New Photography at the MFAH

Gift of Gift of 2011: Emerging artists reflect on their recognition

News_Gift of Gift of_Dennis DeHart_Kiyomi_Coco_2
Courtesy of Photo courtesy of the artist
News_Gift of Gift of_Lung Liu_Girl and Agent Orange
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News_Gift of Gift of_Amy Stevens_Confections_adorned_10
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News_Gift of Gift of_Jennifer McNichols_Tomato_with_Push Pins
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News_Gift of Gift of_Stephanie Dean_Cookie Sandwich
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News_Gift of Gift of_Lisa Adamucci_Lamb
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News_Gift of Gift of_Clare Gallagher_Untitled from the series domestic drift
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News_Gift of Gift of_Emily Peacock_Bruised
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News_Gift of Gift of_Eliot Dudik_Alligator Alley_Oregon Road
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News_Gift of Gift of_Dennis Yermoshin_My Mother at my Uncle Viktor's House Warming Party
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News_Gift of Gift of_Jennifer Ray_Installation
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News_Gift of Gift of_Domini Lippillo_Mark Schoon_untitled
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News_Gift of Gift of_David Welch_Beer Can Totem
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News_Gift of Gift of Nan Brown_Trailers Collected 19
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News_Gift of Gift of_Laura Young_Furrow
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News_Gift of Gift of Krista Wortendyke_Thai
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News_Gift of Gift of_Steven Beckly_Night Talk
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Photographs by emerging artists will be bestowed to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston via Gift of Gift of (GoGo), an event that aims to give young arts patrons a voice and allows them some influence over what's shown at major cultural institutions.

GoGo is an exhibition during which art supporters vote on their favorite works. Based on the monies raised, the most popular photographs are earmarked for donation to a selected museum or gallery.

Now in its second year, GoGo has raised $2,900, allowing 11 out of the initial 17 works to call MFAH their permanent home. Private donors stepped up and provided the funds to underwrite the final six. 

Dennis DeHart, Kiyomi (Coco) from the series, At Play, 2011

"The photograph Kiyomi (Coco) was taken on a ferry boat in the San Juan Islands in Washington State in the Spring of 2011.

The image is part of a larger series entitled At Play, which predominately frames nature play as integral to childhood
development and education.

Kiyomi and her family live on Orcas Island. Her family is strongly rooted in the history and aesthetics of the Islands.
The quality of light and color, mixed with Kiyomi's stunning beauty and mixed heritage, is emblematic to me of the nature and diversity of the region and its people. My family also has a deep connection to and history with the islands.

It is an honor to be included in the MFAH's permanent collection. I received an MFA in photography in 2002 and have been exhibiting, teaching, traveling and photographing consistently since then. My photograph and interdisciplinary projects are compelled by the connections, conflicts and intersections of the natural and cultural worlds."

Dennis DeHart

Lung Liu, Girl and Agent Orange from the series, Remnants of the American War, 2010

"I was riding through the countryside on a motorbike taxi
photographing a project on UXO victims and the area I was in (Quang Tri) had an unusual number of Agent Orange victims.

I visited the home of a young girl suffering from Agent Orange and photographed her portrait in her living room. She is 16 (in Vietnam we start counting at birth, so for us in North America she is 15) and her younger brother is also similarly afflicted.

I am just at the beginning of my career, so this is an important step for me both monetarily and for my resume. I don't really see myself as an artist, but as someone who helps reveal something."

— Lung Liu

Amy Stevens, Confections (adorned) #10 from the series, Confections, 2010

"Confections (adorned) #10 is part of a larger series. This particular piece was greatly inspired by the background, which reminds me of camping in a forest.

I am a mid-career emerging artist, and being included in a museum collection is quite a significant step for my career right now. My work uses humor, exaggeration and color to respond to our personal expectations to strive for perfection and our relationships with the media surrounding us."

