JANE SZABO - PROJECT STATEMENTS
The series Somewhere Else maps an emotional route of exploration and escape. When I am here, I want to be there. Yet once I get there, I am left to wonder if this place answers or fulfills my quest. Somewhere Else features simply made homes covered in a wide array of maps, photographed in natural settings and within architectural interiors. The maps that cover these homes do not reflect the location of the image, but rather lead back to places I explored as a child or long to escape to in the future.
Evocative of the journey of life, of the visceral impact of that longing to be “somewhere else,” each work examines where we dwell literally and spiritually. It is always about the journey, the search for that place we truly want to call home. The search is symbolic of a deeper, inner search; that sensation of running away from or running to a vast “other.” Somewhere Else explores a yearning for home, or a sense of place, that one cannot return to, no longer exists, or maybe never was.
#countmein is a series of fine art portraits created in collaboration with the Museum of Art & History (MOAH) in Lancaster, CA. This documentary project was designed to engage and inform the community about the 2020 Census. As the artist in residence / photographer for the project, I was tasked with making portraits of the people that live, work and visit the neighborhoods surrounding the museum. Knowing that this census tract has historically been under-reported during past censuses, it was clear that my interactions with people were an important opportunity to engage and inform them about the value of being counted. In addition to discussing the ways census participation could benefit their region by providing increased congressional representation and funding, I wanted to make each participant feel valued.
From the senior center to a tattoo parlor, to young dancers performing at a recital, to the TAY kids (Transitional Age Youth) sharing their stories as they leave the foster care system, I was honored to meet so many people that opened their hearts, and trusted me to make their portrait. And though I originally thought I was coming to this project to give people the gift of being noticed, I quickly learned that I was the one receiving the benefit.
Working on the #countmein portrait project in Lancaster, CA made me see this community in a new way. I slowed down to talk to shop clerks and the kids skateboarding in the alley; I chatted with the mailman, security guards, and people shopping in the stores. Every person greeted me with a smile, and an air of trust and openness. That's something special about Lancaster that renewed my faith in humanity, and I thank each, and every participant for their kind welcome.
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.
* in memory of my mother Helen, 1925-2019
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
Graciously infused with movement, Sense of Self is a series of expressive, conceptual self-portraits. Using movement and light to create a blurred, diffuse quality, I confront my own vulnerability, as well as my attempts to create a sense of order from the natural chaos of personal environment and emotion.
Intimate and evocative, the luminous images expose the attempt to shape boundaries in my life. I focus on capturing my innate need to grid, sort, map, and control – as well as a potent dichotomy - my desire to escape from oppressive, constraining self-regulation.
I shot these images after photographing environmental portraits of others, images that tapped into the subjects’ rich psychology. Through this series, I sought to visualize my personal zeitgeist and my own self-identity.
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.