The CENTER Awards: Project Launch Grant: Jane Whitmore
Congratulations to Jane Whitmore for being selected for CENTER’s Project Launch Grant recognizing her project, The Bikini Project. The Project Launch Grant supports a reportage, documentary or fine art series from New Mexico-based individuals. The Grant provides financial support and platforms for professional development opportunities. The Grant includes a $2,500 cash award, Professional Development Workshop Admission, Complimentary participation and presentation at Review Santa Fe, Project Publication in Lenscratch, and an online exhibition at visitcenter.org.
Marisa Sage – Director & Head Curator, New Mexico State University Art Museum shares her thoughts on this selection:
In reviewing the 2021 Project Launch Grants, the strongest projects focused on photographically documenting climate and environmental changes that have a wide cultural impact both regionally and globally, causing sustainability issues that impact various communities. The projects chosen as finalists took their specific cultural needs and sensitivities into account when exploring and researching imperative concepts such as environmental racism, draught remediation, and miscarriage. All three grant finalists had elements of documentary, landscape, and portraiture photography integrated visually through thoughtful layout, image construction, and narrative. Each of the project finalists laid out the research behind their conceptual exploration within the body of work, the way that the work will be exhibited or printed, and how the funds provided by the grant would be used to carry out the project effectively. While the three finalists chosen were in various stages of their project development, they all had a clear vision of the outcome of their projects both conceptually and formally.
Marisa Sage is the Director and Head Curator of the New Mexico State University Art Museum in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Sage is a curator with a passion for emerging contemporary art and artists. Throughout her fifteen-year career, Sage has planned and executed over 100 international exhibitions, which included more than 200 individual artists globally. Previously, Sage served as the Director of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, in New York, NY, and Galleries Manager for Salisbury University Art Galleries, in Salisbury, Maryland, before that, she established Like the Spice Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which held over 65 exhibitions between 2006 and 2012. At NMSU Sage has curated “Off the Wall”, a two-parted exhibition tracing the history of Sol LeWitt’s relationship with NMSU, as well as showing the extent of his influence on a new generation of artists who use the surface of the wall as their canvas. Sage has written and received multiple grants for NMSU including the National Endowment for the Arts which funded the exhibition GEOMAGIC: Art, Science, and the Zuhl Collection. Sage is a New York native, who received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from Syracuse University and Master of Digital Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
I am Jane Whitmore, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and former archeologist. I have traveled extensively around the world. Although I am originally from New York, I have lived in New Mexico for 46 years. I have two sons and two grandsons who bring much pleasure to my life.
My father was a photographer, and I jokingly say I grew up in the dark room. He gave me my first camera when I was seven, and enthusiastically supported my photographic efforts from the time I was a very young child. As a result, I have enjoyed making images all of my life.
In 2018, I closed my clinical psychology practice. I now work full-time on my photography and writing projects which are an outgrowth of my professional work and my father’s influence. Through these projects, I strive to promote human rights, and respect for cultural diversity; to evoke compassion for the human condition; and to enhance cultural pride. I use photography and writing to advocate for these issues by portraying the experiences of prehistoric, historic and contemporary cultures.
The Bikini Project
In July 1946, the United States tested two nuclear bombs at Bikini, a small island in the Marshall Islands. My father, Will Whitmore, was a civilian participant in this project, Operation Crossroads. The devastation of the small island, the displacement of 167 Bikini Islanders and the demise of their culture have haunted me for years.
In 1959 my father died of cancer likely caused by radiation exposure during Operation Crossroads. The boxes in which his Bikini memorabilia were stored, however, remained closed for decades. When I opened the boxes in 2018, I discovered his six-month daily journal in which he describes his Bikini experiences, photographs, newspaper clippings, a 16 mm news film, and letters to me when I was six. During the last three years, I have organized and photographed this material.
I have also located archival images of the Bikini people, read anthropological reports from the 1940’s and 50’s and written several essays. The research I have conducted indicates 11 of the original Bikini Islanders are alive today and one-third of Marshall Islanders has migrated to the United States.
February 28-March 1, 2020, I attended Nuclear Remembrance Day in Springdale, Arkansas where 15,000 Marshallese people reside. I met Bikini descendants, the Coordinator for the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese and many other Marshallese people who have invited me to return to Springdale to continue my project.
Although the Bikini Project began as a personal endeavor and a case study involving Operation Crossroads, the project informs contemporary global issues such as the displacement of indigenous people and the banning of nuclear weapons.
To launch the Bikini Project, I would like to photograph and interview the 11 survivors of Operation Crossroads and to visit the Marshall Islands. Funding from the grant would contribute to travel, logistical and translation expenses.
The submitted images are digitally rendered and will be presented as 13” x 18” archival pigment prints.
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