Kim Llerena is a photographic artist currently based in Washington, D.C. She holds an MFA in Photographic & Electronic Media from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BA in Journalism from New York University. She exhibits nationally in addition to serving as full-time faculty at American University. She was a 2019 top 100 winner in the Magenta Foundation Flash Forward Competition, a 2019 CENTER Review Santa Fe 100 photographer, and a 2016 semifinalist in The Print Center’s 90th Annual International Competition in Philadelphia. Her work often investigates our constructed relationship to place and our methods of communicating within and about our physical surroundings. She is also particularly interested in the various dualities that characterize the photographic medium, including memory and aspiration, translation and description, art and snapshot.
My recent work depicts fragments of the American experience. Taken individually, each image tells the story of a very particular place – someone’s yard, a small town with a notable attraction, something that’s been built or dismantled. Viewed together, relationships between disparate places and structures emerge, highlighting a shared American sensibility as well as photography’s capacity for forging new meaning among otherwise isolated moments.
Rather than call out overt political or economic signifiers that epitomize the American condition today, these images seek out iconography from various interconnected systems that direct our collective national consciousness – business, infrastructure, religion, climate, natural resources, domestic space, borders, racism, power, tourism, and more. Within these invisible systems that dictate values, behaviors, and aesthetic preferences, the indelible marks of past actions and diverse quests for an American Dream become potent symbols in our visual landscape.
In many images there is a sense that something is missing, whether physical or contextual, underscoring the incomplete narratives that photographs can often tell. Absent also of human figures, it is as if the subjects of these images are waiting for something, suspended in time, suggesting a portrait of our past, present, and future all at once.
The title is a knowing nod to such seminal documentary photographic projects as Walker Evans’ “American Photographs,” Stephen Shore’s “American Surfaces,” Joel Sternfeld’s “American Prospects,” and Robert Frank’s “The Americans,” the products of individual cross-country road trips undertaken by some of photo history’s most prominent (male) stakeholders.
To view more of Kim Llerena’s work please visit her website.