SFSU Magazine Spring/Summer '04: Final Statements

The cover of the spring/summer 2004 Issue of SFSU Magazine


SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer  2004, Volume 4, Number 1.

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Final Statements

Two photos of alumna Kimberly Austin’s grandparents with their hand-written letters visible in the background.

Revisiting the Past

Photographer and artist Kimberly Austin (M.F.A., '94) describes her work as "an ongoing investigation of the space that lies between acceptable and deviant behavior, that which is congratulated in society and that which is condemned."

Her latest case study? Her grandparents. Austin knew little about them until she discovered a box of their old letters and faded photographs. Her grandparents' correspondence revealed a turbulent marriage. Austin's grandmother struggled with "her roles as mother, wife, and lover" and abandoned her family for a series of men. The images, however, seemed to tell a different story.

The "romantic photo booth portraits and amateur family photographs attempt to emulate some sense of normalcy," Austin says. Struck by the discrepancy in the records of her grandparents' lives from 1939 to 1958, she photographed the correspondence and portraits. Then, using collage techniques, Austin mounted copies of the images onto wood panels.

The collection offers "an intimate investigation of family dynamics and provides a rare opportunity to hear the female voice unedited," Austin says. "Whether we view Edna as a failed mother and wife, or question the limited amount of choices and diversity of roles women were afforded, her words shed light on the necessity of having options."

Earlier this year, Austin's "Adam & Edna" images won her the prestigious 2003/2004 James D. Phelan Art Award in photography exhibition. The award, sponsored by the San Francisco Foundation and administered by SF Camerawork, is given to three California-born artists each year.

For more information, including upcoming exhibitions: