Saturday, April 26, 2008

Report from Chicago's Artropolis

Here is a photo of my "Treatment Room" installation. Many thanks for all who helped with the final realization of this project. If you are in Chicago, please stop by to see me in booth # 8-5113. There was a nice article written about the installation in the Pioneer Press papers.....and an essay by Karen Sinsheimer, Curator of Photography at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Rooms with a View to Healing
April 24, 2008
BY MYRNA PETLICKI Contributor for Pioneer Press

The psychiatrist's office may be a haven of healing for patients, but to those who have never been in therapy it's a place of mystery. Evanston social worker and award-winning photographer Jane Fulton Alt opens the doors to that world in "The Treatment Room" at Chicago's Merchandise Mart.

Alt's installation consists of a three-sided enclosure furnished like a therapist's office, including a Kleenex box. Lining the walls are photographs of Chicago-area psychiatric offices. The prints are small so that viewers must come close to see them. That seems appropriate in a setting designed for examination.

All of the photos are anonymous -- no faces are visible. You see waiting rooms, and treatment rooms with couches, comfortable chairs and, of course, those Kleenex boxes, but each office has unique aspects. One has a light box for patients affected with seasonal affective disorder. Another's bookshelf includes an anthology of poetry and works by Plato.

Collaborative work
"In some ways, this show is a little bit of a collaboration," Alt said, noting that her husband is a psychiatrist. "We've talked about it together and he has been very supportive."

The majority of the images were taken at psychiatrists' offices in Chicago, although there are photos of Alt's office, too. She is transporting her office furniture to the installation.

Alt, who has worked as a social worker for 35 years, began doing photography about 18 years ago. "When my youngest daughter reached first grade, I started taking classes at the Evanston Art Center in the different arts," Alt said. She wasn't immediately drawn to photography, though.

"I used to think that photography was for obsessive-compulsive people. I didn't understand it," Alt admitted. Then she began to see that photographic images could be powerful.

"It was easier for me to have access to what I wanted to say with a camera," Alt said, adding, "not that it was easy. It's never easy. You have to go through a lot of different renditions to get it right."

And Alt gets it right a lot.

An exhibit of Alt's photos of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, called "Look and Leave," was held at the DePaul University Art Museum in 2006.

"I think she's got an incredible eye," said art museum assistant director Laura Fatemi, who also praised the composition and clarity of Alt's images. "At the same time, there's sort of a mood that's captured in them, particularly with the Katrina pieces."

Documenting disaster
"After Katrina hit, I ended up volunteering as a social worker to go down there," Alt related. Working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, she was assigned to a program called "Look and Leave."

"I went with people back to their homes for the first time, in the Lower 9th Ward," she said. "Because I was so overwhelmed with what I saw, I decided I needed to photograph it. Those images are some of the more powerful ones I've done."

Fatemi has seen the images in Alt's "The Treatment Room." "Again, it's a very timely topic," she said, adding that Alt is once more melding her social work with her photography. "That combination is a winner," Fatemi said.

Alt, who has taken photography courses at Columbia College and the Art Institute of Chicago, indicated some reservations about bringing her work life into her photography.

"I feel a little vulnerable because it's so out there," Alt admitted. "There are some images where I'm both the patient and the therapist." On the other hand, she said, "I feel really positive about the field, and I think the pictures reflect that."

Chicago Atropolis' The Artist Project, Booth No. 8-5113, 8th f loor, Merchandise Mart, Chicago. 6-9 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, April 24-28. $20 one day pass, $25 multiday pass.

Essay by Karen Sinsheimer
Curator of Photography
Santa Barbara Museum of Art

If the all too-familiar piles of dated magazines and the nondescript chairs and lamp weren’t a give-away, the pleasant poster on the wall announces that the viewer is in a waiting room. It is the first image in Jane Fulton Alt’s powerful series, “The Treatment Room,” in which she visualizes the experience of being both client and clinician in pursuit of unlocking the secret spaces in an individual’s mind.

The myriad psychiatric offices Alt pictures are at once benign, banal, predictable…there is the proverbial couch…and homey, with a comforter and tissue box at the ready. Images of the appointment book and desk, the telephone and ever-present clock, along with books and lint rollers, orchids and ornaments, suggest nothing out of the ordinary. But the identities of the humans present are concealed, portrayed only by gestural postures and details that reveal who is patient, who is therapist. The sense of secrecy and intimacy builds as one realizes that these rooms contain and protect longing, anguish, cruelty, disappointment, yearning and hope.

These are powerful places indeed and Jane Fulton Alt’s images suggest the inherent tension, companioned with the feeling of safe haven, that these spaces – and the clinicians – offer.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Go Fly a Kite...

Kites have always held a special place in my heart. The last photographs I made in Burma in 1999 were of children flying kites...a truly uplifting experience given the oppressive political and social climate of the country.
I also explored death and dying through hospice with CITY 2000.I was consumed and overwhelmed with the subject matter and marched into the office to announce my intention to quit.
Rich Cahan, the director, urged me to remain and suggested I photograph Chicago's Annual Kite Flying Festival on the south side.
I did and it was a truly wonderful counter point to hospice.
I suppose my Visitations work addresses a similar asthetic. Anyway...I was running an errand yesterday and heard the most wonderful story on NPR. "While working for the U.N., Patrick McGrann observed how bureaucracy and distance make it difficult to help people in troubled countries. He decided that in addition to needing jobs and stability, people in war-torn and poor areas also need to have fun.
On one of his trips home, Patrick met someone who had a great passion for kites. That meeting led to the founding of the Kite Gang. He tells Dick Gordon that children in refugee camps and their families face constricted opportunities; teaching them how to make kites can earn them some money and allow them to have fun at the same time." Click HERE to hear the story...learn more about The Kite Gang.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Treatment Room is Coming to Chicago!

I will be exhibiting THE TREATMENT ROOM at Chicago's Artropolis' satellite show, The Artist Project.
THE TREATMENT ROOM is a photographic exploration depicting Chicago area psychiatric offices which will include an installation of my office.
So please, if you are in the area, stop by and say hello.
I will be on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart in booth # 8-5113.
Here is a link to a free complimentary pass to the exhibit.
Dates and Hours:
Thursday, April 24 6 pm – 9 pm Preview Opening
Friday, April 25 11 am – 7 pm
Saturday, April 26 11 am – 7 pm
Sunday, April 27 11 am – 6 pm
Monday, April 28 11 am – 3 pm

Solving Each Problem as it Arises

Baldessari (American, born 1931)
Solving Each Problem As It Arises, 1967
Acrylic on canvas, 67 3/4 x 56 1/2 in.
Yale University Art Gallery

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Women Thrive Worldwide

Just received an email about upcoming local events from Women Thrive Worldwide,
a non-profit advancing economic opportunity for
women living in poverty across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Worldwide.
One billion people struggle to survive on $1 or less per day, the great
majority of whom are women. If you are interested in attending the Chicago area events or finding out more,
please check out their website.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

What a photograph!
Kevin Lamarque of Reuters said it all. Bush among nations..."getting in position for the group photo at the NATO summit meeting . The article appeared in the New York Times yesterday.

Friday, April 04, 2008


With all that is going on in the news today about China... the Olympics and human rights, I thought it would be interesting to
share the work of 2 very impressive Chinese artists.

Wang Wei; 1/30 of a Second Underwater, 1999. The artist stated: "Through a combination of image and sound, this piece creates an ambiguous sense of simultaneously being and not-being."
My thought is that it is not easy being Chinese these days but neither is it easy being an American.

Yao Lu's stunning photographs address China's changing landscape. This body of work is created on the computer. Breathtaking!