Social media has become a fundamental part of society. Its convenience allows instantaneous communication and a level of familiarity with those we know well and many we dont know at all. Tanja Alexia Hollander: Are You Really My Friend?, on view February 4 through June 17, 2012, at the Portland Museum of Art
, includes photographic portraits that explore friendships in the context of social media. Maine photographer Tanja Alexia Hollander captures the intimacy of friendship by stepping away from the computer and into the private homes of her more than 600 Facebook friends. This is Hollanders first solo exhibition at the Museum. Tanja Alexia Hollander: Are You Really My Friend? is the fifth in a series of exhibitions called Circa that explores compelling aspects of contemporary art in the state of Maine and beyond.
Since January 2011, Hollander has traveled around the country, and soon the world, to visit all of her Facebook friends: some new, some old, some very close, and some not so close. In December 2011, Hollander began conducting a multi-phased series of public exercises. Some phases are designed to foster audience participation and others are about collaborative curation and are intended to explore, emulate, and remark upon the various stages and layers of friendship in a Facebookian sense. Each phase is intended, as social media is purported to do, to maximize public involvement and invite feedback as to what it means to intertwine the private into the hyper public.
The exhibition features 59 photographs that will remain constant throughout the show with many more being added. The process for the selection of the additional images will be open, collaborative, and participatory for Museum visitors. Visitors will also be invited to comment on questions such as: Are we supposed to acknowledge the artists creativity, photographic skill, role within the tradition of portraiture, or should we critique the management of her Facebook page?
Internationally known for her work as a landscape photographer, Tanja Hollander shifted her focus in 2011 to embark on a new venture as a portrait artist. My project is an exploration of friendships, the effects of social networks, and the intimate places we call home, said Hollander. Facebook seemed an ideal forum for this exploration. Though we are in the initial stages of understanding the effects of social networking on American culture and photography, there is a pervasive feeling that it is changing our interactions with each other and building a false sense of community. By reaching past the profile page, Hollander is invited into the everyday environment of her Facebook friends and can create portraits dictated by the physical parameters of friendship and home, instead of virtual limitations.
Tanja Hollander was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1972 and she moved to Maine after receiving a B.A. in photography, film, and feminist studies in 1994 from Hampshire College. Her work has been exhibited nationally at galleries in New York City and Boston and has twice been selected for the Portland Museum of Art Biennial, winning a purchase prize in 2007. She has also exhibited at the Bernard Toale Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts; Whitney Art Works in Portland, Maine; and at Jim Kempner Fine Art in New York. In 1994 Hollander opened and directed Dead Space Gallery, Portlands first art venue for local art, music, spoken word, and performance. Hollander founded and became the volunteer director of the Bakery Photographic Collective in 2001, a nonprofit member-based darkroom facility in Westbrook, Maine. In 2009, she was nominated and chosen for a month long residency at the La Napoule art foundation in La Napoule, France. Hollander is represented by Carroll and Sons in Boston, Massachusetts and Jim Kempner in New York City. She is currently a resident of Auburn, Maine.
The Museum showcases two Circa exhibitions per year featuring the work of living artists from Maine any beyond, in both group and solo formats. Tanja Alexia Hollander: Are You Really My Friend? is curated by Museum Director Mark H.C. Bessire.