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Gwynneth VanLaven

Through photography, installation, performance, and intervention, I aim to challenge stigma. Stigma is a fear driven two-dimensionality machine- it takes the real experience of real people and squashes it flat into stereotypes and presumptions. It is what many of us do to people and issues too difficult to comfortably comprehend. The stigmatized become bite-sized wafers that are more palatable and digestible than complex. I hope to complicate what has become flat, to flesh out experience, and to expose what is dismissed.

When faced with vulnerability and difference, we sometimes resort to the simplicity of binary thinking. These binaries include the divisive “us/them” that separates “the well” from “the sick” and “non-disabled” from “disabled.” My work blurs these distinctions with irony, play, and mystery. I present my experiences as awkward, estranged, but essentially human, such that perhaps “we” and “they” can be closer than we first imagine.

Through recent camera work I also explore ideas of motion and stillness in photography and in life.  A camera is said to capture, or freeze an action in time and space.  So too does a traumatic event.  Unable to stop the car hurtling toward my place on the sidewalk, I feel captured by memory and frozen   I use photography to unfreeze, in order to create something new.  The resulting images open a window to for viewers to connect to their own personal mythologies.  We access these personal histories while dwelling in the spaces between dreaming and waking, between safety and vulnerability, and between self and other.