Separation is a video loop that compares, contrasts and conflates: death and slumber, Victorian memento mori and contemporary video, fact and fiction, imagination and memory, love and loss.
In Victorian times, child mortality rates were very high and it was customary to take photographs of recently deceased loved ones posed in peaceful slumber. Frequently this was the only visual image one would have of a child. The photograph would be reminiscent of time spent watching the little one sleep – physically present, but consciously somewhere else. The photograph, while serving as a document of the child’s appearance and prompting memories, also consoled because Victorians believed their loved ones continued on in spirit and they would be reunited with them in heaven. Separation uses the historical custom of the memento mori to simultaneously address our death-fearing and death-denying culture and our obsession with the photographic snapshot.
A child born today will have countless images made of their likeness, documenting each milestone and event. Our photographs are our memory. We photograph to preserve moments and prove to ourselves events happened. All these images, however, put us no closer to stopping time or holding on to those we love. Unless we see the images as what they are – delightful artifacts of our temporal journey – they only remind us how quickly time passes and how much we have lost.
Jennifer Steensma Hoag is a conceptual artist that works primarily in photography and video. Steensma Hoag received an MFA in Imaging Arts (concentration in Museum Studies) from Rochester Institute of Technology and she has lectured on the history of photography at Rochester Institute of Technology, the Dryden Theater at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, and the New York Public Library. Awards for her artwork include an artist in residence with The Center for Land Use Interpretation, a Calvin Research Fellowship, and a Community Giving Program Grant from the Target Corporation. Hoag’s artwork has been exhibited nationally in group and solo shows including Rehearse, Rewind, Repeat: Photography, Video and Performance juried by Kelli Connell for Ohio University Art Gallery, You and Yours: Artists’ Images of Family curated by Patricia Briggs for the Tweed Museum of Art, and Transient at Gallery 31 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art/College of Art & Design. Hoag’s photography series, The Nature of Invasion was featured in exposure and online in Drain – Journal of Contemporary Art & Culture. She is Professor of Imaging in the Department of Art & Art History at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she has taught for the past seventeen years.
Jennifer Steensma Hoag – Grand Rapids Michigan