—  Amy Stevens

Jennifer McNichols, Tomato with Push Pins from the series, Chef's Table, 2010

"Tomato with Push Pins is part of a series of 13 photographs exploring physical pain and psychic frustration through absurdist food still lifes. (Another popular photo in the series features cheese and olives nailed to a cutting board, with a prybar to serve them). The photos are meant to evoke laughter as well as a recognition of the torture that our routines, vices, and daily needs can become when we face them under duress.

The Gift of Gift of win represents the first piece I've had in a major museum collection. I've been pouring my heart and soul into setting up a color photo darkroom at the artists' collective Box 13, so the news couldn't have come at a better time -- it's an honor and a welcome recognition of what I've been working on.

I crop in frame, shoot on film and hand print on paper, which is fast becoming an artistic vision in its own right. But my main interest is to express challenging psychological realities — pain, anxiety, fear — in staged photographs. I tend to wed high concepts with wry emotional depth."

— Jennifer McNichols

Stephanie Dean, Cookie Sandwich from the series, Modern Groceries, 2010

"My piece is a photographic still life, using the tropes of traditional Dutch still life paintings to feature a 'cookie sandwich.' The work was created in my studio in the summer of 2010. The photograph is very controlled and constructed in this way. The cookie sandwich itself was described to me by the printer I work with at Blackpoint editions, Caitlin Arnold. Caitlin used to get in trouble for eating these cookie sandwiches when she was young. Her story inspired me — even as she told it to me, I visualized the way I’d photograph the cookie sandwich, the colors I’d use and the props.

I consider myself to be an 'emerging artist,' even at 35. I am honored that my piece was chosen to be included in this gift to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, truly a time for me to celebrate and realize that others do see value in my work. Though I exhibit prolifically in the United States and abroad, I’ve rarely exhibited even one piece of artwork in a museum. This is my first piece ever to be added to a museum collection. It means a lot to me and has already changed my curriculum vitae. I loved the process.

The work is not merely a critique of our habits, but also a celebration and exaltation of these common objects. Our excessive packaging and labeling of each fruit and vegetable with name and number will hopefully soon be a habit of the past, and the packaging in 'Caitlin's Cookie Sandwich' will then serve as historic documents, as the pieces of 17th century Dutch still life genre paintings do today.

On a purely personal level, my artistic vision includes a drive to make photographs that people will want to look at and think about. I aim to make photos that I would want to see on my walls personally. I enjoy it when people laugh at the absurdity of life, and I seek to find ways to include that in all of my photos, even subconsciously."

— Stephanie Dean

Lisa Adamucci, Lamb, 2010

"For the past three years, I have been developing a project that focuses on the members of my immediate family and each individual’s relationship to our small southern New Jersey peach farm. I envision the farm as a kind of supreme patriarch, one that everyone — from my grandfather to my youngest brother — submitted to.

Being influenced by the photographs that were produced during the heyday of the Farm Security Administration and that were featured in the series Let us Now Praise Famous Men, I aim to create a contemporary portrait of a nearly invisible segment of the American population."

— Lisa Adamucci

Clare Gallagher, Untitled from the series, Domestic Drift, 2010

"Domestic Drift is concerned with everyday life — the ordinary activities, states of mind and conditions of existence that fill time outside the moments of drama and spectacle.

I've been working with photography since 1996 and combining practice with teaching since 2003. I finished Domestic Drift in January and have shown it in Ireland, England, India, Slovakia and the USA — inclusion in the MFAH's collection is an exciting step forward.

I am interested in working with the sense of ordinariness inherent in the repetitive, habitual work of home while trying to appreciate the experience as simultaneously mundane and precious."

Clare Gallagher

Emily Peacock, Bruised, 2010

"My piece is a large c-print of a woman's behind with a large bruise on it. I don't want to give too much about the image away, because I think it can be read in so many ways — from domestic abuse to something silly like falling. I like to have a bit of mystery in my images.

I just graduated with my MFA from the University of Houston. I have shown in numerous group shows throughout Texas, and I have a 2012 Foto Fest exhibition at Lawndale Art Center entitled 'You, Me & Diane.' As someone who is an emerging artist, having a piece in the MFAH collection means a lot, and it is extremely rewarding. I am honestly honored to be a part of Gift of Gift of.

