Jenn Sova in her studio (with bootsy)
Jenn Sova is an artist, curator, and arts advocate. Her understanding of the terms object, item and material go as follows:
- Object : Holds weight; physical and nostalgic/emotional weight
- Item: Massed Produced, no weight, but used.
- Material: Has direction and accumulates over time.
Jenn has always been a creative at heart. When she was younger, she was always performing little plays, rearranging furniture to suit her needs for the day, or working on a new craft. When Jenn was ten years old, her aunt and uncle took her on a three week long trip out West. Among the things they packed for Jenn, activities to do when they had down time in the car, was a camera and ten rolls of film. Not even half way through the trip, did Jenn ask her aunt and uncle to find more film; she had used all ten films already! During the summers of her childhood, she attended day camp in her hometown of Bloomington, Indiana where they frequented the Indiana University’s Art Museum. It was here that a connection was made for Jenn: that there was a way to create and have an artist’s work be visible.
These events, the art museum and the trip out West, formulated some of Jenn’s passions that she carries into this day. Her introduction to photography allowed her to begin to think about family and memory; about how the physical photograph weight in the past and how its tactical nature allows it to be present. Her visit to the art museum fueled the concept of how artists have gone before her to produce work, and have it shown.
One of Sova's images from her trip out west, 1997
Jenn took these interests and ideas and attended Columbia College Chicago, receiving her BA in photography and minors in gender and women’s studies and business. While in school, Jenn learned that the technical side of photography, lighting and digital editing, was not for her. It was the dirty work, the conceptual, the act of shooting and making, the thinking and arranging of photography that drew her in. She kept returning to the actual presence of the photograph. Photographs, in their very nature, are a form of memory. We capture a moment, and it is as if time has frozen; that second that was captured is going to live on on the piece of paper. But, what also happens is that over time, the memory may become slightly altered. The moment was captured, but we may forget the details that composed it. Jenn began working with her own family photos in a series titled “Memories of my Father” in which photographs from Jenn’s childhood are placed next to stories from other people about their family. The piece invokes questions about reality and the stories that are told around photographs. Jenn was working through this idea of memory and the physical makeup of the photograph,when she began to transform her practice from making photographs, to amassing photographs that she came upon.
The Hug, from the series Patriarch
Photography has long been dominated by men, a field whose history is based on an argument between two men who are claimed to be the ‘father’s of photography’, and for Jenn has been working through this dense field of male energy to reclaim space. Jenn takes this patriarchal presence, and encompass her collection of photographs on explore the presence of men. Similar to her series Memories of my father, the photographs that Jenn collects are apart of her ongoing series men with children. The photos she finds, online, in thrift stores, gifted from friends, are what the title of the project is: photos of men, with children. The children range from infants to young adults and no adult women are present in the photographs. The man is within close proximity of the child, and the relationship of the man to the child is always unknown.
Pouty, from the series Memories of my father
In men with children, the exploration of familial ties becomes apparent when the relationship of the man and child comes to mind. Why do some of the men stand with their arms around the child? Why do some stand slightly apart? Are they fathers? Uncles? Friends? Who took the photographs; was it the mother of the child? Where was the photo taken? Where did it exist once it was printed, and how did it end up online or in a thrift shop? The piece also invokes the very nature of photographs. Jenn is interested in the weight objects have; how, as photography is becoming a digitized practice, there is this sense of sacredness around the actual photograph. Jenn’s work allows the viewer to be engaged with the physical thing; it allows for a vast idea to explored, the idea of men and their relationship to the children in the photographs, but it also allows to ponder the actual photograph. Who took it? Where was it for years? Who looked at it? How did it end up where it is currently?
Photographs from Sova's men with children collection
Jenn’s practice brings to mind many concepts of what object / item / material / me is working through: she is exploring a facet of herself, her familial memory, through found photographs. She is exploring memory and the creation/reiteration of it through objects that, over time, may not have a presence anymore due to digital photography. Her work makes me really think about how objects are embedded with memory. How that, over time, an item so dear transforms itself because of the way we pass down memories. Objects are encompassed in ones reality; I bring my own ideas of fathers, thinking of my own, when I look at Jenn’s collection of photographs. But, someone else brings their own ideas/experiences. And I believe that is what Jenn’s research/practice into found photographs is about: exploring how our memory, and experiences, impact and change our idea of the photograph.
Photographs from Sova's men with children collection
Next up // August 15th: Artist Spotlight - Polina Protsenko
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