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Ceaphas Stubbs

Using the language of still life photography, I explore the relationships between accessibility and inaccessibility, as well as pleasure and nostalgia. I am interested in how each sculpture possesses associations, represents ideas, and evokes emotional responses from the viewer, similar to how a domestic object represented an idea in the traditional still life genre. The relationships between the sculptures are not fixed, but embody multiple meanings and are open to various interpretations. My challenge does not merely consist of arranging objects in space or culling photographs together; rather I seek to develop an iconography that is malleable enough to allow my audience to construct narratives, but not too obvious where the tableaux lack depth. Hopefully my tableaux will encourage viewers to step inside their frames using entry points such as fragmented body parts and smaller photographs within the images to establish their own narratives.

My process starts out as studio-based collage-sculptures and installations made from materials such as chemically stained photographs, fabrics, printouts, magazines, wires, yarn, found objects, and wood planks, which are then photographed and dismantled. These ordinary materials lend themselves to non-narrative context. Their ordinariness makes them neutral enough to function as elements in a world of rich and paradoxical visual ideas. My studio practice aligns subtle references to 17th century still life structures and compositions, Surrealist painting and sculpture, Constructivist architecture, and Formalist photography. I am drawn to artists, such as Irving Penn, Hans Bellmer, Zeke Berman, Joan Miró and Salvador Dali, who demonstrate an extraordinary capacity for inventiveness, improvisation, imagination, and undermining rationality, and see potential in things and phenomena that are overlooked. My compositions rely on the principles of sculpture such as volume and gravity, principles of photography such as light and perspective, and principles of painting such as color. I have grown to think of my photographs as sturdier than both my sculptures and paintings combined.

I am also interested in challenging the limitations of the eye and the expectations of photography as a medium. By conflating the difference between what the eye sees and what the camera sees, I incite the viewer’s imagination and challenge perception. Issues of digital photography come into question in my works: the nature of its collaged construction seems ever present, yet my photographs are not digitally manipulated. The edges of surfaces are abrupt; the perspectives do not seem stable. The actual constructions are never revealed: the scale of these sculptures as they once existed in time remains elusive.