Marzena Abrahamik & Young Women’s Leadership Charter School

Project Overview

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. 

As an artist my intention is to preserve the student’s autonomy while underlining their self-discovery and their strengths. The final photograph is spontaneous, meditated in the moment, and aims to situate my sitter within their own psychologies. The young women are photographed within the school’s environment and choose whether they would like to remain in uniform or pose in their favorite clothes. 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. 

While I am collaborating on the making of the photograph with the students, I ask them to think about how they would like to be seen and what they would like the photograph to feel like. I give them short and simple technical lessons on how to make a photograph. What does it mean for the subject of the photograph to look into the camera and how looking away from the camera allows for a narrative to emerge. I also answer questions on what it is like being an artist and how to become one. Helping empower students with the necessary tools in creating their own platform for sharing thoughts, emotions, and voices also empowers me as an individual . 

My goal is to be additional support for the students I have been working with by exchanging necessary development advice as well as their input in completing Noplace and Somewhere, a project that begun with my love as a mother and my passion and devotion as teacher. As an artist and professor at the School of the Art Institute Chicago, I draw from my personal academic and institutional background. My educational history follows pathways from public schools to university graduates, recycling first hand experiences to inform my practice as professor within art institutions and city wide community colleges. 

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. 

 

Meet the Artist

Marzena Abrahamik

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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.

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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.

Visit their Website

Portrait by Devina Yoestong

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