TACOMA, WASH. — A new installation of portrait photographs by internationally-celebrated artist Dawoud Bey will be unveiled in the Snoqualmie Library reading room on the UW Tacoma campus on Sat., Nov. 2.
The photographs, created during a UW Tacoma artist residency and purchased by the Washington state Art in Public Places program, join other pieces in the state’s art collection on the UW Tacoma campus by artists such as Buster Simpson, Brian Goldbloom and Stephanie Syjuco.
The 12 portraits—taken in late March, 2013, while Bey was in residence at UW Tacoma—each depict two people sitting next to one another in settings on or near campus. Part of a larger body of work, Bey describes these pieces as “attempts to visualize the often complicated nature of community by bringing together two people from this community who … [may or may not] know each other. These two individuals bring their own narratives, histories, and presences together in order to negotiate their joint presentation to the camera—and the larger world—as members of their particular community.”
Bey is known for the way he uses the camera to explore and comment on modern U.S. communities. Like any good portrait artist, his work penetrates through the layers of protective armor we all wear as we choose how to present ourselves to the world. But, by pairing unlikely people together, his work makes the viewer stop and ask him or herself all sorts of questions about the value of status, economic and social isolation, and our own presumptions of difference.
For UW Tacoma Chancellor Debra Friedman, Bey’s portraits “resonate deeply with our mission as an urban-serving university. In his work, the portrait pairings emphasize the power of the unexpected. In our work, the biggest impact is made on families and communities by the most unlikely students.”
During his week-long residency at UW Tacoma, Bey relied on the assistance of three UW Tacoma students—Kylie Lanthorn, Ashley Cameron and Brian Ashaba—to help with logistical matters. Lanthorn says, “There were two requirements to be a subject in a photograph: you had to be from Tacoma (or strongly tied to the area) and you couldn’t know the person you were paired with. Many pairs were scheduled beforehand, but some of the most interesting photos were of impromptu pairs.”
“When there was a gap in the schedule or someone wasn’t already paired, Bey would literally have us pull strangers off the street to come participate. It was quite humorous to walk up to random people and ask, ‘Hi, would you like to participate in a photo shoot?’,” said Lanthorn.
Bey is a professor of art and was named Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998. Bey studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York and holds an MFA in photography from Yale University. His work is included in the permanent collections of museums in America and Europe, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
What: Unveiling of permanent portrait installation by Dawoud Bey
When: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 4 – 6 p.m.
Where: Power House, Snoqualmie Library, UW Tacoma campus
Cost: Free, but registration is required – tacoma.uw.edu/dawoudbey