The CENTER Awards: The Curator’s Choice Award 2nd Place Winner: Rafael Soldi
Congratulations to Rafael Soldi for his Second Place win in CENTER’S Curator’s Choice Award for his project, Imagined Futures. The Choice Awards recognize outstanding photographers working in all processes and subject matter. Images can be singular or part of a series. Winners receive admission to Review Santa Fe portfolio reviews, participation in a winner’s exhibition at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe,
Juror Marina Chao – Assistant Curator, International Center of Photography shares her insights:
It was a tremendous honor to be invited to judge the CENTER Curator’s Choice award, but I had no way of anticipating just how much of a privilege it would be to review this year’s submissions. In the midst of a pandemic, we are all learning to cope with new realities and are grappling with dizzying feelings of fear, compassion, grief, and gratitude. In the face of so much turbulence and uncertainty, it was a gift to spend time with the work of over 250 artists and see such a wide variety of approaches to photography, ranging from projects that confronted the most pressing social issues of our time to others that explored the most enduring of human emotions to those that took the medium itself as material and conceptual inspiration. In the end I was left more in awe than ever of the intelligence, vulnerability, and generosity of artists. Thank you to everyone who shared their work.
The strength and diversity of the projects made it difficult to select just three finalists, but as the impact of the pandemic and experience of social distancing were naturally never far from my mind, the projects below stood out and stayed with me.
Imagined Futures is composed of photo booth self-portraits made by the artist over the course of two years. In an elegiac ritual akin to confession, Soldi steps into the empty booth, acknowledges a possible future lost to his decision to leave his home country, and releases it. He appears in each photograph with his eyes closed, the camera catching him in an instant that is simultaneously mournful and rapturous.
Marina Chao is an assistant curator at the International Center of Photography. Most recently she curated the exhibition Multiply, Identify, Her (2018), which featured the work of ten contemporary women artists, and contributed to the publication Public, Private, Secret: On Photography and the Configuration of Self (Aperture and ICP, 2018). She is currently working on a project exploring various intersections between image, language, and technology, for which she was awarded a 2019 Curatorial Fellowship from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Prior to joining ICP, she was a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Imagined Futures addresses a concern that is universal to most queer immigrants: How do we mourn the futures we left behind in order to live this one? Over the course of two years I utilized photo booths as a stage for performative ritual and a witness to a farewell. Like the Catholic confessionals of my youth, the photo booth became a space to record a private sacrament. As each never-realized, imagined future drifted to the surface unannounced, I found an empty cabin in which to close my eyes, acknowledge its presence, thank it, and give it permission to leave.
Rafael Soldi is a Peruvian-born, Seattle-based artist and curator. He holds a BFA in Photography & Curatorial Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art. His practice centers on how queerness and masculinity intersect with larger topics of our time such as immigration, memory, and loss.
He has exhibited internationally at the Frye Art Museum, American University Museum, Griffin Museum of Photography, ClampArt, The Print Center, Museo MATE, Filter Space, and Burrard Arts Foundation, among others. Rafael has received grants and awards from the Magenta Foundation, Puffin Foundation, smART Ventures, Artist Trust, 4Culture, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and Center Santa Fe. He has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, PICTURE BERLIN, Oxbow Space, and the Bogliasco Foundation.
His work is in the permanent collections of the Tacoma Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, King County Public Art Collection, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Rafael’s work has been reviewed on ARTFORUM, The Seattle Times, The Boston Globe, Photograph Magazine, The Seen, Art Nexus, and PDN. He is the co-founder of the Strange Fire Collective, a project dedicated to highlighting work made by women, people of color, and queer and trans artists; and co-curator of the High Wall, a yearly outdoor video projection program that invites immigrant artists and artists working on themes of diaspora and borderlands to transform the facade of a former immigration center building in the heart of Seattle.
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