Art + Science: The Pandemic: Aline Smithson and Lydia Panas
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the artists who were able to avoid severe illness or hospitalization were given a unique gift of time to respond to our world in a state of upheaval. Many were inspired to create new projects that respond to the unique time in our world. Others had the opportunity to revisit archives and return to unfinished work. This week features photography projects created during this time, focusing on unique connections that emphasize a calling for empathy, friendship or love.
Shortly after the lock-down in 2020, photographer Nicolò Sertorio initiated a project, Visual-Conversation, where photographers were paired to have a visual conversation with their archives. Sertorio states:
Visual-Conversation is a format for soundless dialog, an expression of both self and solidarity. This way of communicating relies on inferences and cues provided by the other. Our eyes travel over the surface of photographic based images and light up new places in our minds. A call and response between paired artists, often unknown to each other, inviting introspective pathways into their own works as fueled by the most recent image posted. We are listening visually before we “speak” in pictorial response.
Aline Smithson and Lydia Panas were excited to participate. Though the two artists had known each other for years, Smithson living in California and Panas living in Pennsylvania, they did not know the depth of each other’s archives. They were in daily conversation, deepening their understanding of each other’s photographs, while delighting in bringing decades old work back into the spotlight.
When the pandemic started we found ourselves looking inward, spending more time at home, and therefore more time with our archives. When presented with the opportunity to be part of the Visual-Conversation project, we were excited to join forces as we both had a legacy in portraiture and both had been making work for decades. It was a fortuitous match. So many overlapping ideas and threads run through our work – our sense of womanhood, motherhood, we both nurture with eyes wide open, we feel but we don’t back away, neither of us blinks. The result has been a rich pairing of aesthetics offering a chance for deeper insights into each other’s archives and visual histories. This thread has bonded us in a special way. We were amazed by our parallels and each other’s image making, grateful for each other’s strength and sense of beauty. We both photograph our subjects with love, many of our subjects are family or people we know. We consider it a political act to express love through photography, to consider our subjects with respect and humanity. In our conversation, there exists a generosity in the exchange that has been greatly needed in these last years. And more importantly a wonderful connection with another photographer. – Aline Smithson and Lydia Panas
Aline Smithson is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and editor based in Los Angeles, California. Her practice examines the archetypal foundations of the creative impulse and she uses humor and pathos to explore the performative potential of photography. She received a BA in Art from the University of California at Santa Barbara and was accepted into the College of Creative Studies, studying under artists such as William Wegman, Allen Rupersburg, and Charles Garabedian. After a career as a New York Fashion Editor working alongside some the greats of fashion photography, Smithson returned to Los Angeles and her own artistic practice.
She has exhibited widely including over 40 solo shows at institutions such as the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, the Shanghai, Lishui, and Pingyqo Festivals in China, The Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, the Center of Fine Art Photography in Colorado, the Tagomago Gallery in Barcelona and Paris, and the Arnika Dawkins Gallery in Atlanta. In addition, her work is held in a number of public collections and her photographs have been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, PDN (cover), the PDN Photo Annual, Communication Arts Photo Annual, Harper’s, Eyemazing, Soura, Visura, Shots, Pozytyw, and Silvershotz magazines.
Smithson is the Founder and Editor- in-Chief of Lenscratch, a daily journal on photography. She has been an educator at the Los Angeles Center of Photography since 2001 and her teaching spans the globe. In 2012, Smithson received the Rising Star Award through the Griffin Museum of Photography for her contributions to the photographic community and also received the prestigious Excellence in Teaching Award from CENTER. In 2014 and 2019, Smithson’s work was selected for the Critical Mass Top 50.
In 2015, the Magenta Foundation published her first significant monograph, Self & Others: Portrait as Autobiography. In 2016, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum commissioned Smithson to a series of portraits for the Faces of Our Planet Exhibition. In the Fall of 2018 and again in 2019, her work was selected as a finalist in the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize and exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London. In 2019, Kris Graves Projects commissioned her to create the book LOST II: Los Angeles that is now sold out. Peanut Press Publishing released her monograph, Fugue State in Fall of 2021, also sold out. Her books are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, London, the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim, among others. In 2022, Smithson was honored as a Hassleblad Heroine. With the exception of her cell phone, she only shoots film.
Lydia Panas is an artist working in photography and video. Her studio practice explores our collective societal relationship to women. Using a variety of approaches, her work is attentive to the psyche and what lies beneath the surface in an attempt to probe questions about who we are and what we want to become. The daughter of immigrants and raised between two continents, the notion of home has always felt elusive. Settling on seventy acres in Pennsylvania to raise her family, the natural landscape is an important element in her work.
Lydia’s work has been exhibited widely in museums and galleries in the U.S. and internationally. She has degrees from Boston College, School of Visual Arts, and New York University/International Center of Photography. She is the recipient of a Whitney Museum Independent Study Fellowship and a CFEVA Fellowship. Her photographs are represented in public and private collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Bronx Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Palm Springs Art Museum, Allentown Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago, Museum of Photographic Arts San Diego, and the Sheldon Museum among others. She has two monographs, “Falling from Grace” (Conveyor Arts 2016) and “The Mark of Abel” (Kehrer Verlag 2012) which was named a best coffee table book by the Daily Beast. She divides her time between Kutztown, Pennsylvania and New York, New York.
Lydia has received many honors including a nomination for Prix Pictet and PDN Top 30. She was twice selected for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize Exhibition. Awards include First Place for Single Image from CENTER, Santa Fe, Top Fifty in Photolucida Critical Mass Competition, Winner of the London Calling Competition among others. Grants include ten Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts, a John Anson Kittredge Educational Grant and a Puffin Foundation Grant. Her photographs have appeared in many publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Photo District News, Popular Photography, San Francisco Chronicle, Rain Taxi Review of Books, Flavorpill, WJS Blog, GEO Wissen, Die Voklskrant, Haaretz, Philadelphia Inquirer, French Photo, The Village Voice among others.
She divides her time between Kutztown, Pennsylvania and New York, New York
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