We are excited to bring you the Griffin State of Mind featuring Kathleen Tunnell Handel. Her work is featured in our current exhibition Home Views on the walls through December 5th, 2021. Kathleen will be part of an online panel discussion on November 10th at 7pm Eastern. We wanted to know more about Kathleen and her work, so we asked her a few questions. Here is what she had to say.
Tell us how you first connected to the Griffin Museum.
I initially connected with the Griffin through meeting and having one of my first portfolio reviews at PhotoNola 2018 with Paula Tognarelli, the Griffin’s esteemed Executive Director and Curator. Her positive, encouraging comments and immediate connection with my work, as an emerging photographer, gave me a wonderful sense of my own possibilities in a way that I continue to build on to this day.
How do you involve photography in your everyday life? Can you tell us about any images or artists that have caught your attention recently?
Photography IS my everyday life! Since I’m writing this response on Indigenous Peoples Day, I will mention the photographer who goes by the name of Ryan Vizzions and his impactful work made during his time at Standing Rock.
Please tell us a little about your project, Where the Heart Is: Portraits from Vernacular American Trailer and Mobile Home Parks, and how it was conceived.
My ongoing project Where the Heart Is: Portraits from Vernacular American Trailer and Mobile Home Parks wasn’t so much conceived as it has continued to evolve. My curiosity has basically led me in new directions in response to experiences photographing in mobile home communities beginning in 2017. Many conversations with residents about their lives, communities, and concerns, along with my being captivated by the feelings of community and the personality on display outside of many homes, inspired my going beyond photographing to deeply researching and reaching out to residents, advocates, and scholars to collaborate with.
Has there been a Griffin Museum exhibition that has particularly engaged or moved you?
In general, I feel that the excellent quality of curation and online programming has been incredibly inspiring and supportive of a diverse range of people and is truly commendable.
What is your favorite place to escape to?
Are we dreaming of pre and post-Covid escape or whatever we currently feel comfortable with? Escape to me implies a distance from everyday responsibilities, so I’d have to say either Utah or Kenya, and maybe be unable to leave Croatia out!
What is a book, song or visual obsession you have at the moment?
Given my intense focus on preparing for my first solo exhibition at the Griffin, I’d have to say my obsession is with trying to make perfect the self-published catalog of Where the Heart is with all twenty-seven of my exhibited images, a foreword by Paula Tognarelli, and my essay that dives deep into the project and includes quotes from some of the recorded oral histories that I’ve begun incorporating into the project.
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a conversation, who would it be and what would you talk about?
I’m fairly practical, so I’d say the new Governor of New York State – Kathy Hochul, and I’d focus on trying to amplify the voices of those working on the affordable housing crisis and tidal wave of evictions underway in our state that are universal across the country. Without housing stability, it’s almost impossible to lead a healthy, productive life and current regulations often leave out mobile and manufactured housing as a hybrid of land-lease ownership.