All posts by Jennifer Bastian

Pairs (submit text here)

If you have thoughts about my Pairs photographs, or the idea of pairs in the world or your life, please submit your thoughts here. Your submissions may be submitted anonymously if you choose. They will be included in a book I am putting together of the Pairs photographs to give the reader more perspective about the work and the ripples we all make in each other’s lives.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Road to Anamosa

I am currently working on a project about a car accident I was involved in just over nine years ago, trying to find the people who helped me immediately following the accident. I want to photograph them, interview them, and have an exhibition about their memories of an experience we shared. I want to share with them the profound effect their kindness had on my life, and find out about the tiny impact I may have had on them, if they remember me at all.

Nine years ago, I was moving to Los Angeles from Milwaukee, in a 2002 Honda Civic. I left Milwaukee in the morning and intended to make it to Omaha by nightfall. I didn’t make it. I lost control of my car on a highway outside Anamosa and crashed into the guard rail at the end of a bridge. My car flipped in the air and landed on the roof. I shoved myself under the steering column as the car flipped, and I survived. I walked away with minor injuries.

At the scene and after, the people I interacted with me went out of their way to make sure I was safe. A retired nurse driving the opposite way stopped her car and ran over to make sure I sat still in case I had injuries. A trucker driving behind me brought me a blanket to stay warm with on the bridge – my cats sleep on that blanket to this day. The couple driving directly behind me helped me to crawl out of the car, as it was smoking and they were worried it would catch on fire. A sheriff was driving a few cars behind me and called emergency vehicles, so help was there quickly. The main nurse I dealt with at the hospital made phone calls for me, found a hotel for me to stay in, and drove me to the hotel herself. The hotel concierge ran across the street to the Walmart to buy me a toothbrush, and checked on my every hour to be sure I hadn’t passed out with a concussion.

My mother and her best friend made it out to Anamosa by midnight. We spent the next morning in town, eating at a local diner, retrieving my belongings from my decimated car. We left, and I had not been back since. In the 9 years that have passed, I think about this accident every day.

I have had several experiences that could be considered “near death.” I’ve been doored on my bicycle twice, mugged while riding my bicycle, mugged at gunpoint, and then the car accident. I think about the fragility of being alive constantly. I wonder about purpose and fate and while I am more of an existentialist than a believer in any higher power, I believe in people. I want to be connected to them in ways that empower and positively affect those around me.

On October 14th, 2017, I went to Anamosa for the first time since the accident. I was interviewed by a local paper that afternoon about my project, and passed out flyers about it at various spots in town. I talked (at times in discomfort) to locals about religion, fate, angels, and miracles, and my illusion than people I encountered would magically know me was shattered. I felt failed by my memory as I second-guessed every location I thought I would remember.

Memories are faulty, and communities and their residents are complicated. I may not find anyone who has helped me. Still, I remain open to the possibilities, and grateful for the people who have come forward already to offer assistance and connect. I will continue to visit Anamosa, IA, photographing as I go. This work is as much a portrait of the people and place who are offering me solace now, as it is about a those who cared for a fellow citizen sitting on the side of the road nine years ago.

What is the Matter?

During a two month residency at the Madison Public Library Central branch maker space, the Bubbler, I worked on a project about community support, responsibility, problem solving, and vulnerability, all starting with the question of “What is the Matter?”

Details about the residency can be found here.

Pairs (a series of photographs)

Please consider submitting your thoughts about these photographs and the idea of “pairs” in general here.

Who Matters

On two separate days in August and September during my residency at the Bubbler at Madison Public Library’s Central Branch, I photographed groups of intergenerational relationships. This project was co-hosted in partnership with the Bubbler, with a Madison Public Library Community Engagement Librarian, Mary Fahndrich, and the Madison Senior Center’s Multigenerational Coordinator, Laurie Bibo.

The photographs are currently exhibited at the Central Library and the Senior Center. Prints and digital files of the images will be given to the participants free of charge.

The partnership between myself, the Senior Center and the Library has plans to continue this project into the next few years and casting a wider net across the community, to other libraries and senior centers. Generous funding was provided by the Madison Public Library Foundation.

Everyone’s Fortress

During a food and art festival in summer of 2017, I constructed a tent of found sheets and linens, filled it with comfortable furniture, and served lemonade. Visitors were invited to stay and connect with each other on the sledding hill overlooking the park.

 

Between

An exhibition in June of 2017 at the Arts & Literature Laboratory in Madison, WI. This exhibition coincided with the beginning of the Dane County Emerging Artist program this year.

Exhibition statement:

I am a photographer. I carry a 35mm film camera around and record imagery that expresses the feelings I have about my life. The photographs are an attempt to bridge the gap between your life and mine. I see things that you might also see, I feel things that you might also feel.

I am often seeking comfort. If it is not present, I want to facilitate its creation. I try to surround myself with softness, nostalgia and calming shifts in color and pattern.

To accomplish this, I reach back to a point around the time I was born in every thrift store I can dig my way through. I look for objects and fabrics that will convey a sense of my strongest memories. In exhibitions, these items inhabit the same space as my photographs. They emulate the experience of home, complementing the images as your parents’ shag carpet complemented your great-grandfather’s portrait.

I am aware that the traditional domestic space has historically been a gendered one, maintained by women. As a woman struggling with the expectations of gender performance and age related “female” achievements, it is clear to me that my desire to create a space of comfort for my viewer is informed by my struggle with achieving societal norms for my age and gender. There is a tension for me in that desire – to both push toward and pull away from the expectations of others. I want to explore that space.

Slightly separated from the domestic space are a series of my photographs. They observe the vulnerability of animals, children, and the lives of small things. We are all vulnerable, some more than others at certain points, but we can connect in that knowledge. We have all been children, we have all struggled with identity, we have all watched ourselves and our families age.

I want to hold the hand of my viewer in this space, give them comfort, and listen to our shared narratives.