Kurt Simonson (b. 1977 in St Paul, Minnesota) is an artist/educator whose work explores the longings and tensions that surround our ideas of home, community, and identity. Whether connecting the myth and memory of his own upbringing in Minnesota, wandering the globe in search of alternate forms of community, or taking intimate portraits of his closest friends, questions about family, story, and belonging remain at the heart of his curiosity. Kurt’s work is regularly exhibited throughout the country and internationally, including a recent solo exhibition at Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, Oregon, and group exhibitions at the San Diego Museum of Art, the Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins, Colorado), RayKo Photo Center (San Francisco, California), and the Foto8 Gallery in London, England. His work has been published in the London Sunday Times Magazine, Fraction Magazine, Lenscratch, and Dodho Magazine. In 2012 he received a Curator’s Choice award from CENTER Santa Fe, and was shortlisted that same year in Photolucida’s Critical Mass. Kurt teaches at Biola University in La Mirada, California, where he is an Associate Professor of Photography in the Art Department. He lives and works in Long Beach, where you can probably find him eating breakfast.
“I must have been ten or eleven years old when I first ran across the peculiar envelope that bore my grandmother’s shaky handwriting: “not to be opened until my death.” Tucked in her top dresser drawer amidst other valuables, its striking phrase burned into my memory at a young age. I don’t know exactly when, and I don’t know how often, but I know I visited the envelope numerous times, pondering what could be inside. What could be so important (or tragic) that it must be kept secret in this way?
I have never been able to shake the hold that piece of paper had over me. More than just a letter—I was haunted by what it represented. Loaded with latent meaning, yet withholding its story, the letter is my experience of growing up in Minnesota. My family roots go deep into the folklore of the rural Northwoods and retain their hold, despite time and distance. It’s a place where my grandfather was a lumberjack, and a place where cars go to die; it’s where kids have playtime adventures, and where secrets go to be buried. It is a merger of myth and memory that grows more complex as time passes.”
To view more of Kurt’s work, please visit his website.