Cleveland State University
The Art Gallery at Cleveland State University

Life Imitates Artifice

Monday, January 21 – Saturday, March 12
CSU Art Gallery, Main Gallery

An exhibition of contemporary photographs by Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman, Brandon Juhasz, Matt Siber, Kerry Skarbakka, and Lori Nix. Curated by assistant professor of photography Mark Slankard.

Opening reception: January 21st, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Gallery Talk with Kerry Skarbakka and Brandon Juhasz at 6:00 pm.

Curator’s Statement

Life Imitates Artifice

The photographic image is both an index and an icon.  That is, it is both created by and appears as its referent.  The connection between the representation and reality appears clear.  The camera records the light reflected from the objects in front of the lens to create a likeness.

How is it then that this exhibition features such implausible images as the archeological remnants of human civilization?  How can one artist repeatedly star in images of himself in impossibly perilous situations?  What are we to make of photographs of other reconstituted photographs?  How does an image’s meaning shift when textual information is introduced - or eliminated?

It can be argued that all photographic images are, at best, half-truths. Photographers select what to include and omit; fix a monocular vantage point with a particular perspective; and translate the world into the colors of particular materials using the standardized equipment developed by large manufacturers.  However, more overt manipulation in photography has been around since its invention. In 1840, Hippolyte Bayard felt his contributions to the development of the medium were being ignored; so he created a fictitious self-portrait of himself as a drowned man as a protest.  Oscar Rijlander and Henry Peach Robinson were creating complex seamless photographic combinations just a few short years later.  Today, the digital image reigns.  Anyone with a laptop has the ability to alter photographic images with a click and drag of a mouse.  Though increasingly suspect, the likeness of a photograph still evokes a strong connection to reality.   

The artists included in this exhibition exploit this truth claim of photography.  Much of the power of their work relies on this implicit characteristic of the medium.  Some, such as Nix and Juhasz, create simulations that reveal the seams of their construction, highlighting the artifice of the image.  Others, such as Skarbakka and Siber, manipulate their images to create a seamless photographic appearance of improbable situations.  Larson and Shindelman use the visual grammar of deadpan photography to give the false impression of an uninflected image to match the scientific objectivity of a geotag.  Whatever the artist’s approach, they all confound meaning by disrupting our expectations of life, art and artifice.

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Mark Slankard 

Artist Statement; Brandon Juhasz
My work starts from found images. I like to deconstruct, manipulate and use these images as objects for exploration and discovery in the hopes to better understand and represent the medium as a fluid, interchangeable and malleable format. Photography is a complex, powerful and influential system of data and symbols. I see photography as a 4th dimension. The unbelievably vast world of photographs that are made by people for all types of reasons float in a relative world of shifting contexts. I use the found photographs to construct images the way the originals construct reality, history and meaning for the individual and culture.

"So much of the world is about stories we tell ourselves" -Paul Miller (DJ Spooky)

Brandon Juhasz is an artist living in Cleveland Ohio. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Bowling Green State University. Trained in photography and painting, Juhasz seeks to dissect and understand the entrenched power of images and photography in our culture. His work has been included in many regional juried and curated exhibitions as well as featured on the popular photography blog Lenscratch.

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Artists Statement

Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman
Using publicly available embedded geotag information in Twitter updates, we track the locations of users through their GPS coordinates and make a photograph to mark the location in the real world. Each of these photographs is taken on the site of the update and paired with the originating text. We think of these photographs as historical monuments to small lived moments, selecting texts that reveal something about the personal nature of the users' lives or the national climate of the United States. It also grounds the virtual reality of social networking data streams in their originating locations in the physical world while examining how the nature of one's physical space may influence online presence.

Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman have pursued a collaborative artistic practice for the last three years. Their collaborative work has been shown widely, including exhibitions at The New Gallery in Calgary; Rochester Institute of Technology; Wall Space Gallery, Seattle; 23 Sandy Gallery, Portland; the 2nd Moscow International Biennale; Conflux Festival, New York; Houston Center for Photography; Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle; CEPA Gallery, Buffalo; Peloton, Sydney, Australia; the Baltimore Museum of Art; and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Their work was also featured in the fall 2009 issue of Exposure; the Amsterdam television program De Hoeksteen Live!; and the 2008 annual WORLD TELEKINESIS COMPETITION.

