norton American. Additional pieces from this series are titled The Place Where I Lost My Virginity, Portrait of My Sister and The View Behind My High School. The photographs are placed in a diptych configuration, which forces their viewer to establish a relationship between the two images and the two people the images represent. The work becomes a source for a politicized discussion about issues of race, class, sexuality, age and privilege.
Rashid Johnson (b. 1977, lives NY) works in multi-media, but was trained as a photographer in Chicago completing his undergraduate degree at Columbia College and spending a year of grad school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has made a series of self-portraits with the artist taking on the persona of important figures in black history including the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the painter Barkley Henricks, and boxer Jack Johnson. We will feature the black and white photo Self-portrait laying on Jack Johnson’s Grave, 2006 — Jack Johnson is buried the Chicago’s Graceland cemetery and became the world’s first African-American heavy weight champion in 1908 in a bout with Tommy Burns. He held the title for 7 years. Johnson’s 1st piece from this series Self-portrait With My Hair Parted Like Frederick Douglass is in the permanent collection of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and is currently on view in their exhibition MCA EXPOSED: Defining Moments in Photography, 1967-2007 which continues thru July 29th.
Shana Moulton (b.1977, lives, NY) hails from California but recently relocated to NY. She has been working on a series of videos titled Whispering Pines (named after the mobile park home where she was raised) since 2004 — all feature a recurring character “Cynthia” played by Moulton. This character is an average office worker suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome (and sometimes sporting a neck brace), searching for spiritual healing. Moulton’s semi-narrative films are hinged upon her deep understanding of, and reverence for, that class of objects known as California kitsch. These plug-in, plastic relics of the ‘70s — lighted crystals, tabletop fountains, “magic eye” pictures, medicine-colored electric blankets — are the vehicles which, through the artist’s inventive filmic manipulation, lead her, as the ever-present bewigged protagonist, into a series of misadventures that always seem to culminate in the character’s dissolution into the cosmos, a death / nirvana attained passively, simply by dancing along the special-effects pathway that some knickknack or other has presented. It is this bewildered hero’s attaining that we as viewers most enjoy, laughing and marveling at the virtuosic associations the artist draws along the way. A selection of videos from this series will be shown along with a related work Feeling Free featuring Angela Lansbury. Moulton recently has a solo show at Bellwether Gallery in NY.
Carrie Schneider (b. 1979, lives Chicago) graduated this may from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Her luscious photographs from the series Derelict Self 2006-2007 of herself mimicking the movements of her brother are inspired by the idea that mimicry can be a way to both gain and lose a sense of oneself, as well as her own experience being a younger sibling. A trio of images from this ongoing series will be featured along with a new large-scale (possibly one-off) piece Las Bebidas, which updates Velazquez’s complex system of gazes from his famous Las Meninas painting. With Schneider front and center in the portrait gazing intently at the viewer, this photo (taken at Chicago’s art school hang out the Rainbo) is perhaps propositioning the dive bar as the present day royal court! Currently Schneider is at the Showhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She will follow her residence this fall with a Fulbright Fellowship at the Academy of Fine Art in Helsinki Finland.