Exhibit preview: Photography show “Flat Granny and Me: A Suspension of Disbelief” builds around artist’s grandmother

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From the May 15, 2014 edition

Jenny Fine’s photography-based exhibit “Flat Granny and Me: A Suspension of Disbelief” is complex and original in both motif and technique. The constant is Fine’s grandmother as inspiration, but that has multiple layers as well.

“A lot of people will see this work as really nostalgic, and it is, but to me it’s so much more than just the love of a grandchild. It’s more about this idea of being a powerful person and believing in larger things,” Fine said of her grandmother’s role in the exhibit during a recent phone interview. “There’s so much power for me in re-imagining that, stepping into that costume and putting on those same values.”

“Flat Granny” began 10 years ago when Fine first took photos of her grandmother. After her passing, Fine began exploring those images in new ways, creating a two-dimensional, cutout “costume” she and other subjects wear, as well as dioramas and modified prints. It became about presenting a narrative, often in surreal settings.

“It really all comes back to storytelling, frankly … so, this practice started there; a chance for me to step inside another time or another person’s mind and create this image of my own, borrowing from their history,” Fine said. “A lot of this is really just me exploring the possibilities of ‘What if I do this?’ [or] ‘What if I do that?’ If I wear the costume, I’m no longer the director. I’m the participant.”

Fine created these works in her Alabama hometown, but she earned an MFA from Ohio State, taught in OSU’s Department of Art, and a trip to Dresden, Germany — through a GCAC grant — provided the inception of “Flat Granny.” Fine splits time between the two locales, calling Columbus “my second home,” while working as “an artist in residence” in Alabama.

She has a September exhibit in Cleveland, where she’ll continue to explore the project in experimental ways. The most intriguing “Flat Granny” works have an ethereal beauty, not to mention a heartwarming and thoughtful concept.

“In a way, it’s me stepping into her, but also realizing we all have our own path. She makes me [braver] and it allows me to do things that maybe even she wouldn’t have,” Fine said. “The [images] that feel [most worthy] are where she’s in more of a dream world … they’re all about this interior world of memory. They are mind-scapes, images, snapshots from the brain.”

Photo courtesy of Jenny Fine