We are very pleased to announce the two newest additions to The Chicago Project: Justyna Badach and Tealia Ellis Ritter. Both artists are working in portraiture, mostly photographing strangers, but with very different intentions. Below is an image from each artist, along with their artist statements—be sure to follow the links to their Chicago Project pages to see more images. We’ll also be adding a number of recent Columbia College of Chicago graduates to the project in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back often.
“Inwardness as a place of absolute freedom within one’s own self was discovered in late antiquity by those who had no place of their own in the world.” Hannah Arendt (Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951
My images are an investigation of rejection, isolation, marginalization and expression of individual desires. As an artist that came to the United States as a refugee, I am trying to make sense of personal displacement and a fragmented personal history. As a woman, I am curious about what my life would be like if I were a man and the possibility of inhabiting a masculine space. Having spent my childhood under a totalitarian regime, I have little faith in the veracity of photographic documents. My interest in images lay in their subjectivity and their relationship to individual experience.
For the past 5 years I have been collaborating on a series of portraits with bachelors. These men tend to exist on the margins of culture and are often considered invisible by society. I usually meet the men for the first time when I arrive at their home to collaborate on a picture. The images we construct together depict the safety of places where they withdraw from the world to think, meditate and act out their fantasies. I am interested in the way that these personal spaces serve as both portrait and the junction between masculine and feminine, the man and myself.
Like bachelorhood, these spaces are both a refuge and a prison; the place where the men get back in touch with themselves by depriving themselves of an emotional connection with the outside world. To gain access into this solitary world I must give up control of my environment and perhaps my safety. By relinquishing a level of control to the men, I am able to engage our mutual vulnerability, loneliness and discomfort.
The process of making these images embodies a form of role reversal, a feminine penetration into a masculine space. Many of the men expand a great deal of effort to arrange their living space, developing a kind of personal iconography or domestic vernacular. At times, this space is so profoundly personal, that it feels like I am standing in someone else’s skin, a space too uncomfortable for anyone other than the bachelor to occupy. I am very interested in this part of the process, the juncture where the man’s personal experience, their discomfort, collapses into my own and their voice becomes mine. This interaction is rooted in a symbiotic exchange of power or the engendering of other. The images/text represent the boundaries of what the man and I choose to reveal/conceal about ourselves to each other and the camera.
The specific genesis of, The Live Creature and Ethereal Things, was my family’s move to suburban Chicago. I found myself an outsider in a town where I knew no one. This created in me a heightened awareness of how I looked and how people looked at me. I began to experience a conscious and constant feeling of being on display.