June 2 – October 16, 2021
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 9, 4:30 – 7pm
Joe Standart (b.1950) is a Connecticut-based photographer who works on public art and community engagement initiatives. He began his career as a commercial photographer. In 2004 he initiated his Portrait of America series which began as an experiment in a storefront in downtown New London. He set up a temporary photo studio and invited people in off the street to pose for a portrait. “It was my first foray into the world of portraiture and public art after 20 years as a commercial advertising photographer. I believed that a dignified portrait could change how a person perceived themselves, and if I created enough of them, it could change how the community saw itself,” Standart writes. Each sitter was given a print from their photo shoot.” After creating about 150 portraits, many in the town wanted to create an exhibit of the work. So, I put the work where I had found the people: on the streets. Murals covered the train station and adorned the streets, sidewalks, and gallery spaces. I filled the town with a reflection of its own people.” Since 2004, Standart has developed projects in Hartford, New Haven, as well as additional initiatives in New London and other parts of the State.
This exhibition consists of a gallery installation in the Benton Museum featuring large scale photographs of eyes (previously exhibited in store fronts in downtown New London in 2016) as well as this outdoor exhibition of large-scale portraits of recent refugees and immigrants (these works were exhibited in 2018 on the New Haven Green). Both projects are part of Standart’s Portrait of America series which aims to “stimulate awareness, overcome indifference, and encourage people to build a respectful multicultural society”. Through these works, the artist aims to “highlight the inner dignity each individual possesses, transcending politics and shifting the conversation about immigrant, dreamer, refugee, and citizen identities” (PortraitofAmerica.org).
We hope this exhibition encourages dialogue about immigration and human rights challenges.
Photographs by Joe Standart