2011 NVA Winner: Jessica Labatte

By the Print staff

Title/Type of Work: Photographer
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Lives in: Chicago, IL
Age: 29
Education: MFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

For Jessica Labatte, there is nothing better than being ordinary. On an average day, you might see her wandering the streets of Chicago picking up trash, rummaging through tacky items at a dollar store, or buying fresh vegetables. These disparate objects form the basis of Labatte’s abstract photography. “

A lot of my work deals with problems of representation. Sometimes the objects seem unreal, and look virtually constructed, and sometimes they look so flat you might think they are painted or collaged on the surface of the photograph.” Tinkering with representations of surface is a way to express Labatte’s ultimate artistic philosophy. “I play with flatness as a way to get the viewer to think more about the physicality of the image, but also the potential in everyday objects to be something more.”

Circularity, 2009, archival inkjet print, 20 x 24 inches.

Her photographs require the total engagement of the viewer; they encourage a meditation on what’s real or unreal. Rest assured, though, Labatte isn’t pulling any fast ones. “I want everything to appear in the images it did in the studio. I am not using Photoshop to digitally alter or collage images; everything in my photographs existed in the studio and was physically present before the camera,” she says, adding, “I have been told that my images are challenging or frustrating to viewers because it is sometimes difficult to know exactly what you are looking at. It requires contemplation, and that is where I want my viewers to each have a unique and challenging experience.”

Labatte works for the Donald Young Gallery in Chicago and has taught classes at the University of Illinois, Chicago and the Hyde Park Art Center. In her spare time, she reads up on philosophy and lets the principle of happenstance govern her work. “Uncertainty can be frightening, but it is where most of my new ideas are born,” she says.

Imitators, 2010, archival inkjet print 20 x 24 inches.

I want everything to appear in the images it did in the studio. I am not using Photoshop to digitally alter or collage images; everything in my photographs existed in the studio and was physically present before the camera.

Click here to learn more about Jessica and to see more of her work.

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