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TODAY

Wednesday, July 17

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Airbags

Tricia Moreau Sweeney is this year's recipient of The Illinois State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts 4th Annual Grant for photography, which was juried by Karen Irvine, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Sweeney (along with co-recipient Kathy Richland Pick) will be honored at the awards ceremony tonight, Oct. 5, 5-8pm, at Gage Gallery, Roosevelt University (18 S. Michigan Ave.), and her photography will be on view at the gallery through December 1. The Illinois State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts was established to support the mission of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, located in Washington, D.C., and to focus on the work of Illinois women artists by awarding grants to artists, and presenting exhibitions throughout the state.

As Sweeney describes, "My photographs are expressions of frustration with gender and power relations. The gendered body and the ambiguity of love and aggression are re-occuring themes throughout my work." She exhibited her work in a solo exhibition at the Schopf Gallery on Lake last October. Sweeney received her BFA from the University of Houston and received her MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and she currently teaches at St. Joseph High School.

Q: Context in photography can be so random. Photography's built for this, I guess. Certainly there's an amount of "staging" that comes into play, both in the predetermination of the moments you want to capture (call it theme), then in waiting for those particular moments to arrive. Have you found that there's an appeal to chaos that shines through for you in practicing photography?

Sweeney: In the series, "Public Displays of Affection," there is order in the environment and disorder in the actions. I have never thought to be interested in chaos as a subject. I am certainly interested in aggression. I suppose aggression can be chaotic. As far as context and staging, I looked for public spaces attached to domestic spaces for the foregrounds and backgrounds of my images because I wanted to push the public/private aspect of PDA. In this series, the affection is in the form of play-fighting, an action often performed by siblings, friends and lovers. Play-fighting is an ambiguous form of aggression that gives people an excuse to be physically close without the usual expectations.

Q: How do the instruments of your craft — the camera, the darkroom — act as barriers between you and your subject? Do they act as sort of safety zones — do they help filter you toward objectivity? Or, do they work as the opposite, as facilitators to a more emotional connection?

Sweeney: The camera and the darkroom are a physical barrier in photography, but I do not really think of them as barriers. I often include other barriers in the framing, such as a chain link fence or the back end of a pick-up truck. This physically separates the viewer from the subjects but also places them in context of the scenario. In essence, the viewer is a voyeur in a safety zone.

Q: All art catalogs history. What do you find in photography that is unique to this cataloguing?

Sweeney: Photography is unique in cataloguing of history because we rely on photography to enforce our memories. Perhaps too much. People remember things from photographs, whether it was a birthday party or a more significant event. People will remember what the photographs reveal more than the actual event itself. This not only happens in our family albums. This happens every time we see a photograph, whether it is in the news, on the Internet, on a billboard or in a history book. We learn about events of the world as they are given to us. It is up to us to look further and see more than what is given.

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About the Author(s)

John Hospodka is a life-long Chicagoan, and today lives with his wife in Bridgeport. He does not profess to be an expert in anything; he's just a big fan of the arts and is eager to make more sense of them. Direct comments or suggestions for interviews to tqf@gapersblock.com.

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