Jenna Westra

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Jenna Westra
2018 Annual Juried Competition

Problems with representations of the body are central to my work– specifically, how perceived ownership and viewership of images mandate shifting power structures. I use the body as a central tool to speak about themes of intimacy and the gaze. Moving away from documentary tropes and towards image production and representation itself, the resulting images create meaningful form through gesture and body language. Taking aesthetic cues from performance documentation and modern choreography, I reinterpret the camera’s use beyond a straight documentary device into one that reflects the female psyche within our current political climate. My goal is to re-imagine ‘the set’ as a framework that activates the ‘performers’ within it, transforming accidental or chance movements into intentional, choreographed actions for the camera. My method is an exploration of photography itself– its content, purposes and limits. The experience of making photographs with models as collaborators in a studio-based practice allows me to explore the flexibility inherent in power and control. Historic visual power structures are destabilized by reclaiming the gaze and interpreting its use as one of liberation by and for women. Subjects are rendered as conscientious, liberated performers, in control of their bodies albeit with underlying tones of anxiety. My works represent an experience of active communication that is both verbal and not. This way of looking and working denies the viewer’s habitual attention to the photograph as a “straight” representational mode.

Jenna Westra (Hunter MFA ’15) is a New York based artist working with photography and film. She has exhibited in New York at Hercules, Lubov, Thomas Hunter Projects, Underdonk and Silver Projects, in Los Angeles at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, and in Boston at The Institute for Contemporary Art and Gallery Kayafas, among others. Most recently in 2018, Hassla published a book of her work entitled Atlas, presented at NADA New York in March along with a selection of new photographs. She presented solo exhibitions at Lubov in New York and at fourseasonsberlin in the Spring and early Summer of 2018. Her work has been published or reviewed in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, Camera Austria, Nicotine Magazine, Papersafe, Bomb Magazine, and Hunted, a series of booklets produced by the Artists’ Institute.  Jenna is currently artist-in-residence at HerculesArt/Studio Program. 

Artist’s website