Summer Days Staten Island: Christine Osinski, Rockwell Visiting Artist
Photography by Christine Osinski
September 15, 2017—October 20, 2017
Opening reception September 15, 2017 5-7 pm
This exhibit is made possible by the Andrew R. Heminway '57 Endowment Fund.
These images were taken on Staten Island in the summers of 1983-1984, shortly after I moved to New York City’s ‘forgotten borough” as it is often called. The pictures came out of a desire to learn about the place that had just become my home. I took long walks, most often in the late afternoons through various neighborhoods with the expectation that there might be something of interest around a corner or down a crooked sidewalk. My wanderings provided informal connections between the images I recorded, like a series of notes. I recorded whatever was of interest to me that day without a grand plan. It was an adventure first and became a project much, much later.
As I began to call Staten Island my home, I came to understand the significance of being separated from the mainland, a world away from Manhattan. I discovered a residential, working class utopia tucked within an urban outpost of forests and harbors. At the time, there was a curious mix of rusticated areas, new construction and neglected sites. The people I photographed were all strangers to me and I encountered my subjects only once, photographed them and then never saw them again.
First and foremost, I wanted to make work that meant something to me. The challenge was to make photographs about what I saw on Staten Island, but simultaneously reflect my own understanding of middle class and working class culture. Having grown up on the South Side of Chicago, the harshness and muscularity of working class Chicago has always informed my choices and my work. I seem to have an ongoing appreciation for people who largely go unnoticed, for vernacular architecture and for secondary sites. As I lugged around my 4”x5” camera and equipment, I also carried the weight of my own personal history. Each of us has a portal into a special world because of our unique biographies and experiences. The job for the artist is to create work that breathes life into the people and places that one understands.