| Pittsburgh City Paper

Silver Eye Center for Photography opens two new exhibits featuring local and national artists

click to enlarge queer bait by J Houston and Aleem Hurst, part of Fellowship 21 at Silver Eye Center for Photography - COURTESY OF ALEEM HURST AND J HOUSTON
Courtesy of Aleem Hurst and J Houston
queer bait by J Houston and Aleem Hurst, part of Fellowship 21 at Silver Eye Center for Photography
The Silver Eye Center for Photography continues its mission of supporting emerging, mid-career, and under-recognized artists with two new shows featuring over 60 works.

Today, Silver Eye opens Fellowship 21, a showcase of the latest award winners and honorable mentions from the gallery's international juried photography competition, and the solo exhibition Infinite Essence. Both shows will run through July 17, 2021.

Silver Eye assistant curator Kate Kelley says that the Fellowship has gone on for the last 20 years, and offers a "chance to see a huge range of work from a diverse and exciting group of artists, working across the country."

"Ranging from installation to documentary, to large-scale portraiture, to archival imagery, the work on view right now covers a lot of ground as far as its subject matter, technique and perspective," says Kelley.

Sasha Phyars-Burgess was chosen as this year’s Fellowship Award winner for her project UNTITLED AND YET TO BE DETERMINED, 41.8949° N, 87.7654° W (AUSTIN), described in a press release as looking "deeply and closely into the Chicago neighborhood of Austin" and how the community has "grappled with the effects of disinvestment, redlining and socioeconomic injustices."
click to enlarge Blessed, Austin, Chicago by Sasha Phyars-Burgess, part of Fellowship 21 at Silver Eye Center for Photography - COURTESY OF SASHA PHYARS-BURGESS
Courtesy of Sasha Phyars-Burgess
Blessed, Austin, Chicago by Sasha Phyars-Burgess, part of Fellowship 21 at Silver Eye Center for Photography

Pittsburgh artist Aleem Hurst and Brooklyn-based J Houston were chosen as this year’s Keystone Award winners for I used to leave the door open, a collaborative project that uses their childhood homes in the Midwest as a "physical and emotional backdrop for their playfully constructed images." (Both artists grew up in Michigan.)

Hurst and Houston had previously contributed independent works to Lost & Found, a group exhibition at the Brew House Association gallery that ran from Nov. 12 to Dec. 19, 2020.

The Honorable Mentions selected for this exhibition include Odette England and Kata Geibl, for the Fellowship Award category, and Vikesh Kapoor and Marcus Maddox, for the Keystone Award Category.

Artists were chosen by a juried panel featuring curators from the Miller Institute for Contemporary Art at Carnegie Mellon University, the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, and the Brooklyn Museum.

"Our Fellowship exhibitions are unique in that there is no one theme or subject matter guiding the exhibition," says Kelley. "The jurors looked for artists who were exploring challenging themes, using innovative techniques, and pushing the medium of photography in new directions."

Kelley adds that exhibiting artists are given the opportunity to work with the Lab at Silver Eye to "produce new works for exhibition, completely free of charge."

"With our emphasis on supporting emerging and mid-career artists this support makes a profound impact for artists at a critical point in their careers," says Kelley.

In addition to Fellowship 21, Silver Eye will display a selection of work on view by Pittsburgh artist Mikael Owunna, featuring his series, Infinite Essence. A press release describes Owunna's process as using a camera, ultraviolet light, and fluorescent body paint to "recast the Black body as an incarnation of the eternal cosmos and make visible the divinity inherent in Blackness." The images also draw on West African spiritual and cosmological systems to depict the Black body as immortal and transcendent, providing an alternative vision to the "pervasive media images of Black people being shot and killed by police."

Kelley says the gallery will also help visitors further engage with the exhibitions through its Community Perspectives series, which provides written responses to works contributed by members of the local community.

"These are short wall labels written by a variety of individuals — some working in the arts, some from entirely different fields — who respond to work on view through their own unique perspective," says Kelley. "There is no one right way to view a photograph, and we hope that this exhibition sparks curiosity and excitement that lingers with visitors inside and outside the walls of the gallery."

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