Last May at ICP-Bard’s annual Slide Fest, I saw Winona Barton-Ballentine’s work as a nostalgic search for home, through images of houses she lived in and a text collaboration with her parents. Home Studies, her thesis exhibition which opens Thursday, February 14, reconsiders the idea of home—not rooted in place but in the objects we carry and surround ourselves with.
During an exchange program through ICP-Bard to Arles, France Winona found herself isolated abroad. “So I went shopping. I went to the markets.” And she began arranging her abundant organic treasures in “weird still lives.” Alone in her apartment in France, she felt the freedom to work “without distraction or feeling like it wasn’t good enough or didn’t mean anything.”
Also in the past year, Winona married her partner Duncan. She began to consider her role as a wife and the conflicts she felt between an impulse toward tradition in her marriage and the feminist critique of domesticity. However, Winona is dubious of the tension and instead explores the pleasures she finds in domestic life as it runs alongside the pleasure of making art. She collapses the traditional roles into one practice. The candlesticks, the bread, some of the clothes on the hangers that appear in her images were made by Winona herself—going back to a time when housework was more of a craft than an inconvenience.
Community and collaboration—the home and cooking as a social and interactive experience—are also central to Winona’s practice. Many of the still lives are made in the homes of friends and family and look curiously at the “things that represent us as people.” Moving some twenty times in her life, home wasn’t a place, but the objects that were moved and rearranged and put just right to make any space home.
The space Winona presents her still lives in is a flat one, as is popular in art photography today. However, Winona gives the likes of Michele Abeles and Joshua Citarella—whose work lacks the honesty and beauty of living in the real world—a run for their money. Winona’s images don’t fracture our spatial relationships to objects for the hell of it or to comment on a fracture with reality as we slouch toward the Digital, but in order for us to consider how those objects have accumulated and come to construct personal identity. She does it with humor, grace and at times, mouth-watering appeal.
HOME STUDIES is on view:
14 ❤ from 6 to 9 PM (opening), 15, 16 noon to 5 PM
24-20 Jackson Avenue
E G M 7 to Court Square