Confession: In high school and college, I was an artist. (As I write these words, the admission is still tough to wrap my head around.) Photography was my first love and I eventually majored in Art Studio. My areas of concentration were printmaking and performance. I gave up photography because at the time (in the 35mm days), supplies were expensive and the primary photo professor was a jerk. He was known to HATE commercial work, and there were notorious stories about him tearing up student projects, claiming they were shit.
classes critiques are hard enough. No one needs Professor Douchebag to add to the misery.
Still, I often fantasize about what life would be like if I actually pursued photography. Would I have walked away from it the same way I did printmaking and performance? Who knows?
I will always be a lover and believer in the transformative ways of art. There are a lot of smart and creative people who illustrate this. Check out this interview with 2015 MacArthur Fellow LaToya Ruby Frazier.
I set out to retell the collapse of the steel mill industry, global economy, loss of social services, environmental racism and healthcare inequity through the bodies of three generations of Black women: Grandma Ruby, who lived from1925 and 2009 Mom, who was born in 1959 and myself, born in 1982). Our lives are markers on a historic timeline as Braddock shifted from a prosperous melting pot when my grandmother grew up to a segregated redlined community losing jobs and suffering from white flight when my mother grew up to dismantled steel mills, the War On Drugs and disinvestment at the local, state and federal levels by the time I grew up.
Her work shows us how art can be as effective and informative as the academic articles and books we write, and that our own families and experiences are central to understanding the major issues of the time. Perhaps it’s time that we all dust off that old trusty camera.
Maraming Salamat (Many Thanks),
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.