Jamie Kreher is an artist and educator based in St. Louis, MO. She earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and exhibits her work nationally and internationally. Her work examines our relationship to the built environment and place by utilizing various photographic forms. Her current projects emphasize the photograph’s status as an everyday object while raising questions about preciousness, rarity, meaning, and monumentality. She is associate professor of photography and chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.
From 2013 to 2016, I made a number of road trips back and forth across the United States. As a result of my travels, I created photographic souvenir platters that exist at the intersection of kitsch object and art object. With these photographs, I am examining a double-consciousness between romanticizing aspects of the American experience while acknowledging the problems and inaccuracies of these kinds of concepts and representations.
For me the kitsch souvenir functions in a number of different ways. It is an accessible and intimate object that is familiar to many of us. In fact, I am appropriating the kitsch form from my own personal history because it was the dominant visual culture in my white, middle class, Midwestern house growing up. The souvenir platter also uses a sense of humor by tapping into a cultural nostalgia for an idealistic past that never really existed – “a fading American dream.”
On the other hand, my platters challenge the heroic, masculine associations of landscape photography which often has very declarative, large format, and highly detailed images. My platters feminize American landscape images with their plastic round edges, smaller format, and domestic, decorative connotations. They are improvisational and subtle and commemorate the everyday with their vernacular preciousness.
At the same time, the souvenir platters question the desire to believe in illusions and point to the complexity of American myths in our culture. Several of the platters explore the often contradictory juncture between concepts of open space and freedom, environmental protections, and the relationship of humans and the wilderness. Other platters complicate American myths such as the backyard grill, the prison system, post-industrial decline, and, of course, cowboys.
Ultimately, though, the platters are performative objects and function in an interdependent relationship with their surrounding context. Because this project engages with themes of nostalgia, decoration, and landscape it can be placed into contexts in which it complicates the presentation of period interiors, the history of decorative objects, and the history of landscape representation. The platters can also exist in a lived, domestic space in which they are responsive to the site of someone’s household and become part of a collaborative, lived exhibition in a home. In addition, the platters can also be a means to experience the qualities of an unused domestic site. I have included several installation views of the exhibition American Dilemma for an example.
Finally, I have also included two photographs from a project about loss and questionable gain. After my husband’s father died, he inherited property that had belonged to his paternal grandparents. No one had tended to the property for about fifteen years until we decided to explore the rot and ruins that had been largely forgotten. Here, we constructed memento mori using objects from the site as well as photographic platters from this series.
To view more of Jamie Kreher’s work please visit her website.