Summer Reading List | Monique Atherton
Summer Reading List | Monique Atherton
I love writers who love photography. Teju Cole is one of those writers. Cole, who wrote the monthly “On Photography” column for the New York Times Magazine for four years is an example of how writers can add to the discourse of photography. In Open City, we follow Julius, Cole’s protagonist around New York City as he weaves in and out of spaces and the lives of people he knows. While it’s been years years since I listened to Open City narrated by Kevin Mambo, the dreamy prose and narratives on observation haven’t left me. This summer, I plan to reread Open City as I embark on my own work about life in the city of New Haven.
As an artist who incorporates performance into my work and as a fan of Marina Abramovic, I had to read her memoir, Walk Through Walls. I listened to the Audible version, narrated by Abramovic, which makes it feel like she’s there, sharing all her deepest secrets with you. In addition to showing us seven decades of art making, Abramovic, by default, gives the reader a good overview of the evolution of performance art as well as a glimpse into life during post-war Yugoslavia. Reading about Abramovic’s complete dedication to her work in all aspects of her life was revealing. In art, we generally only see the finished product such as the ten minute video or performance or paintings or photographs hanging effortlessly on perfect white walls. This book shows the blood, sweat, and tears (sometimes literally) that Abramovic went through to become the icon she is today.
Summer Rayne Oakes
For me, part of growing as an artist involves branching out into other forms of creativity (puns not intended!). Activities not directly to my art practice allow me time to rest and change focus so that when I do come back to art making I see my work in a new light. My latest hobby has been caring for my fifty or so houseplants. As a result of this recent obsession, I’ve been following renowned plant expert, Summer Rayne Oakes, on YouTube for tips on how to care for my plants. This summer, she is releasing a new book called How to Make a Plant Love You. She notes, “In this book, we explore ways to elevate the common potted plant from a decorative object that makes one’s space “look good” to a gateway to something deeper.”
Using photography as a launching point and incorporating installation, sculpture and performance, Monique Atherton explores intense personal moments created by means of rules and omissions, acceptance and refusal, luring the viewer into the various microcosmic states in which she exists. Her works aims to uncover unspoken desires, tensions and passions that reside on a subconscious level among the people in her images as well as between the artist and her public. Atherton was born in Japan and currently lives and works in New Haven. Atherton has exhibited in Washington DC, San Francisco, New Haven and New York. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Wassaic Project and recipient of the 2018 Connecticut Emerging Artist Fellowship. She received her MFA in Photography from the Yale School of Art in 2016.
“Bad Faith” addresses a collision of worlds from a time when Atherton lived on the outskirts of town in a run-down house while working in a commercial photography studio. This work re-contextualizes photographs made when she was both a participant and observer in the poverty around her. These images redefine traditional notions of socioeconomic reportage by combining, warping, and flattening her own source images of the people and places of her low-income, industrial neighborhood. The distortion became a means of deciphering and questioning the relationship between photographer and photograph, photographer and subject, and between photography and painting. Mirroring oscillations between the polarities of bad faith and negative ecstasy in the context of Sartre and de Beauvoir, the photographs pivot between mimesis and the boundless, transformative potential of the medium in the digital age. “Bad Faith” reframes notions of class representation, elevating her pictures and subjects beyond the rigidity of the studio portrait and the stasis of tradition.
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