Mike Sinclair: The States Project: Kansas
Mike Sinclair serves as Professor of Practice in the Photography Program at the University of Kansas. Mike technically lives a stone’s throw over the border in Missouri, but for now, I’m making him an honorary Kansan. Mike uses photography to pose important questions about how people use and occupy public spaces. His most recent work takes an in-depth look at how The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is employing new strategies to engage the public. The work is important because it documents how this institution has evolved. One might derive that it is a transformation born of necessity: a recruitment effort designed to appeal to the values and needs of a new generation of museum patrons.
Mike Sinclair’s photographs are in several public and private collections, including The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In 1999 he received a Charlotte Street Award for “photographs documenting forays into the curious realms of leisure pursued by middle-class American society.” In 2007, the book Where are you supposed to be? – a year long look at the Kansas City metropolitan area with writer Hesse McGraw – was published by the Kansas City chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In the July 2, 2012 issue of Time Magazine, Sinclair’s photographs were used to illustrate the special section on the American dream. Writing in The Huffington Post about his 2012 show at Dolphin, Public Domain, Peter Frank suggested: “you get the feeling Sinclair could turn his beloved KC into a synecdoche for the whole country, finding a whole country in a single city.” In 2013, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship.
The Thrills of Common Ground
Generally, one of two things happens when looking at Mike Sinclair’s photographs. If you’ve never been to the place photographed, his images urge you to go there. Yet even if you know a place well, you wonder how he made this picture, as the images contain stark discoveries that jolt memory. These are the pleasures of great photography, a revision of one’s lived experience, and this quality is striking considering the straightforward, almost prosaic nature of Sinclair’s photographs. His are not lusty images and their wonder is subdued, but the lure is palpable. The pictures in this portfolio offer small thrills that usher sweeping adjustments of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and its home, Kansas City.
These images bring together the Nelson’s transformation of the last ten years and Sinclair’s focus on the civic fabric and uplift of the city over the same period. His images crystallize the Nelson’s makeover from a temple of culture into a civic hub that serves as the living room, and backyard, of our city. Here the Nelson is much more than a place to seek a solitary experience of art; it’s a land of first dates, yoga on weekends, a quick coffee break, and perhaps the deep ideal of the community cornerstone — it’s a place where we are comfortable simply to wait.
Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs, San Francisco Art Institute
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Marydorsey Wanless: The States Project: KansasOctober 30th, 2016
Adam Long: The States Project: KansasOctober 29th, 2016
Mike Sinclair: The States Project: KansasOctober 28th, 2016
Elise Kirk: The States Project: KansasOctober 27th, 2016
Morgan Ford Willingham: The States Project: KansasOctober 26th, 2016