Deborah Orloff, professor of photography and associate chair of The University of Toledo Department of Art, has received an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council for her body of work, “Elusive Memory.”
According to the Ohio Arts Council website, the excellence awards “are peer recognition of artists for the exceptional merit of a body of their work that advances or exemplifies the discipline and the larger artistic community. These awards support artists’ growth and development and recognize their work in Ohio and beyond.”Orloff said the $5,000 grant will be used to expand her “Elusive Memory” series and to exhibit it nationally.
The work was inspired by an experience she had following the death of her father in 2007 when she was preparing a eulogy for his funeral. While drawing upon specific memories, she realized all of them were directly connected to photographs, causing her to wonder if she remembered the moments, or if the pictures had created false memories.
“I wanted to make work about this phenomenon, but the project didn’t actually take form until many years later,” Orloff said.
“About five years ago, I inherited thousands of neglected prints and slides that had been in my father’s basement, where they were damaged by flooding. I started photographing them in the studio, not knowing what I would do with the images, but hoping to salvage some of the family pictures for posterity,” she said. “It wasn’t until I saw them enlarged on a computer screen that I recognized their poignancy and greater relevance: I saw metaphors for loss and the fragmentary, ephemeral nature of memory.”Her new work utilizes the severely damaged photos.
“‘Elusive Memory’ explores the significance of vernacular photographs as aesthetic objects and cultural artifacts. The resulting large-scale photographs make commonplace objects monumental and emphasize their unique details,” Orloff said.
The exhibition is on display at Workspace Gallery in Lincoln, Neb. Upcoming exhibitions include Youngstown State University’s Solomon Gallery, Vincennes University’s Shircliff Gallery in Indiana, and Anna Maria College’s Art Center Gallery in Massachusetts.
In addition, Orloff’s project was featured recently online at “Aint — Bad,” an independent publisher of new photographic art.
Samples of Orloff’s work can be seen on her website at deborahorloff.com.