During the summer of 2014 John Benasiak, Professor of Art at the University of South Dakota, and Ryan Stander, Assistant Professor of Art at Minot State University, began conversations to curate a photography print exchange and exhibit. Their goal was to highlight the many photographic artists working in the Dakotas and showcase their diverse styles and processes. Working together, the two curated this current collection by approaching 15 artists from their respective states with the hopes of representing a current view of photography within the Dakotas. This diverse collection surveys well-known artists from both states who work as photography educators, commercial photographers, as well as hobbyists in the field. As a result, the collection offers a striking range of styles, approaches, and subject matter.
For photographers of both states, the land seems to hold a prominent place within their work and imagination, albeit in distinctive directions. Paul Horsted engages in a practice called “re-photography” by attempting to re-create historical images often suggesting the human imposed changes upon the landscape. Robb Siverson and Sarah Christianson take to the skies to offer a birds-eye perspective on the land. Whereas Meghan Duda’s long exposure from a car blurs the passing landscape into colorful abstractions. J. Earl Miller’s image of a discarded Maytag washing machine transgresses boundaries of landscape and contemporary still life. Miller’s and Anzley Harmon’s quiet mint green shelf and water glasses suggest that the ordinary materials of daily life hold remarkable photographic potential.
Contemporary photography boasts an incredible range of processes from the ever-evolving digital world to those who work with antique cameras and the hand applied chemical processes of the mid-1800’s, and the many that live in between. This collection mirrors these international trends in contemporary photography. The antiquarian interest looms in Shane Balkowitsch’s digital image of his wet-plate collodion photograph (technically called an Ambrotype) as well as John Benasiak’s Kallitype image, whose processes were invented in 1850 and 1889 respectively. Others like Suzanne Gonsalez-Smith’s and Su Legatt’s work often carry visual ties to printmaking, but are digital collages constructed in Photoshop of taken and found photographs and other scanned images. While many of the artists have made the digital migration, several of the artists continue work in film photography. Max Patzner and Michael Conlan both use expired film and unique processing approaches to achieve a desired, yet unpredictable, look to their images.
The ND/SD Photography Survey is the first print exchange hosted by MSU’s Flat Tail Press. As with most print exchanges, each artist represented produced enough prints for all the other artists and a large-scale trade ensues where each artist receives one print from every other artist. Additionally, one set has been given to Minot State University and the University of South Dakota for their permanent art collection and for touring exhibits.
About the Curators:
Originally from the farmlands of northwest Iowa, Ryan is a fairly recent transplant to the Red River Valley of North Dakota. He’s alternated his education between art and religion [MFA from the University of North Dakota, MA in Theology from Sioux Falls Seminary (SD), and a BA in Art from Northwestern College (IA)]. Drawing upon his theological background, the themes of memory, identity, and place often rise to the fore in his work. As a printmaker and photographer, his work has been exhibited internationally in South Africa, China, Central and South America; nationally in New York, New Jersey, and Texas; and across the Upper-Midwest. Stander is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at Minot State University in Minot, ND, where he teaches photography and directs Flat Tail Press.
John was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, and attend public schools through the 1950s and 1960s. He received scholarships and teaching assistantships at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of Chicago, where he received both his Graduate and Undergraduate degrees in 1975 and 1972. After teaching for one year at New York State University in Oswego, and spending a year as a visiting artist at Auckland University and Christchurch University in New Zealand, he accepted a
teaching position here the University of South Dakota in1980, and has taught there ever since.