Myra Greene

Character Recognition

JUNE 13 – JULY 26, 2009

Confronted with an up swell of bigotry both personal and public (the rhetoric surrounding Katrina) I was forced to ask myself, what do people see when they look at me.

Am I nothing but black? Is that skin tone enough to describe my nature and expectation in life? Do my strong teeth make me a strong worker? Does my character resonate louder than my skin tone? Using a process linked to the times of ethnographic classification, I repeatedly explore my ethnic features.

Always fascinated by historical processes, I wanted to learn how to make wet-plate Collodion. This process, which is coated onto black glass was popular from the 1850s through the 1880s creates a singular unique image. The glass is first coated with a thin layer of Collodion, and then sensitized in a silver bath. While still wet, the glass is exposed using a large format camera. The plate is then developed and then fixed. When I applied this old process to my interest in the black body and self, the imagery described my body in a way never imagined.

Tainted with the visual history of American slavery, these images point directly to the features of race. Thick lips and nose, and darken skinned; these contemporary studies link the view to a complicated historical past. While the process of wet plate codes the body in this work, the body is able to speak back. Through small facial gestures the body reacts and rejects to these modes and ways of classification.

Throughout much of her work, Myra Greene melds such processes as photography, printmaking, sound, as well as digital production work in order to exploring issues about the body, memory, and the absorption of culture and the ever shifting identity of African Americans.

Greene’s work has been exhibited widely including recent solo shows at such venues as Harnett Gallery, Rochester, NY; Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery, Jersey City, NJ; and Maryland Art Place, Baltimore, MD as well as group shows at Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA; Umbrella Arts Gallery, New York, NY; El Taller Boricua Gallery, Bronx, NY; and The Art Institute of Colorado, Denver, CO among many others.

She has received many awards throughout her career and most recently was awarded the Illinois Arts Council Photography Fellowship in 2009. Greene has been an Artist in Residence at Light Work in Syracuse in 2004 and the Center of Photography at Woodstock in 2003. Her work has been featured in the pages of such publications as The International Review of African American Art, Prompt Magazine, Nueva Luz, Exposure, and CPW’s publication PQ.

Myra Greene received her MFA in Photography from the University of New Mexico in 2002 and her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis, MI. She currently lives and works in Chicago, IL, where she is an Assistant Professor in the Photography Department at Columbia College Chicago.