“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.” — Jane Szabo
Los Angeles based fine art photographer, Jane Szabo explores themes of self and identity through utilizing hand-made constructions, self-portraiture, and still life. Her latest body of work, Somewhere Else, is featured alongside ten other artists in our Home Views exhibition; exploring the spaces that we dwell literally and spiritually, Jane’s exhibition grapples with the notion of “home,” the role of family, and the impact of displacement. A beautifully nostalgic exhibition, Somewhere Else will be on display in our Main Gallery until December 5th, 2021. Hear more from Jane as she shares insight into her art-making, and her personal inspirations in our Griffin State of Mind Interview. Thank you, Jane, for speaking with us and giving us a glimpse into your photographic practice.
Tell us how you first connected to the Griffin Museum.
When I switched my artistic focus to working as a fine art photographer, I started to connect with a network of fellow photographers, and over time watched as several of my peers and mentors were selected for solo shows at the Griffin. This of course became a goal of my own. Over the years, I was honored to have work curated into assorted group shows at the Griffin – and having my series selected for a solo show now, as one of Paula Tognarelli’s final curatorial projects prior to her retirement, is truly an honor.
How do you involve photography in your everyday life? Can you tell us about any images or artists that have caught your attention recently?
I am a visual person. Even if I am not actively taking pictures – I am seeing. Everything I look at is seen as colors and textures. For inspiration, I am moved by people who push the envelope, and who engage the space. Oftentimes, this means I am drawn to artists who work in installations – not limited to just photography. Artists Tara Donovan and Andy Goldworthy are fine examples of people that inspire me with their creative use of materials, and ability to make us see the tiny details.
Please tell us a little about your series Somewhere Else, and how it was conceived.
Though visually different from its precursor, the series Somewhere Else is a response or a continuation to the series Family Matters, which was a collection of still lifes. Family Matters was created by staging objects taken from my family home after my parents were moved to assisted living. These family objects were paired with other elements to create tension, and used metaphors to share a narrative.
Somewhere Else is a continuation of the conversation. Once my parents were placed into assisted living, I became painfully aware of the sense of displacement they felt over losing their home. And as I travelled back and forth to see them, and on other work-related travels, I also had a longing for a place that truly felt like home. I conceived the series to address this sense of longing, and the desire to connect to familial memories.
One really special thing about this project is that I was able to bring my mother along on some of the shoots. At age 93, I turned her into a photo assistant, and she was tasked with wrangling the gear! It was a magical time to spend together in a way we never had before.
Has there been a Griffin Museum exhibition that has particularly engaged or moved you?
Though my experience with the Griffin to date has always been from afar, the show Bullet Points that featured artists Deborah Bay, Christopher Colville, Garrett Hansen and Sabine Pearlman in 2016 really stays in my memory. I have such a discomfort with guns and violence, that it surprises me this is the exhibit I mention – but I found it powerful to see this deadly object portrayed in so many beautiful ways.
What is your favorite place to escape to?
Natural environments are my go-to escape place. When I travel, I head to the local wildlands. I love tropical jungles and rainforests, snorkeling in warm waters, exploring boggy marshes and swamps – basically any place I can immerse myself in the tall trees, greenery, and be among birds and other wildlife.
What is a book, song or visual obsession you have at the moment?
Memoirs! I am drawn to memoirs where people reveal their truths, and share their vulnerabilities. This way of processing personal experiences is what I try to do with my image making.
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a conversation, who would it be and what would you talk about?
This is a surprisingly difficult question for me – especially after such a long time of isolation due to the pandemic. If given the opportunity, I would love to talk with Andy Goldworthy, and lend him a pair of hands making one of his constructions in nature. But for a real sit down conversation – and I know this is cliche – but I would want to have a deep conversation with Barack Obama. I have never been a “fan” or celebrity follower, but Obama is someone who has moved me deeply with his integrity and positive outlook in spite of so many challenges. Over the last few years I have gotten more disappointed in humanity – how people are treating each other, how we treat our planet, and more. I would ask Obama how he maintains a positive outlook and remains hopeful in the face of daunting challenges.