Judith Shelby, "Photo Album, 1999, mixed-media instillations

Judith Shelby, “Photo Album, 1999, mixed-media instillations

Judith Selby

How much can we learn about a person from the photographs they’ve collected over a lifetime? Once gone all that is left is a collection of images that visually document the life they lived. But without the original owner to narrate, the images can often remain faint indicators of experiences had, encounters made, and lives intertwined. Unless that information about those photographs has been shared, photographs are subject to our imagination and our own connections.

Judith Selby writes of the origins of her project PHOTO ALBUM, ”Uncle Carl had drawers and cabinets filled with old sepia toned prints from weddings and birthdays, formal studio portraits celebrating high school graduations, and casual snapshots taken at family gatherings. When he died at age 102, I inherited a huge cardboard box full of tattered paper, scrapbooks and other memorabilia…” In attempt to make a closer connection to the life that was presented to her in that box, Selby replicated three hundred photographs in varying media which she felt resonated with the spirit of each image, including watercolor, oil pastel, acrylic, pencil, and charcoal. By spending time carefully rendering that which was created in an instant, Selby hoped to bring forth the spirit of the life her Uncle lived.

Her actions accentuated the two-dimensional nature of the photograph and its dependency on the existence of a interpreter – to build the necessary textual information “around” the image. That which was not in focus, whose information was not given priority within the photograph, became lost regardless of its significance to “Uncle Carl.” Selby’s efforts, limited to what the camera captured, show the distancing mediation that occurs between the moment, the photograph, and its audience.

Judith Selby has studied at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA., the Pitzer College in Claremont, CA., where she received a B.A. and San Francisco State University in San Francisco, CA. where she received a M.A. in interdisciplinary studies in creative arts. Her work has been exhibited since 1990 in many group and solo shows. Selby’s group shows include Aging- the Process, the Perception at the Forum Gallery in Jamestown, NY, the subject is AIDS at the Nexus Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta, GA, Positive Images of Diversity at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN, BOOK WORKS at the San Francisco Public Library, amongst others. She has also been in solo exhibitions including VINTI: one year at the National Aids Convention in San Francisco, CA, SUCK at SFMOMA, and How old women die… at Miami-Dade Community College. She has been the recipient of the two Marin Arts Council grants, a Gottlieb foundation grant, and was recognized as a honorable mention in the 2000 Ruttenberg Arts Foundation Award. Additionally Selby has work in the U.S. Library of Congress permanent collection. She lives and works in Forest Knolls, California.