EXHIBITION: IN This Body of Mine

Strange Fire Collective at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design

In this body of mine
October 25–December 7, 2019
Friday, October 25, 4:30-5:30pm
Keynote Lecture by Strange Fire Collective: Friday, October 25, 6pm

Frederick Layton Gallery at
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
273 E. Erie Street | Milwaukee, WI 53202
Monday–Saturday  | 10am–5pm

Exhibiting Artists:

Nydia Blas, Andre Bradley, Ria Brodell, Widline Cadet, Kei Ito, Rachel Jessen, Tarrah Krajnak,  Natalie Krick, Birthe Piontek, Kalen Na’il Roach, Gabriel García Roman, Leonard Suryajaya, Paula Wilson, and American snapshots from the collection of Robert E. Jackson.

Since its inception in 2015, the Strange Fire Collective has centered on providing accessible and socially relevant content that engages with current social and political forces. Through weekly interviews, publications, book reviews, exhibitions, and public programs, Strange Fire champions women, people of color, and queer and trans artists, writers, and curators. Each week, Strange Fire releases an original in-depth interview, which collectively form a growing archive of over 200 conversations that critically question the dominant social hierarchy and tell the story of our time.

We are pleased to announce In this body of mine, an exhibition at the Frederick Layton Gallery at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) featuring 14 artists from the Strange Fire archive. The exhibition is organized in conjunction with the Society for Photographic Education’s Midwest Chapter Conference. As part of MIAD’s Creativity Series, the founding members of Strange Fire will give a keynote lecture on Friday, October 25, focusing on the core issues addressed through the work of the collective. They will also engage directly with students through class and studio visits as part of a short residency on the MIAD campus. 

After an extensive audit of the artists Strange Fire has featured, In this body of mine traces a line through significant themes and ideas present in their work. The exhibition questions what it means to occupy a body—and how bodies are policed—through an intersectional lens spanning gender, sexuality, race, and representation. 

Natalie Krick playfully but critically investigates the representation of women in popular culture, pulling from the imagery of glossy magazines and fashion photography. Rachel Jessen examines female identity through the lens of young female wrestlers in North Carolina, while Birthe Piontek explores the relationship between memory and identity, focusing particularly on female identity and its representation in our society. 

Leonard Suryajaya’s elaborate tableaux test the boundaries of intimacy, community, and family, pulling from his upbringing as an Indonesian citizen of Chinese descent, as a Buddhist educated in Christian schools in a Muslim-majority country, and as someone who departed from his family and his culture’s definitions of love and family. Paula Wilson’s multimedia work pulls from her experience as a bi-racial woman, conjoining perceived opposites and highlighting multicultural realities. Kei Ito’s work addresses issues of generational connection and deep loss, focusing particularly on the tragedy and legacy passed on from his grandfather who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, yet died from cancer, and the threat of nuclear disaster which is still present today. 

Nydia Blas uses photography, collage, video, and books to address matters of sexuality, intimacy, and her lived experience as a girl, woman, and mother. Widline Cadet’s work is deeply rooted in her experience as an emigrant/immigrant/migrant and explores the racial and cultural tensions and identity shifts that occur with dis-placement. Tarrah Krajnak’s work directly addresses erasure inherent in the canonical Western history of photography through acts of revision and reinterpretation.

Andre Bradley uses photography’s power to imagine a social landscape and create an archive of one’s own experiences. Similarly, Kalen Na’il Roach’s work is anchored in the image of his own family and questions how this image is created from both the photographic archive and memory. Also engaged with the history of photography, snapshots of African Americans from the collection of Robert E. Jackson address racial identity through a vernacular and historical lens. 

Kalen Na'il Roach

Kalen Na'il Roach

Gabriel García Roman and Ria Brodell highlight stories of queer and transgender communities, both past and present. In Roman’s series Queer Icons, he transmutes his subjects into icons, dovetailing textured collage and photography into one-of-a-kind prints. Brodell’s powerful series Butch Heroes tells the stories of historical figures who were assigned female at birth, had documented relationships with women, and whose gender presentation was more masculine than feminine. Through painted portraits and carefully-researched narrative text, Butch Heroes asserts that queer people have always existed and draws attention to the intense struggles they have faced throughout time. 

Inspired by Felix Gonzales-Torres’ enduring practice, the exhibition will also include a series of printed posters featuring work by over 80 artists from the Strange Fire archive, which visitors will be encouraged to take. While In this body of mine is on view, Strange Fire will release its 200th weekly interview; the archive is available for free online at strangefirecollective.com.

Concurrently, a second exhibition, Strange Fire Collective: Jess T. Dugan, Zora J. Murff, and Rafael Soldi will be on view in the Perspectives Gallery at MIAD. Curated by Hamidah Glasgow, this exhibition features work from all four founding members. 

These exhibitions and programming are generously supported by MIAD and a grant from the The Mary L. Nohl Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Natalie Krick

Natalie Krick

Natalie Krick

Natalie Krick