Marzena Abrahamik received her BA from Loyola University in 2002 and her MFA from Yale University in 2013. Her recent solo exhibitions include presentations at Johalla Projects, Chicago (2017, 2015), the Gallery of Classic Photography, Moscow (2013), and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, Boone, North Carolina (2012). Group exhibition highlights include the Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh (2016), Weinberg/Newton Gallery, Chicago (2016), Soccer Club Club, Chicago (2016), Sushi Bar, New York (2014), the International Photography Festival, Tel-Aviv (2014), and Aperture, New York (2013). Her work is included in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and Haas Family Art Library at Yale University. Her work can currently be seen in the Whitney Houston Biennial in New York.
Portrait by Devina Yoestong
Marzena Abrahamik & Justin Schmitz at Michelle Clark High School
Marzena Abrahamik and Justin Schmitz worked together to create images for the athletic teams and clubs at Michele Clark High School. The work was originally conceived to provide the staff images for their yearbook layouts. Working together, they created images that would elevate the standard yearbook photograph into something more dramatic and memorable. These photographs made in the context of the CPS Lives Residency take on another life when presented outside the yearbook context. Our intention is to to inspire positive social change by creating an archive of empowering portraits.
Marzena Abrahamik at Young Women’s Leadership Charter School’s Prom
WOMAN SIGNIFIES, is an ongoing collaboration with Chicago Public High Schools’ students as extracurricular programming to support schools with depleting arts education. I started photographing at Young Women’s Leadership Charter School in Douglas, a school that closed in the Spring of 2019 and have continued the collaboration with Michele Clark Academic Magnet High School students in Austin. The project focuses on gender perceptions and how photography can present gender relative to context. A majority of young women today believe that gender does not define us the way it has in the past and we no longer feel pressure to conform to traditional gender roles or behaviors. As an artist my intention is to preserve the student’s autonomy while underlining their self-discovery and their strengths. The final photographs are spontaneous and collaborative meditation; their aim is to situate the sitter within their own psychologies. We work together on the pose and location in order to arrive together at the final image. Each photograph resonates with the tension between the woman as student, and woman as an individual, a woman as she is within her community, and a woman as she is seen through the eyes of the audience.
Our collaborations revolve around discussions: how they would like to be seen and what they would like the photograph to feel like. The language of photography is explained and communicated. What does it mean for the subject of the photograph to look into the camera and how looking away from the camera often allows for a narrative to emerge. Through the introduction of visual representations I hope to equip and empower students with an understanding of the limitations and possibilities of being represented today.
Marzena Abrahamik & Young Women’s Leadership Charter School
Noplace and Somewhere, is an ongoing collaboration with Chicago Public High Schools’ students as extracurricular programming to support schools with depleting arts education. I started photographing at Young Women’s Leadership Charter School in Douglas, a school that closed in the Spring of 2019 and have continued the collaboration with Michele Clark Academic Magnet High School students in Austin. The project includes students in a reciprocal relationship exploring photography’s role in social reform. I am interested in the alienation that students feel from their neighborhoods as they spend the majority of their day somewhere else.
Since I became a mother in 2017, I have been rethinking ways I can make a difference in my Chicago community, hence I began photographing young women at Chicago Public Schools. I plan to keep photographing while keeping in mind the themes of education, community and youth. An exhibition at gallery 062 in the fall of 2020 will create a space where this unusual archive, that is guided by the collaborative nature of the image making with also allow students and parents to further connect. This exhibition will be the next step to extend the community, engage students through trips to the gallery, setup encounters with artwork that directly reflects their experience.
My goals are to further engage my students with publishing a book of this artist lead archive. The photographs will be accompanied with the students’ stories, essays, and photographs. With this book we will negotiate the politics of alienation and the critical dialogue it establishes with the history of Chicago and dominant feminist identity discourses.