I am always drawn to the vernacular aspects of life. I often photograph my family, myself and our domestic surroundings to speak to a broader human experience. Right now I am concentrating on reinterpreting the images from the Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph into self-portraits."

— Emily Peacock

Eliot Dudik, Alligator Alley, Oregon Road from the series, Road Ends in Water, 2010

"Alligator Alley, Oregon Road is part of the series ROAD ENDS IN WATER and was taken with a large-format view camera while journeying through the South Carolina lowcountry. 

The mud road was flooded in some areas, and I found myself trying to divide my attention between navigating the deep pot holes and watching the light come through the cypress trees.

I came to a stop at the tires because a couple of them reminded me of the organic shapes and movements of the alligators who frequent these swamps, and as development spreads, these sanctuaries may disappear.    

My art career is young, as I just completed my MFA in photography in 2010 and am currently an adjunct professor of photography at the University of South Carolina. To be included in the collection of the MFAH is an incredible milestone for me.

I am currently exploring Southern culture through photography in order to help myself and others better understand what it means to live in this landscape.  My book, ROAD ENDS IN WATER, explores a specific part of coastal South Carolina that is dear to my heart and is in danger of losing its identity with every new road built."

— Eliot Dudik

Dennis Yermoshin, My Mother at my Uncle Viktor's House Warming Party from the series, My Fellow Americans, 2005

"This is a photo I took of my mother, Carina, dancing at my uncle Viktor's house warming party. Viktor was the first member of our family to buy a house in America. Someone started playing Armenian dance music, and as mother started dancing —  which she did promptly after hearing the music — I started taking pictures of her. That day was a great celebration attended by relatives and many friends.

It means a lot — it really does — to be part of a such a large and esteemed collection as the MFAH. I currently reside in Brooklyn and work in the New York City area.

Finding a balance between me and everything that I'm drawn to is always my intention, and my goal is to record that balance in the style that my content dictates. Although drawn to the personal, my goal with my series My Fellow Americans was to address the social from a personal perspective."

— Dennis Yermoshin

Jennifer Ray, Installation, 2010

"I made Installation during my ACRE Residency program last year in Wisconsin. It's a large-format photograph made with a 4x5 camera and typically exhibited at 40x50" (about life size). The size of the piece is important, because I want viewers to feel as if they can physically enter and occupy the space. 

It's an offshoot of an ongoing, long-term series of photographs exploring various interactions between humans and the natural world. While I typically approach the subject as a documentarian by photographing the traces of these activities, this piece is a foray into a more active role as a mark-maker. 

I wanted to represent an idealistic relationship between humans and nature; non-destructive and ephemeral — surely undone with the next rainstorm — this is an attempt to alter the landscape without harming it.

Having completed grad school last year, I'm very much an emerging artist, so having my work in a major museum collection is a significant benchmark for me. Not only is it exciting to find myself in such an excellent collection, I expect it will also help me get grants and residencies down the road."

Jennifer Ray

Domini Lippillo and Mark Schoon, Untitled #4 from the series, Anti-Local, 2010

"The piece Untitled #4 comes from the series Anti-local, a collaborative series of intimately scaled diptych photographs that explores domesticity by documenting our own living spaces. Beginning independently, one photographer creates an image of his home and sends it to the other. The recipient, in turn, responds to the image with a second, paying attention to subtle details such as light, color, and texture to find similarities and differences in his home.  Being 1,114 miles apart, the use of the diptych format pairs two images together to form a dialogue about proximity and locality and question the definition and use of space and place.

Mark and I are both emerging artists. We met in graduate school, and upon completion of our degrees in 2009 we moved to different locations.

Mark lives and works in New York, and I live and work in Mississippi. Besides being artists, we are also educators. Having a piece in the permanent collection of MFAH brings a sense of accomplishment and importance to our collaborative project. It also lets our students see the possibilities that exist if you are dedicated to your work.

