Because she responded to an intuitive urge to capture in images the loss of her grandfather, a USM photography student has had one of her photographs included in one of the most prestigious college-level exhibits in New England.
Jennifer Wolfe of Windham, a USM graduating senior, has had one of her photographs selected for the Flash Forward Boston Annual College Student Exhibition, “Undergraduate Photography Now (Part 2),” in Boston. Now on display, the photograph, titled “The Television and Pictures,” is one of a 20-photograph series titled “Elliott Alfonso,” focusing on the interior of her late grandfather’s home in Buxton.
Wolfe is the only student photographer from Maine to have a photograph selected for the juried show, known as “a Celebration of New England’s Best Student Photographers.” The exhibit features the work of 25 New England students and is on display until May 10 at The Harrison Gallery in Boston.
“As a student, especially a graduating student, it is really reassuring that my work was chosen to be shown in a setting outside of school,” Wolfe said during an interview. “It makes it feel real, that this is something that could potentially happen again, that there is life outside and after school, and it's not just about showing work in the school setting anymore.
“To have someone who has never seen my work before choose my image to be in a show is really satisfying,” she said.
“We are well aware of the outstanding quality of work that our students in general achieve here at USM, both academically and artistically,” said Lynn Kuzma, dean of USM’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. “The fact that Jennifer’s work was chosen for one of the top photographic shows in New England not only is a special honor for her, but it also is recognition for her fellow students and the entire university community. We are very proud of her.”
Wolfe’s work currently is on display as part of the 2014 President’s Student Art Show at the USM Office of the President, Portland campus, and as part of the USM 2014 BFA and BA Exhibition at the USM Art Gallery, Gorham campus.
The Flash Forward Boston show is a multi-event and multi-venue festival of photography taking place April through May in Boston that showcases emerging photographers from the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. The Annual College Student Exhibition is an exhibition of the best college juniors and seniors enrolled in a college photography program in any of the New England States during the 2013–2014 academic year. The exhibition was juried and curated by Greer Muldowney, an artist, photography professor and independent curator based in Boston, and Jonathan Gitelson, assistant professor of art at Keene State College, N.H.
Crediting Jennifer McDermott, her USM art lecturer, Wolfe admitted that she almost didn’t complete the photographic series that led to her work being selected for the Boston show. The student was required to develop a photograph series for one of her classes, and she “felt the need to go up [to Buxton]” to take shots of the interior of the home of her recently deceased grandfather as an expression of “the absence of a person in a space.”
“He had a whole house full of stuff,” she said, adding that she began the project “to learn more about him and to fill in the gap” in her knowledge about her grandfather.
Uncertain and fearful that she was being intrusive and disrespectful, however, Wolfe stopped her work and switched to another project. McDermott nonetheless encouraged her to keep taking photographs and helped Wolfe realize that what she was doing was part of the grieving process, the student recalled.
Wolfe began again, and “I started getting really good images and I started feeling more comfortable,” she said. She would go to the house every two weeks and spend between one and three hours taking photographs, up to 100 at a time. Between August 2013 to the end of February, Wolfe took between 500 to 600 photos, she estimated.
The chair where her grandfather always sat, the last tissue he used placed by his chair, the wedding invitation on the kitchen table. The photographs “became more about him and making that connection – him, but the absence of him,” Wolfe said.
With positive feedback from her instructor and fellow students, plus an outside portfolio review, the USM student submitted three photos from her series and was elated when one was selected for the Boston show.
Wolfe acknowledged the support she received from McDermott to complete the project, saying the USM instructor was very supporting and encouraging. “I was able to go to her with any question or concern I had, and she was always right there for me,” the student said. She also said that attending USM was “one of the better choices I made,” particularly because of her senior-seminar and internship opportunities at local art galleries.
Even though she will graduate in May with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Wolfe already is working on another similar series that uses interiors and space to suggest the portraiture of a transgendered individual. She is contemplating graduate school, but expects to take some time off to work before she makes the decision to continue her formal education.
“I would love to be an exhibiting artist and have people look at my work and make a living that way,” Wolfe said.
For more information about the Flash Forward Boston show, go to http://www.flashforwardfestival.com/exhibition/undergraduate-photography-now/