Photography is a means to describe the world that was less invention and more a realization of a set of ideas and ideals about seeing and representation. I am fascinated by the circular causality of this medium in and upon the world, in its affect performed on its subject, and in the way photographic images direct perceptions so that wants, needs, and knowledge remain inextricably intertwined, evident without being exposed.
My last two extensive projects, To Say It Isn’t So, and an earlier series, Hardly More Than Ever, are comprised of still-life color photographs of arranged objects such as wrapping paper, plastic containers, Styrofoam cups, cans, leftover food bits, and found trinkets. I began this work in 1997 as observations of forgotten details, remnants of daily subsistence and pleasure. For many years I had been intrigued with Dutch-Flemish and Italian still-life paintings whose exacting beauty documented shifting social attitudes resulting from exploration, colonization, economics, and ideas about seeing as a kind of truth. I began this work in East Berlin where the unfamiliar context made me intensely aware of my own cultural and material relationship to food. I continued this project at my homes in New Haven, Rome, Berlin, and Chicago.
The still life genre is unavoidably a commentary on society’s material-mindedness and the way images promote a kind of promise of attainability. I am not interested though in the allure of the meal that awaits an unseen viewer’s consumption. Instead, I photograph the remains of meals and its refuse so as to investigate the relationships between ripeness and decay, delicacy and awkwardness, control and haphazardness, waste and plenitude, pleasure and sustenance. Throughout my long-term photographic practice I wish to engage the photograph’s transformative qualities, changing what is typically overlooked into something splendid in its resilience. I want to look at what is “after the fact,” at what (ma)lingers, at what persists, and by inference, at what is gone. These projects are part of my ongoing photographic exploration of intimacy as the homely and the beautiful.
Laura Letinsky is a Professor and Chair at the University of Chicago, Department of Visual Arts. Museum and gallery exhibitions include Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa; Casino Luxembourg; Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York; Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Nederlands Foto Institute; and The Renaissance Society, Chicago. Collections include the Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Publications include Now, Again, Galerie Kusseneers, 2005, Hardly More Than Ever, The Renaissance Society, 2004, Eating Architecture, MIT Press, 2004, Blink, Phaidon Press, 2002, and Venus Inferred, University of Chicago Press, 2000. She is represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.
Recent shows include To Say It Isn’t So, Yancey Richardson Gallery, NY, Dirty Pretty Things, Brancolini-Grimaldi Gallery, Rome, Italy, Interiority, Hales Gallery, London, and Allusive Moments, Rena Branstein Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Letinsky received her B.F.A. from the University of Manitoba in 1986 and her MFA from Yale University 1991. She has received support from the Richard Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, the Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and the Canada and the Manitoba Arts Council. yanceyrichardson.com