Mark and I are both interested in photographing space and place, but for completely different reasons and in completely different ways. For this project we stumbled upon a neutral style that both of us felt comfortable working in, but I would not say that it is representative of either of our styles. My photographs of interiors (in my solo projects) are usually staged and speak more about my relationship to the environment.

Mark approaches his solo work with the eye of a non-fiction novelist interested in learning about the people that inhabit the space.

Although we both photograph in places that are familiar to us, Mark photographs from the perspective of an observer where I photograph from the perspective of a witness. With that said, we often would make images that had similar subject matter, but felt very different."

Dominic Lippillo

David Welch, Beer Can Totem from the series, Material World, 2011

"I constructed my Beer Can Totem piece behind my apartment in an alley. It was a hot, muggy day and my hands were soaked in stale, sticky beer. But it was certainly worth it once the piece was complete. I couldn't help but chuckle a bit when looking at the sculpture through the ground glass of my ToyoField camera. Coincidentally, there is a Guinness can right in the middle of the totem — my favorite beer. Purely coincidental!

I just recently finished up the MFA Photography program at the Savannah College of Art and Design and am working hard to get the work out there in exhibitions, blogs, and online galleries. So, I would definitely categorize myself as emerging, which is why I was thrilled to discover the call for entries over at Gift of Gift of 2011. It seemed like a one-of-a-kind opportunity. 

Having had an individual investor purchase my piece for the MFAH was a humbling experience. I'm thankful for it and excited to have my piece be a part of a good group of contemporary photographers whose work is entering the museum.  

My style is evolving, as my work is continually informed by art history and theory. I shoot with an array of formats but mostly 4x5."

David Welch

Nan Brown, Trailers Collected 19 from the series, Trailers Collected, 2003

"This was a unique trailer, carefully designed to be very hip in its day. The resident was a survivor of I don’t know what, who, like so many others, kindly obliged my wish to make an image of her home.

I have had a long career beginning in the Ansel Adams era with that tradition of craft. I combined my career with raising three children. That was challenging — but I was stopped in my tracks in 1998 by lymphoma. Thirteen years later, I still work my career around its demands. Recent years have provided exciting opportunities to share my personal vision.

To be included in the MFAH collection means that my work is a recognized contribution to the tradition of American photography and worthy of protecting, which is a great honor.

In this series, I love the repetition that allows me to observe the variation in the décor and detritus of each domicile. I believe in beauty in art and think it’s the key that unlocks meaning. Much of my effort is in the attempt to establish that beauty in each piece."

Nan Brown

Laura Young, Furrow, 2010

"In Furrow I reveal conflicting feelings about the human body by asking the question 'Is it attractive or repulsive?'

I have been an artist for 35 years, but photography is a fairly new medium for me. I use self portrait photos as a means to explore my identity and to confront society's concepts of feminine beauty.

I am honored to have my work in the MFAH collection and excited to be noticed by the vibrant arts community in Houston."

— Laura Young

Krista Wortendyke, Thai from the series, Interventions, 2007

"Our environment is saturated with imagery. Over time, the viewing public has lost the ability to connect emotionally with images, even the most horrific.

By obscuring the parts of these images that define them as historically significant and re-drawing the gesture of what lays beneath, I have compromised the meaning of both the old and the new images.

What is then created makes the new image visible as well as redefines what is seen in the old image, thus creating a different relationship than originally intended between the image and its viewer. In doing so, the viewer is forced to imagine and/or intuit what is erased, compelling them to examine these images in new ways that elicit emotional and thought-provoking responses."

— Krista Wortendyke

Steven Beckly, Night Talk from the series, Let's Make Some Memories, 2009

"Little Wolf: Let’s Make Some Memories is a series of constructed images detailing a romantic relationship between two people. Emphasizing moments within a larger narrative, these photographs focus on the intimacy in between moments of significance: Unspoken glances, lingering touches, brief embraces.

Using the home as the principal setting, private exchanges emerging from domestic, romantic and sexual dimensions of a relationship are openly explored."

Steven Beckly