Josiane Keller’s Street Kids project is explored in three parts in this issue. Please look for the links below.
“Each reflection of myself echoes a different emotion at me – 20 Heroes from the City of Roses” by Josiane Keller arrived in CFile’s submission box and caused much excitement at CFile. It is a project that resulted in 20 ceramic portraits translated into 2D photographic images. The subjects were 15 street youths who were clients at p:ear, a support facility; three of its staff and two volunteers. It is one of the most exceptional submissions we have received and it is an entirely different way of looking at ceramics as art.
The transition from acceptance to publication usually takes a few weeks. This has taken a few months. It is because Keller and I have enjoyed a long, nuanced conversation about the plight of young homeless, aesthetic integrity, trust and ethics.
It began when I suggested doing a post with a selection of portraits. More than 20 images in one post with background material is simply too long for the web. “That is not acceptable,” she wrote back, “what if one of the kids comes across this post on the Internet, they spend some time there and scroll through to find they have not been included. What will it make them think? ‘I was not good enough, not interesting enough?’ They have had enough rejection in their lives.”
It was understandably all or nothing, so this post has evolved into three posts. After trying to write in greater depth about Keller’s art, I felt that the personal dynamics in her work required her voice so she was invited to write about this project as a Commentary. She has done so with modesty and intensity.
This and an accompanying post (find the links below) deals with the photography. This is not material meant for a drive-by viewing. The more time one spends with Keller’s art, the more a surreal and beautiful quality emerges, heightened by the poignancy of the subjects’ comments on their own lives. At times the emotional connection becomes intrusive and dizzying, made more so by the in-focus out-of-focus mix in the photographs themselves. And then there is a gritty texture of the images, as though they were composed of crushed coal. CFile is proud to publish this project. It was initiated by p:ear and was exhibited there in 2012.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile.
Above image: Josiane Keller, Peter painted sitting with his friends (age 21), photograph of ceramic figure. All photographs by Josiane Keller.
“So… I smoked a lot of pot in high school, my stepdad was a cop, I got kicked out – I used various friends for a place to live, eventually I tried college, it was bad – I dropped out. I went to live with my aunt – she kicked me out. I sold my laptop from college. I moved to Key West Florida, I went to rainbow gatherings and ended up in Portland, Oregon.
“I now live at a transitional home, I get food stamps, when I was homeless I lived at the youth shelter. I minded my own business. OUTSIDE IN clinic helped me when I was ill. I moved to a moderate climate! I made some money selling clothes from free closets.
“For fun? Not much fun to be had then, but hanging out at p:ear.
“My friends were whoever was around and was ‘okay.’ Many times my friends here are a little bit psychotic. My family? I called ‘mom’ about once a month.
“Future? I just kept trying to improve my life.
“When I was homeless I was paranoid. VERY paranoid. I thought the government was following and hurting me with nano-robots. Too much library time was literally present in my life.
“I DID THE SAME THING EVERYDAY, FOR ALMOST SIX MONTHS!”
Any thoughts about this post? Share yours in the comment box below.