Looking Back At PhotOH: Behind The Artists

By Sarah Snyder, Marketing and Communications Intern

Last month, the Miami University Art Museum hosted PhotOH: Behind The Artists, where an artist reception was held and photographers Bruce Checefsky, Donald Black, Jr., Lori Nix, and Kathleen Gerber spoke with over 40 attendees. The artist panel, moderated by William Messer, explored topics of the artists’ works, various techniques, and history with photography.

Themes of diversity, passionate creation, and unique perspectives came up often, and attendees loved hearing about the artists’ creative processes.

Bruce Checefsky told the story of how he learned to use a scanner to create beautiful photographs. A chance encounter of “playing around” with the scanner in 2009 led him to place his cat on top of it – “Who hasn’t, right?” he notes with a laugh. He then set the scanner vertically and found the resulting image to be remarkable.

The next day came, and with it came a slew of extension cords leading the vertical scanner into the garden to create beautiful photographs. Checefsky began purposefully planting flowers that would scan well, and found his backyard to be replete with gorgeous subjects ready for photography.

Donald Black, Jr. explained his history with photography as a highly talented child-turned-young artist, along with his one-sided relationship with a stereotype of being angry. Although people keep trying to fit him within that box, Black, Jr. explains “I’m not angry… It’s an observation. I’m a very blessed person… But if you ask me about my observation, I have a very intense one. Making images and putting them in public spaces was needed for me.”

Black, Jr. gave an in-depth description of how he came to create artwork for public spaces, along with why it’s so important to him. As a child traveling into the city for school, he saw how little art there was on his way to school, whereas the latter was surrounded by art. While the “white art world” was telling Black, Jr. to be the “first black” – the first to win awards, to be placed in museums, to be highlighted as one of the greats – his community was never invited into that art world.

“The hip hop urban culture took what they were doing to the corner… So I started learning city ordinances and saying ‘Well, how can I bring my work to the people that are represented in the work?’… So I started to put up the images large… It was very fulfilling.”

Additionally, there was a moment of connection in which Nix expressed to Black, Jr. how much she loves seeing one of his large murals, seen below, in Cleveland each evening as she returns home.

Nix and Gerber expanded upon their detailed work creating still life natural dystopia. Nix’s experiences with natural disasters as a child led her to be interested in the outcomes of such events, and Gerber explains “she tells these stories… [through] the eyes of a child. It’s more about wonder.”

Their work is incredibly detailed, with each piece being hand-placed to create a fantastical futuristic and dystopian world. “The reason why I started making the type of work that I do,” notes Nix with a laugh, “is because I didn’t actually find myself to be a very good photographer.” Most of her time is spent in the studio with Gerber creating their vibrant, yet haunting model environments that evoke wonder and contemplation.

Attendees called the artists “accomplished” and “unique,” and loved “how thoughtful each artist is and the variety of techniques and ideas” that were brought up throughout the panel. The exhibit will be open to the public until the end of the fall season on December 10, so make sure to visit and experience the amazing Ohio-based art soon!