Offbeat ‘selfies’ at Artworks Center for Contemporary Art fuse performance, photography


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Mar 08, 2023

Offbeat ‘selfies’ at Artworks Center for Contemporary Art fuse performance, photography

The mirror reflection selfie — captured with a smartphone — has certainly become

The mirror reflection selfie — captured with a smartphone — has certainly become a trend among Gen Z.

Scrolling Instagram, it isn't uncommon to see head-to-toe shots taken in a bedroom or even some in a public restroom. More often than not, the subjects take the opportunity to show off their ensembles and cap off the look with a duck face, a pouty gaze, a peace sign or tongue out.

In "99 Variations" — a stirring collection of images on display at Artworks Center for Contemporary Art , in partnership with the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins — Youngho Kang brings the concept of the mirror selfie to completely new territory. With hair and makeup, the South Korean creative brilliantly transforms into a myriad of characters viewers can't help but stare at.

"‘99 Variations’ is a body of work that the center showed in 2015," said Hamidah Glasgow, executive director and curator for Center For Fine Art Photography. "I was thrilled to exhibit it again alongside ‘The Horizon and Everything Within It,’ as they have similar themes. The theme behind both exhibitions is about how we know ourselves, how we lose ourselves and find ourselves. Though, I think that we have it all inside. It is a matter of uncovering, delving into the layers of societal programming, expectations and ways people attempt to adapt to a society that pulls us out of true."

Kang's black-and-white images teeter between disturbing and tranquil. In some, he seems to be channeling a macabre film character orchestrated by the director Tim Burton. At others, he appears to be a Geisha-like grandmother or shaman.

Dark fairytales. Jarring nightmares. Tribal musings. Portals to another time and place — his work pushes the boundaries of the concept of self.

The camera is just as much an element of the image as Kang's wardrobe, or lack thereof. In each, we see the lensed machine placed somewhere in the frame, sometimes in his clutches.

Kang acts as both the artist and the muse, capturing the many versions of himself that creep beneath the surface. Mythical archetypes that defy the confines of gender — these images will certainly stay with viewers long after they exit the gallery.

In his artist statement, Kang describes "99 Variations" as "an oxymoronic self-portrait created by dismantled selves."

Photographer Kristianne Koch Riddle — an artist with work in "The Horizon and Everything Within It" — has transformed the very concept of how photography should be viewed with her sculptural pieces that blend scenes of nature with textural shape and form.

"I started out by folding my photographic prints and fell in love with the process of origami," Riddle said. "So much of the process was in my head, however. I planned it out. I ‘designed’ it the way I wanted it to look. I was fixated on the details of each image and wanted them to be seen in a certain way. But that didn't flow. Once I let go of control and began to just play, everything changed. I was getting messy. I was tearing prints. I was gluing things together. I was printing a lot of images to play with and just trusted what needed to happen. It was incredibly liberating."

Riddle — who lives in San Clemente, Calif. — takes frequent trips with her family on their sailboat. Sea, sky and the presence of far-off shorelines were often subjects she craved to point and click.

"Then one night I woke up and realized that I needed to merge my two current hands-on endeavors," Riddle said. "I was working with my photographs and I was also mending a huge sail for my 46-foot boat. I loved both processes. They were very physical, which is an important part of who I am. It felt like a safe place to be and where I was finally being held authentically. So, I started sewing the photographic prints into shape and mending them as I had with the sail. The origami process remained relevant too, so I decided to have a community of women help me fold the origami pieces and then I threaded them together like a net or a quilt."

Riddle's five pieces in the current collection manage to exude a sense of adventure. Whether resembling a canoe-like vessel or intricate kite, they speak to journeys of the past and of those not yet taken.

"I did a mind map to figure out what I was feeling and what I needed at the time," Riddle said. "Words like open, freedom, flow, uplift, drifting, chaos, buried and confusion showed up. Then I wrote down what expressed those words visually. Some of these things were in the images I had been making along the shore in California at the same time. This happens a lot in my work. I just need to listen. I would walk in the evening and stand in the water and make these images that I couldn't see until I processed them. I had to trust that there was something there. These images of waves breaking across the transient rocks, on my favorite beach, were already a part of the process I had started with the sculptures, so I knew that they were going to be the foundational imagery for this series."

Also in the group exhibition, onlookers can take in the video work of Alicia Rodriguez Alvisa and her mother, Lidzie Alvisa. The two's collaborative series "Going Back to the Womb" was inspired by the women being reunited during quarantine after years of living apart.

"The most rewarding aspect of being a part of this particular group show is the beautiful diversity of artists and work all coming together to express the same idea," Riddle said. "It gives me chills thinking how grateful I am to come full circle to this place in my life. I left an amazing university experience as an artist many, many, many years ago to go out into the world to experience life: travel, marriage, motherhood, career. But I have been trying to get back to that place where I was a student, especially in a colorful community with thought-provoking, wholehearted artists. I really have been craving that for so long. This show gives me hope that I can be a part of that kind of community again."

Visitors to Artworks Center for Contemporary Art can also take in the monochromatic work of Seattle-based photographer Rafael Soldi.

"The ongoing pandemic has disrupted the way we understand the world around us and with that disruption has come new ways of being," Glasgow said. "We are adapting and making new choices about how things go. What works for us and what doesn't work."

In work by Sarah Van Dyck and transqueer Brooklyn-based photographer Lorenzo Triburgo, such as "Venus," Triburgo poses on a beach and takes on a similar stance of the goddess depicted in Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus."

Much like the famous Renaissance painting, executed in the mid 1480s, this image seems to radiate a sense of renewal and rejuvenation.

"The artists in these exhibitions have used their artistic practice to stretch and dig through their layers to find their true underneath the layers of conditioning," Glasgow said. "There is evidence of struggle, confusion, questioning, resistance, pride and ultimately there is a message of hope. Do the work, find the self. We’ve learned that the many rules governing our lives don't make sense anymore and the future is ours to make. These artists know that and have made clear the evidence of their introspection is hope."

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