Colleen Woolpert
Kalamazoo & Park

RESIDENCY / July – August
EXHIBITION / September, 2016

Makeshift is pleased to present Kalamazoo & Park by our latest artist-in-residence, Colleen Woolpert. Just days before her residency began, Colleen returned to Kalamazoo after living and working in several other states over the last fourteen years. During this time away she continued to explore photography, stereography, visual impairment, and other phenomena associated with human perception and the act of looking. Her return to this city, a place that fostered these early creative impulses, and the invitation to work at Makeshift have culminated in an exhibition that seems to at once offer a point of view as well as provide evidence of one.

For the last two months, Colleen focused her attention on the studio/gallery space and environment surrounding the intersection of West Kalamazoo Ave. and North Park St. from 5 to 9 p.m. – the same time span of the opening reception, when audiences are most likely to experience the space and work. Consequently, Kalamazoo & Park is most effective during this window. The proximity of the source material makes moving through the exhibition feel more like retracing footsteps than reading directions.

Colleen’s site-specific investigation of place and time also calls attention to process, focusing on what she describes as “non-technical photographic acts – abstracting, selecting, and framing.” Photographic Actions demonstrates these processes with finished prints and open-ended propositions. The invitation to personally exercise the “non-technical” is a collaborative act that emphasizes the subjective authorship, even ambiguity, of a photograph. Incidentally, in an age where smart phones can come between audiences and art, Photographic Actions provides a more constructive opportunity for this mediated mode of looking in that it allows people to interact as both audience and co-author.

Colleen’s TwinScope Viewer, a redesigned alternative to the traditional stereoscope, acts as yet another mediator. Essentially, the device facilitates the illusion of three-dimensionality in an image photographed from two slightly different angles. Here, the relationship to the work speaks to ongoing personal and artistic influences tied to autobiography, spatial relativity, motion pictures, and “historical precedents of virtual reality”. There is reason to consider the meta-ness of Kalamazoo & Park as well. Colleen’s investigation might also look to reconcile two different views, taken years apart, of a relationship to a place – a reflective subtext, reminding us that our current view is made up of many.

Born an identical twin, I grew up a spectacle in the public gaze and was suspicious of surface impressions. Further, because my twin has a visual impairment, I understood the inconsistencies of sight. At the heart of my work is an exploration of vision, encompassing visual perception itself as well as abstract concepts like imagination, wonder, and doubt.

My work is visceral, cerebral, equivocal — generally unfolding in that order. I create a network of associations and guide the viewer to make his or her own discoveries through prolonged attentiveness and/or interaction. Contemporary issues that act as undercurrents in my work include the ethics of looking, the historical precedents of virtual reality, invention as art production, museum practices, and bridging the divide between the sighted and non-sighted.

The uncanny resonates with me, therefore photography is central to my process, and I'm particularly inspired by early attempts to bring the photograph to life through stereoscopy and animation (motion pictures). I like creating work that might go unnoticed, that feels both beguiling and disquieting, and that rewards the viewer in equal measure to his or her investment.



Colleen Woolpert is an interdisciplinary artist who recently relocated back to Kalamazoo. A WMU alum who operated a photography studio in Kalamazoo from 1996-2002, she received her Master of Fine Arts degree at Syracuse University in 2011 and now creates still and moving images, expanded cinema, installations, and interactive objects.

Colleen's TwinScope project brings stereographs to a wider audience and encourages reappraisal of this marginalized 3-D photography format. Colleen curates and produces stereograph exhibitions, public artworks and events both independently and in partnership with cultural institutions. She is also inventor and maker of the TwinScope Viewer, an exhibition stereoscope in use by museums, archives, and collectors in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and elsewhere.

Recent recognition includes both an Individual Artist Grant and Community Arts Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. Colleen has exhibited at Dumbo Art Center (Brooklyn), Place (Portland), and Defibrillator (Chicago), among other venues, and done residencies at Seattle Storefronts and the SALTQuarters (Syracuse). Most recently on faculty at Hamilton College in upstate New York, Colleen will begin teaching at Kalamazoo Valley Community College this fall.