JANE SZABO - PROJECT STATEMENTS

 

FAMILY MATTERS

Family Matters incorporates memory, metaphor and allegory to express the challenges, burdens and joys of my role as daughter, and now caretaker, of my elderly parents. My mother and father recently faced a daunting move into assisted living; they are struggling after a series of strokes, memory loss and the decline of their cognitive abilities. This series uses objects gathered from the family home to tell the story of my role within this family.

After moving my 86 year-old father and my 91 year-old mother into an assisted living apartment, I began organizing the contents of their home. When they left, they walked out the front door of their home of 36 years, with barely a glance behind them, leaving unopened mail on the table, and me behind, to sort through the chaos. Over the months, I returned to make the final selection of which treasures I would keep, and to tie up all the loose ends before putting the home on the market.

Family Matters uses objects from their home, and my childhood, staged as still lifes, to illustrate the story of our relationship. Using childhood possessions, and simple items that have been in the family for years, I create tableaus that hint at complicated family dynamics. The presentation of these objects is not merely a catalog of possessions, but a catalog of feelings; of pain and disappointment, hope, loss and burden.

The challenge of assisting parents who live 1000 miles away has changed my life drastically. Working through these feelings in this project has helped me unravel, and resolve, many issues that I was unable to confront about our past. Though seeing my parents age and decline is difficult, I feel I have been given a gift to be able to be a significant part of this transition.

 

 

RECONSTRUCTING SELF  

The act of self-portraiture is akin to gazing into a mirror, except the gaze goes deeper; looking in to one’s self, not just at one’s reflection. In Reconstructing Self I creatively explore self-portraiture, pushing the boundaries of the tradition, finding new ways to express self-identity. Reconstructing Self merges fabrications with conceptual photography in a series of self-portraits, playfully examining issues of identity in an ambitious juxtaposition of fashion, sculpture, installation and photography.

Photographs of dresses made from familiar objects such as coffee filters and road maps, suggest a persona, and become a stand in for my self. The personas represented in these forms illustrate who I am, who I am not, and who I wish to be. Drawing from my own background, I create still lifes, pairing objects with the dresses, building a story, and invite the viewer to contemplate the connections, and develop their own mythology.

The balance between the self and the world outside can be a precarious one. We struggle to find a way to individualize ourselves, yet often merely blend in among the masses. Presented as a typology, the photographs of dresses with their accompanying objects encourage the viewer to look closely to analyze the differences and similarities, and perhaps to fit themselves in to one or more of these dresses or “selves.” The empty forms suggest alienation or loneliness, while the materials and objects simultaneously strive for individuality and uniqueness. Though these works are self-portraits, with personal stories and memories embedded through the use of specific materials, the lack of human form makes the dresses universal. With references to paper doll dresses and childhood playtime, one can imagine these personas could be put on and removed at will as the mood, personality and stories change.

 

SENSE OF SELF 

After shooting many portraits of people in their homes and attempting to tap in to a psychological element, I realized was frequently referencing my own self-identity and issues. It was then time to turn the camera around and start working further outside my comfort zone. It was time to expose my “Self” and reveal my own vulnerability. Sense of Self is a series of conceptual self portraits that uses blur, movement and light to add a psychological element to the work. These images explore my struggle to maintain a rigid sense of order upon my self and my environment (a process that is failing). This attempt and failure to contain chaos parallels my personal struggles and sense of identity. Unfortunately, this self-imposed rigid sense of order, a self that wants to grid, to sort, to map, to control, conflicts with my need to escape from such oppressive self-regulation.

 

dis.place.ment   

I am deeply interested in the human condition and our sense of identity.  My work explores how we live, how we relate to each other, and how we feel about our sense of self. After returning to the camera after a long hiatus, I had no interest in photographing people. And yet, perhaps to rise to the challenge, I was soon inviting myself into people’s homes, invading their personal spaces, and looking deeply into their psyches.This series of environmental portraits, which are shot in the subject’s home, have an added twist. A parent is photographed in a child’s room, or a child is presented in a parent’s space, or some other sense of displacement or discomfort exists. The displacement of the subject makes the viewer pay special attention to their surroundings. As humans, we are drawn into the lives of others, yet we see our own reflection. This project serves to allow each viewer a moment of self-introspection. These beautiful images invite you in, but once inside they force you to question your own identity, and your relationship with others.

 

BUILDING MARIA A HOUSE 

 In April 2014 I joined a group of friends to help build a house for Maria, mother of fifteen. I use the term "house" loosely, because unlike the homes we are accustomed to, this one did not have insulation, electricity or even running water. But then again, neither did her old home, which sported a plastic tarp for a roof. It was heart-warming to watch as both she and her children pitched in to help with the building and painting. Sadly, her joy about the new home was tempered by news that her 19 year old son had gone missing. I have not yet heard if he has returned, or become yet another victim of the drug wars in Mexico.

 

DEVON, TATIANA and the QUESTION OF PRONOUNS  

Devon and Tatiana are preparing for their wedding. Tatiana will wear a lovely Vera Wang wedding dress, while Devon opts for pants and a chambray button up top. Devon and Tatiana are both women and Tatiana will take Devon as her wife. When I first met this couple, I asked the awkward question: should I refer to Devon as "he" or "she?"  I have to say I was surprised with the answer and impressed with their candor:  "whichever one you feel works for you in that moment." You see, Devon does not identify with either “side” of the gender binary. She is in a state of transition, but not a transition that will take her all the way, either physically or mentally. Devon feels she is in the middle of the two genders, and it seems to me she is comfortable with her identity, which I admire.


I'M WITH THE BAND 

Being married to a musician means spending a lot of time in music halls and hanging out with the band. After taking more than enough photos of live acts that every band member craves, it was time to shoot the more intimate behind the scenes moments. I'm with the Band takes a look a whirlwind week and a half in Amsterdam and surrounding cities with the nasty blues band The Other Mules.