Mary Ellen Strom

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Mary Ellen

Mary Ellen Strom's work is interdisciplinary and project based. Her work as an individual artist takes on the form of video installation, performance, site and public art projects. Strom's single channel videos and installations have been presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, The Chicago Art Institute, Kansas City Art Institute, The High Museum, Atlanta, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Diverseworks, Houston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Archa, Theatro Divaldo, Prague, Republic of Czech, Museo de Arte, Mexico City, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland, Ars Electronica Festival, Linz Austria, Chapter Art Centre, Cardiff Wales among others. Ms. Strom was a 1999-2000 artist in the P.S.1 / MoMA National Studio Program. Strom has received grants from Arts Partners, Arts Presenters, funded by Wallace-Readers Digest funds and the Doris Duke Charitable Trust Foundation (2002), New York State Council on the Arts, Electronic Media and Film (2002), Rockefeller Foundation, Multi Arts Project Grant (2002, 2000, 1999), LEF Foundation (2002), Electronic Arts Grant, The Experimental Television Center, Owega, NY (2002), School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University, Research Grant (2001, 2002), National Endowment for the Arts, project grants, Creative Capital (1999), Aestrea Foundation (1994), Art Matters Foundation (1994, 1992), National Alliance for Media and Culture, NAMAC (1994), Arts International (1994). Strom has received two New York Performance Awards (Bessie), for "Outstanding Creative Achievement" (1994 and 1995) . She received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine in Studio Art with a concentration in Video Art, where she was a University of California Chancellor's Fellow and a Jacob K. Javits Fellow. Strom is on the faculty in the Video Art Department at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The following is a synopsis of select projects produced in the past ten years: The installation West, a collaboration with Ann Carlson was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles for the Uncommon Sense show in l997. West used the context of American rodeo, with a dirt arena and a live horse and rider inside the museum. The horse's presence in the museum was a reminder of the atrocities of European colonialism in the western United States. In the installation video is used to present the first person experiences of women involved with resistance movements from several locations around the world including Belfast, Northern Ireland, Belgrade ex-Yugoslavia, Chiapas, Mexico, Butte, Montana and South Central, Los Angeles. The videos are shown on small monitors inside of binoculars that are located around the perimeter of the rodeo arena. The binoculars are positioned at the edges of the arena in an effort to make a subversive structure where the viewers gaze is blocked from the center. The video stories function as living histories, as a tactic of resistance to cultural and historical forgetting. The video and performance installation Witness (1991-1994) was produced by the public arts organization Creative Time and was presented in New York City at Copper Union. Surveillance cameras were positioned out on the street in different areas of the city and were projected inside the theater. Three performers work both inside the theater and outside on the street. Witness examines the terms of "the visible". Lacan says, "Visibility is a trap." It summons surveillance and the law, it provokes voyeurism, fetishism, the colonialist appetite for possession. Witness looks at the reciprocal gaze (that is a province of performance), the performer being looked at, the viewer being gazed back at by the performer, the cameras surveillance following the performer, the camera protecting the performer, fetishizing the performer. In 1992 Witness was examining the balance between safety and the erosion of individual privacy. Witness received a Bessie Award in 1994 for "Outstanding Creative Achievement". The project received support from the New York State Council on the Arts (1994), Art Matters Foundation (1994) and two Electronic Arts Grants, the Experimental Television Center, Owega NY (1992 and 1994). In September 2000, the GIRLS project was presented at the High Museum in Atlanta , GA. The installation produced by Mary Ellen Strom with eleven girls ages 13-17, used the context of the museum to speak about the girl's position in our culture, their bodies as sites of political struggle (which they experience daily), their individual ideas about ways they wish to be seen and heard, their survival. The installation was located in the atrium of the High Museum, designed by architect Richard Mier. The young women stood on pedestals and performed stepping sequences under the atrium's glass ceiling while video was projected onto the many surfaces and levels of the atrium. This interdisciplinary work involved time-based elements that occurred simultaneously and cyclically over a two-hour time frame creating the opportunity for the images, ideas and voices within the works to intersect and collide. The installation was designed for the audience to walk through the work, as opposed to experience it from its edges. The material was produced over a four-year period from1996-2000. A new work in this series of performance installations by and about girls was made with a group of young refugee women from the Sudan at the Center for Cultural Exchange, Portland, ME in 2002. M. E. Strom received funding for the GIRLS project from Creative Capital Foundation (1999), and two Rockefeller Foundation, Multi Arts Project Grant (1999 and 1998). Press Conference Diptych, a site specific video installation was commissioned by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco in 2002 as part of Ann Carlson's Night Light. This work re-staged a photograph from the San Francisco Chronicle taken in 1972. The photograph is of a press conference held by local activists who were protesting the re-development of the site where the Yerba Buena Center was being built. The re-development project displaced 4,500 people. The activists featured in the work stalled the re-development project for many years and pursued a lawsuit that required the developers to guarantee 1,200 units of re-location housing. The video installation was shot on 16 mm b/w film using a camera made in 1972. The diptych used a comparative strategy between the original photo and the re-staged image produced in 2002. The performers in the 2002 image break out of the decisive photographic moment from 1972 and confront and implicate the contemporary viewer with their gaze. The video projection was installed in the gallery doors blocking entrance to the space. The work sought to remind us of whose backs we were walking on to both exhibit work and to view art in this complex urban location. The Picture Project, a series that involves site specific installations at urban grain terminals. This project was conceived and directed by choreographer Joanna Haigood in collaboration with video artist Mary Ellen Strom, composer Lauren Weinger, set designer Wayne Campbell and lighting designer Jack Carpenter. The Picture Project is a series that involves site specific installations at urban grain terminals. This project was conceived and directed by choreographer Joanna Haigood in collaboration with video artist Mary Ellen Strom, composer Lauren Weinger, set designer Wayne Campbell and lighting designer Jack Carpenter. Picture Powderhorn was produced at the Con Agra grain terminal in Minneapolis, by the Walker Arts Center in 2000. Picture Red Hook was presented at the Port Authority of New York grain terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn in 2002. This large scale work projects video images onto twelve story grain terminals that are 120 feet high. The scale of the images are other worldly, while the images projected are recognizable and familiar. The result is enlarging what makes place important to it's inhabitants, both those there now and who came before. The video imagery functions as a formal investigation of the grain silo structure, an interactive landscape for the aerial dancers and a location to give voice to the community. Large-scale electronic visual images have come to dominate our urban landscapes, whether ephemeral billboards, kinetic LED screens or video advertisements on department store facades. Love them or hate them, we cannot help but be engaged by these images. Using these strategies the Picture Project draws attention to the issues and challenges faced by urban neighborhoods that are often ignored.