Nate Larson is full-time faculty at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and serves on the Board of Directors for the Society for Photographic Education. He received his MFA from The Ohio State University in 2002. 

Marni Shindelman is an Associate Professor of art and an associate of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Rochester. She received her MFA from the University of Florida in 2002.

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Artist Statement

Lori Nix
What would our cities look like if humankind were to disappear? The streets would be quiet without horns blaring and tires screeching. The buildings would lay empty, yet inhabited by new residents of fauna and flora. This series of photographs is Lori Nix’s vision of how a posthuman future might look.

Nix employs cardboard, plaster, faux fur, and paint to create highly detailed dioramas for the camera. Painstakingly created in miniature, her constructed scenes depict a detailed world where all is not as it seems. Nix’s photographs, saturated with color and infused with a dark sense of humor, turn the notion of the traditional landscape on its head. Public spaces dedicated to history and science (and a few intimate spaces) lie deteriorating and neglected while nature slowly takes them back.  Bees now thrive in the “Museum of Art” where honey mixes with genius; and the wares for sale in “Vacuum Showroom” are reduced to colorful objects devoid of their purpose.  In this future, these architectural spaces are a mere shell and the city is the new frontier all over again.

Lori Nix Biography
Lori Nix has received several photography awards. She is a 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts Individual Artist Grant recipient. In 2001 she was awarded a residency at Light Work (an internationally recognized photography organization in Syracuse, New York). Nix was a 1999 recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Grant; a 1998 recipient of a Greater Columbus Ohio Arts Grant; and she participated in the Artist in the Marketplace program at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in 2000.

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Matt Siber

Artist Statement: The Untitled Project
The Untitled Project is rooted in an underlying interest in the nature of power. With the removal of all traces of text from the photographs, the project explores the manifestation of power between large groups of people in the form of public and semi-public language. The absence of the printed word not only draws attention to the role text plays in the modern landscape but also simultaneously emphasizes alternative forms of communication such as symbols, colors, architecture and corporate branding. In doing this, it serves to point out the growing number of ways in which public voices communicate without using traditional forms of written language.
The reintroduction of the text takes written language out of the context of its intended viewing environment. The composition of the layouts remain true to the composition of their corresponding photographs in order to draw attention to relative size, location and orientation. The isolation of the text from its original graphic design and accompanying logos, photographs and icons helps to further explore the nature of communication in the urban landscape as a combination of visual and literal signifiers.

Born in Chicago in 1972, Matt Siber grew up in the Boston area. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and Geography from the University of Vermont (1994), and an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago (2003). He has a background in commercial photography but is now primarily a gallery artist. His artwork is part of many private and public permanent collections including The Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Contemporary Photography. He is represented by Galeria Antoni Pinyol in Reus, Spain, Galeria La Fabrica in Madrid, Galerie Ysabel Pinyol in Barcelona, and Galerie f 5,6 in Munich. His images have been published internationally in such publications as ArtForum, Flash Art, Aperture and EXIT Magazine and he has received grants from the Aaron Siskind Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council. Matt also teaches advanced digital imaging at Columbia College Chicago and The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.

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Kerry Skarbakka

Artist’s Statement: 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. 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 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.  My photographic work is in response to this delicate state. 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 plausibility of action, which grounds the image in reality. However, it is the ambiguity 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.

Kerry Skarbakka Biography
Kerry Skarbakka is a visual artist and educator working in photography and video.  He received his B.A in Sculpture in 1994 from the University of Washington School of Art. In 2003, he completed his MFA in Photography from Columbia College in Chicago. Skarbakka'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 institutions such as the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia, the Ahlen Art Museum, Germany and the Warhol Museum.  Among many honors, he was awarded a Creative Capital Foundation Grant, a public commission from the City of Seattle through the 1% for the Arts Program, and an Illinois Arts Council Assistance Grant. Publications include Afterimage, Art and America, ArtReview International and Aperture Magazine (Cover). Additionally, he has appeared on live interviews on WGN, PBS, FOX and most recently with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show.

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