Location: Bristol, TN
Describe your featured work:
This piece is from an ongoing series called “Ghosts: A Look at Manufacturing in America” that explores the state of manufacturing in the U.S. The series speaks to the local impact of the global issue of manufacturing. The money one earns at a job is just one piece of what it means to be able to work. While making a living is often the primary goal, a sense of dignity and self worth often accompanies this purpose.
This particular post-manufacturing space in just another small town in America evokes both a sense of what has been as well as what is now. Change, even good change, has a cost somewhere for someone. This image, along with the others in the series, hopefully helps us to remember that regardless of our personal ideals on such change, we should think compassionately about those who pay a price that is more dear than our own. Most who carry this cost are blue collar workers who feel not just disenfranchised by the elite who spearhead the economic decisions that impact small towns, but forgotten by the rest of us who do not see the negative repercussions first hand. This photograph is one opportunity to attempt to step into their shoes for a moment.
The majority of my work focuses on social issues that are represented by architecture. Instead of highlighting an individual, this work draws attention to a space that has been created and impacted by humans. My most current work explores the status of manufacturing in America. In the U.S. over recent decades, manufacturing has been sent away from the communities that grew around it. I take a formalist approach to the structures that are left behind, which are the only reminders of the enterprises that once thrived within. The interiors of these spaces offer a skeletal view of the previous purpose of the building. The telltale signs of human impact on the environment hint at the activity of the people who once moved through the architecture. The dynamic photographs of anonymous workers represent the last pockets of industry in some communities that have adapted and endured the economic effects of globalization.
What are you making now?
I am still working to satisfy the pull to the Ghosts series that I have been working on for a few years now. I especially would like to make more photographs for the second part of that series, which showcases the flip side of the manufacturing coin. That is, figures working in spaces that are not devoid of activity (see “Zinc Bath”). These photographs feature a contradictory aesthetic and a dynamic sense of motion. Finding and accessing these facilities is a challenge that requires time. I’ll continue to explore both the first and second parts of “Ghosts” until this internal drive has been met with images that I believe address the most important ideals embodied in the work. I am also chasing a new idea that focuses on our past and current energy production. This, too, is reflected in architectural photographs that, among other things, wrestle with questions of legacy.
I belong to CIVA because…
I am a CIVA member because of the great opportunities that it has provided me over the years. I have participated in many exhibitions that I have found on the CIVA website. I have been able to meet and learn from fellow member artists at conferences who have demonstrated how to be a serious Christian artist in the world today. And, I have seen that this is a community that shares Christ’s love through action as well as art.
Joe Strickland is an artist working in the photographic medium. Much of his work focuses on social issues that are represented within architectural photographs. Now residing in Bristol, Tennessee, Strickland is Assistant Professor of Photography and Digital Media at King University where he also serves as the chair of the Digital Media Art & Design department. His work is exhibited internationally and has been featured in many juried, group, and solo exhibitions as well as in publications including magazines, journals, and anthologies.