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What to See: Recommendations from FotoFocus Biennial Director

Posted on September 27, 2022

With 101 projects as part of this Biennial, it can be overwhelming to decide what to see first! FotoFocus Biennial Director, Katherine Ryckman Siegwarth, shares insights on some of the 101 projects and a few recommendations to get you started.

By: Katherine Ryckman Siegwarth, FotoFocus Biennial Director

The FotoFocus Biennial, and the mission of FotoFocus itself, seeks to connect local, regional, national, and international communities through a celebration of photography. The biennial, with its record number of 101 projects at 90 venues across Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Northern Kentucky, speaks to the strength of this regional endeavor that can boast to be the largest photography biennial in America. The content within each of these projects further speaks to this global connectivity, and how one venue can provide any of us the opportunity to see the world in a new way, from a new perspective, giving a glimpse into our shared humanity.

Global perspectives and relationships can be found in various exhibitions, such as ALL FALLS DOWN (The Annex Gallery) which presents works by Cincinnati artist William Howes and Lebanese artist Gregory Buchackjian who both have documented the destructive effacement of the architectural heritage of their respective cities, Avondale/Cincinnati and Beirut/Lebanon, or To Be Determined (Wash Part Art: Main Gallery), featuring Ukrainian father and son photographers Guennadi and Sasha Maslov who create images featuring the confluence of their dreams versus realities as immigrants to the United States. Mariquita “Micki” Davis highlights the geo-political significance of Guåhan (Guam) with a personal, familiar layer in Pacific Concrete (University of Dayton: Index Gallery). Additionally, the Australian artist Ian Strange, who was an artist in residence at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, has created new work in Ohio that builds upon previous investigations of displacement and the concept of home.

Connection has taken on additional significance in the last two years as we continue to face developing challenges with the coronavirus pandemic, as people seek to remain in touch with others. Still New York (Clifton Cultural Arts Center) is a solo exhibition by New York-based artist Logan Hicks visualizing the pandemic lockdowns on New York City. Rosewood Arts Center in Kettering presents two exhibitions, Darren Lee Miller: How do you Want to be Seen? and Ivette Spradlin: From a Distance, featuring photographers who seek to engage with their subjects during the pandemic. The Contemporary Dayton presents, as their curator Michael Goodson told me following the opening, three different interpretations of street photography ranging from international locations, New York, and a project that culled images from Instagram geo-located in Dayton to create a portrait of a city through its inhabitants.

Additional poignant exhibitions highlight histories that have previously been obscured or “othered,” reminding us of the important role photography can play in documenting, recording and, and building the larger narratives of history. ‘Free as they want to be’: Artists Committed to Memory (National Underground Railroad Freedom Center) demonstrates the continued legacies of slavery and the role of art, particularly photography, in visualizing freedom. At the Wexner Center for the Arts, one the new Participating Venues of the Biennial, one can see Carlos Motta: Your Monsters, Our Idols, featuring powerful works that examine the structures that have repressed and demonized queer and marginalized people. Cameron Granger’s installation in the Contemporary Arts Center Lobby features the Near East Side of Columbus, Ohio, focusing on the site’s history of Black migration and urban development that weaves stories to complicate accepted interpretations of the past and present, while Michael Coppage’s American+ (Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery) exposes the continued inequities of being Black in America. And the Miami University Art Museum presents photographs by Steve Schapiro, who documented the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign in Oxford and the South.

The listings above represent a mere fraction of the exhibitions and projects one can view during the month of October. A strength of the FotoFocus Biennial is its participatory engagement, inviting organizations from around the region to join in this month-long event which allows for a myriad of voices to be heard and ideas to be visualized. With over 90 venues, I hope everyone can find a point of connection, engage in discussion, and find artworks that speak to you long after the Biennial has ended.