Lisa Corine von Koch
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Re-Thinking the Faculty Exhibition 2011
Biography: Christopher Colville was born in 1974 in Tucson, Arizona. He received his BFA in Anthropology and Photography from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and MFA in Photography from the University of New Mexico. Christopher is a faculty associate in the ASU School of Art in the Herberger Institute. Recent awards include an Arizona Commission on the Arts Artist Project Grant, a Public Art Commission from the Phoenix Commission on the Arts as well as an artist fellowship through the American Scandinavian Foundation. Most recently Christopher received the Humble Art Foundations 2009 New Photography Grant and is participating in Graphic Intersection v. 02 this summer.
Q & A: Was there an art teacher(s) who played a key role in your development as an artist? If so, how?
In 1997, the photographer Thomas Barrow gave a lecture at the Washington University in St. Louis, where I was studying both art and anthropology. At the time I was confused as to whether I should follow my path as an anthropologist even though I knew my passion really lay in the arts. The work Thomas Barrow shared was brilliant and I was immediately intrigued by the balance of play and rigor his work employed. But what most stands out in my mind from this lectures, is he said…
Live a normal life so you can make outrageous work. …
I am sure he was paraphrasing someone else as I am paraphrasing him now, but that statement stuck with me, and two years later I moved to Albuquerque to study with Thomas Barrow and many other amazing artists as a graduate student at the University of New Mexico.
What is the most important thing you have to teach students about art (and/or life)?
I feel it is important for students to understand that their ideas, thoughts and questions are just as important as the ideas of the artists, writers and philosophers they look up to. If students can figure this out and take ownership and responsibility for their work, they can achieve anything. Don’t “try” to be an artist or “study” to be an artist, take ownership of your roll, be who you want to be and don’t be afraid to have fun.
How do you help young artists find a subject or content – or an approach to a subject or content – that matters?
Students already have all the ideas they need to make compelling work, but often times they find the term “concept” to be overly intimidating. I feel one of the best things I can do for a young artist is to help them realize that anything they think about on a daily basis is potential material for work. Their ideas don’t have to be heavy and earth shattering, and they certainly don’t need to make artwork that looks like what they believe artwork is supposed to look like. Once students stop thinking about what will make interesting work and instead think about what they are interested in, they are headed in the right direction.
What do you learn from your students?
A desire for discovery is one of the best things anyone can have.
The world does not become less “unknown” in proportion to the increase of our knowledge about it…Our experience of the world involves us in a mystery which can be intelligible to us only as mystery. The more we experience things in depth, the more we participate in a mystery intelligible only as such…Our true home is wilderness, even in the world of the every day.
Henry Bugbee, from The Inward Morning: A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form
I am drawn to wild spaces. Called by a longing to engage an environment that challenges both my physical and mental limits, I often find myself climbing the steep canyon walls or traversing the vast bajadas of the Sonoran Desert. Like a feverish prospector, I search for treasure that flows from the earth in rich veins, but my treasure is more precious than ore–it is wonder, a journey.
Life in the Sonoran Desert is both miraculous and tenuous. The harsh realities of desert resonate with the extremes of human emotion, providing experiences that escape the confines of language and instead rely on a wonder that comes not from naïveté, but from a willingness to experience the world as a mystery. I create photographs that employ my sense of fear and wonder as tools to explore the collision of the wild with the contemporary city, in an attempt to better understand the complex nature of our existence in this space. Phoenix, despite its population of nearly 4.3 million, is the desert, and the wild persists in its heart.
The series Instar, explores the Sonoran desert that surrounds Phoenix and flows across the border into Mexico, by using the transformative power of photography to speak to fears of life, death and regeneration. The term “Instar” describes the periods between successive molts in which a caterpillar sheds its exoskeleton before reaching sexual maturity. Each molt leaves marks and scars on the body of the organism as evidence of it previous existence, similar to the scars left on the landscape as we manipulate it for our needs.
The images represent diverse experiences, including the appearance of tracks in the night sky created by planes circling my desert campsite to avoid a summer storm over Phoenix. Others rely on phenomena of light and include an image of the moon reflecting on circular scraps of metal, creating a constellation of light on the desert floor, as well as the pockmarked monolith of the Southern Arizona Smelting Company appearing as a monument to a violent past and augur of a possible future.
Through this work I strive to make images that push the boundaries of contemporary photography and that reveal visions both apocalyptic and miraculous while searching for the possibility of redemption and beauty.