Bay College Announces the Exhibition, Food for Life, Artwork by Christine Garceau

Grace Chien, Chinese Dumplings
Bay College announces the exhibition, Food for Life, artwork by Christine Garceau in the Besse Gallery on October 25-November 28, 2017. There will be an Artist Talk via Skype on Thursday November 9, 2017 at 3 pm EST in the JHUC MAC Lab Room 908D.

Christine earned a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in photography in 1981, and a Masters of Arts in Education (MAE) in 1986 from Northern Michigan University. She began teaching the Intro to Photography class at NMU in the Fall of 1995 and continued as a member of the Art and Design faculty and staff until 2005 when she went on to complete a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at Michigan Technological University, (graduating in the spring of 2012). Christine’s dissertation, interrogating the Spaces of Personal Photography: Women, Identity, and the Cultural Formation of Photographic Practice, focuses on Critical Feminist Theory and Visual Representation.

After graduation from MTU, Christine accepted a fulltime tenure-track teaching position as an Assistant Professor of Photography in the Photographic Communications program at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. NWC’s two-year Associates in Applied Science (AAS) degree in Commercial Photography offers seventeen photography classes to students interested in a career as professional photographers. In the spring of 2017, Christine gained tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor of Photography.

At Northwest College, Christine enjoys sharing her knowledge of photographic practices with students eager to learn state-of-the-art photographic skills using Mac computers and the Adobe CC suite of software. The school has five lighting studios, three computer labs, and three black and white darkrooms.

During the school year, Christine mentors students enrolled in Digital Imaging One, Introduction to Photography, View Camera and Lighting, Digital Photo Applications, Survey of Photography, Portfolio I and II, and Media
Photography—a multimedia course that covers photojournalism and video story-telling. Additionally, she co-teaches the annual Outdoor Photography class which includes a weekend trip into the Sunlight Basin along the Chief Joseph Highway and Yellowstone National Park.

Since moving to the West from Michigan in the summer of 2012, Christine continues working on her Food for Life project and has begun to explore the western lifestyle in a new body of visual research entitled The Equine Life of Women. This new work focuses on the traditions entwined within the female/equine co-existence, specifically the traditions that travel from one generation to the next—from mother to daughter.
Artist Statement:
In 2010, I began a photography research project that soon evolved into the Food for Life Photography Project. The impetus for this project sprang from my personal passion to understand how food contributes to one’s personal, cultural, political, and economic identity. Prompted by my friend Susan Koernke’s passion for good food, I began photographing an organic gardening community in Marquette, Michigan during the spring 2010 planting season. Members of the group varied in ages, including an eighty-nine-year-old woman working alongside her daughter, to younger members riding on the backs of parents who stooped to weed their personalized plots of vegetables.

In the beginning, the focus for my visual exploration was primarily concerned with the amount of human labor involved in growing one’s own food supply. In essence, my photographs asked “what does it look like to toil away in the dirt under the relentless gaze of the sun, or, the moist cover of fog and rain?” “Is the exertion of the body equal to the yield the land provided?” Eventually my vision and intellectual curiosity broadened and during the winter months that followed, I asked friends, family members, as well as complete strangers I encountered at the local Marquette Food Co-op, to come to my studio with the ‘one’ food they could not live without. This idea sprang from an article I had read in the New Yorker magazine speculating on the possibility of bananas disappearing in our lifetime. From this consideration, I asked volunteers what they might do if their “special” food were to disappear from the face of the earth. Responses varied, from suspended disbelief, to soliloquies meant to broaden my understanding that guardians were already in place, working diligently to make sure the inevitable demise of our fragile food supply would not occur. Richard Armstrong, featured in this exhibit, shared the story of how the seeds for the heirloom beans he brought to the studio with him had been saved over the course of seven-generations of harvesting. Kim Danielson, at the time owner of Baby Cakes Muffin Company in Marquette, brought in the kale she had grown from seeds and harvested earlier that day because she loved kale above all other vegetables.

As the project began to broaden even further, I took the opportunity to immerse myself into more diverse understandings of food cultures at home, and abroad. In May of 2011, while I traveling to Gru╠łndburg, Austria, I documented some of the food cultures typical of local villages I stayed in. The images of Barbara Neumueller making traditional vegetable strudel, as well as the banners of Christine and Jon Saari, were inspired as a result of this visit. Additionally, during several summers when I worked with the Center for Native American Studies at Northern Michigan University, I lead cyanotype workshops for American Indian youth where I was exposed to the importance of indigenous food and the way it defined their cultural connection to each other, the land, and spirituality. One of the workshop projects encouraged students to make unique cyanotype prints using only the seeds of corn, beans, and squash, known as the “Three Sisters” in American Indian communities. Similarly, Grace Chien, who immigrated to California from China before the Cultural Revolution, allowed me to witness and record the intergenerational connection between mother and daughter that rises while transferring the tradition of making steamed Chinese dumplings.

On its basic level this project seeks to explore our human connection to the land we inhabit and the interactive cultural communities we build upon it. The garden patches we work with our hoes, and the kitchens we occupy while making dumplings and tamales represent important geographic locations and produce contexts for our daily lives. The photographs in this project ask us to think about what the literacy of a cultural food traditions look like, for example, when a Chinese mother passes family recipes down to the next generation, or, an Austrian woman sings a love song to the ingredients of a vegetable strudel, passing along, or embedding this love so it may be absorbed when eaten by her dinner guests.

After moving to Wyoming in the summer of 2012, I continued to seek out the ways that food intertwined with the daily lives of individuals living in the West, and how this produced cultural context for the diverse individuals who live and work on the land. In May of 2013, I was invited to photograph Gloria Guiterrez as she transferred the traditional methods of making tamales to her daughter Paulina. (The Guiterrez family moved to Powell, Wyoming from Chihuahua, Mexico in the 1990s to work in the local farming community). These food traditions are “starting to vanish in Mexico,” Paulina told me during my visit to her mother’s kitchen. Paulina assumes this might be happening due to the introduction of modern techniques for food production and preparation, something that has recently infiltrated the everyday lives of our southern neighbor.

As food traditions change or disappear due to the introduction of modern systems of cultivation and production, many individuals continue to maintain and transfer the knowledge of Food for Life from one generation to the next. As you leave this exhibit, I hope that you might ask yourself how food constructs your identity, and your connection to the past and the future of food production. What is your “one” defining food?

The exhibition of her work can be viewed in the Besse Gallery October 25-November 28, 2017 and there will be an Artist Talk via Skype on Thursday November 9, 2017 at 3 pm EST in the JHUC MAC Lab Room 908D.
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2001 N Lincoln Road, Escanaba, MI 49829
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