Contact:

[email protected]

 

Aspen Mays was raised in Charleston, SC. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009 and a BA in Anthropology and Spanish from The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2002. Mays joined the faculty of the California College of the Arts in 2015, where she is an Associate Professor in Graduate Fine Arts and Undergraduate Photography.

In her photographic work, Mays has been called a “Postmodern mystic.” Her work challenges the expectation of photography as a documentary and categorical medium, and her research explores the visualization of knowledge in both visual art and observational sciences. She is interested in the fantasy of objectivity in photographic processes, the artifacts and archives of these processes, and the desire for transcendence in the ordinary and prosaic.

Her solo exhibitions include Tengallon Sunflower and California Dreaming at Higher Pictures in New York; Every leaf on a tree at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Newspaper Rock at Light Work in Syracuse, New York; and Ships that Pass in the Night at the Center for Ongoing Projects and Research (COR&P) in Columbus, OH. She was included in the national survey of Contemporary Art in the United States, State of the Art, at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Her work has been written about in Art ForumArt Papers, the New Yorker and the New York Times. She is represented by Higher Pictures.

Honors include a Rotary Fellowship in 2006, where Mays studied photography in Cape Town, South Africa while volunteering in a clinic for bead working artisans living with HIV. Mays was a 2009-2010 Fulbright Scholar in Santiago, Chile, where she spent time with astrophysicists using the world’s most advanced telescopes to look at the sky. Her publication (made in collaboration with Dan Boardman) Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why? was shortlisted for the First Photobook Award by the Aperture Foundation and Paris Photo in 2016.

Site design by Studio Elana Schlenker
Creative development by Maria Adelaide

07.16.20
California Dreaming (self published 2019), available at Dashwood Books

04.25.20
Aspen Mays in conversation with Aikaterini Gegisian in Virtual—Assembly 01 Online Book Fair (archived)

03.28.20
Rising Water at Florida State University Museum of Fine Art

02.15.20
Alternative Testimony at David Klein Gallery Detroit

Detroit Art Review

09.05.19
Continuum: Aspen Mays + Dionne Lee at Silver Eye Center for Photography (Below: Palm Psalms, gelatin silver print, dye, pigment, 20×24 in, 2019)

03.28.19
There, There quarterly Issue Two featuring Aspen Mays, Drew Nikonowicz and John Mann

01.17.19
Painting with Light at Yossi Milo Gallery

10.27.18
California Dreaming reviewed in The New Yorker

09.13.18
California Dreaming reviewed by Collector Daily

04.30.16
Tengallon Sunflower reviewed in The New Yorker

03.12.16
Tengallon Sunflower reviewed by Collector Daily (Below: Bandanna, gelatin silver photogram, indigo dye, 20×24in, 2016)

01.01.14
Newspaper Rock at Light Work

Aspen Mays Contact Sheet #175 Available

04.27.13
Ships Passing in Ohio’s Night – Alicia Eler for Hyperallergic , from Ships that Pass in the Night at COR&P, Columbus, OH, April 27 – June 28. 2013

 

  • ICalifornia Dreaming
  • IITengallon Sunflower
  • IIIWhere We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?
  • IVShips That Pass in the Night
  • VSun Ruins
  • VIDodging Tools
  • VIIConcentrate and Ask Again
  • VIIIEvery leaf on a tree

I

California Dreaming

California Dreaming

Tengallon Sunflower

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?

Ships That Pass in the Night

Sun Ruins

Dodging Tools

Concentrate and Ask Again

Every leaf on a tree

Hugo 8, gelatin silver photogram, dye, 16×20in, 2018

In a series of large-scale black-and-white and smaller brightly dyed works, I pulled from my own archive of images documenting the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, which hit my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina in 1989. Contemplating a future in which these storms become increasingly destructive and frequent, I was drawn to images of taped window panes—a pre-storm ritual seemingly more shamanic than practical in its ability to provide any protection.

Installation view, California Dreaming at Higher Pictures, 2018
Installation view, California Dreaming at Higher Pictures, 2018
Hugo 20, gelatin silver photogram, dye, grey sintra, 26.5×22.5in, 2019
Hugo 23, gelatin silver photogram, dye, blue sintra, 26.5×22.5in, 2019
Installation view, Alternative Testimony at David Klein Gallery, 2020

California Dreaming was the name of a Charleston restaurant that appeared in a newspaper image of the storm’s aftermath. Softcover, digital offset, 6 x 8.75in, edition of 300 signed & numbered, self-published, 2019. Text by Claire Pentecost, Design by Victoria Manferdelli, printed by Conveyor Studio

California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019
California Dreaming, Artist Book, 2019

    

II

Tengallon Sunflower

California Dreaming

Tengallon Sunflower

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?

Ships That Pass in the Night

Sun Ruins

Dodging Tools

Concentrate and Ask Again

Every leaf on a tree

Bandanna, gelatin silver photogram, 24×20in, 2016

Here, space between perception and knowledge is an underlying principle in an investigation of personal objects: my great grandmother’s bandanna—pale pink, printed with a starburst pattern—and a second vintage bandanna owned by Georgia O’Keefe—dyed indigo and accented with white dots—the kind of ubiquitous textile that seems to have no author or origin. I used pin pricks to meticulously transfer the starburst and dot designs from textile to paper. I complete the process in darkness, feeling rather than seeing my progress. Some record light passing through the pinholes and portions of others remain unexposed, holding only the perforations in the paper itself.

Gray, gelatin silver photograms, 20×16in each, 2016
O’Keeffe, gelatin silver photogram, indigo dye, 20×16in, 2016
Gray, gelatin silver photogram, 40×48in, 2016
O’Keeffe, gelatin silver photograms, 24×20in each, 2016
Bandanna, gelatin silver photogram, 24×20in, 2016
Installation view, Tengallon Sunflower, Higher Pictures, 2016

III

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?

California Dreaming

Tengallon Sunflower

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?

Ships That Pass in the Night

Sun Ruins

Dodging Tools

Concentrate and Ask Again

Every leaf on a tree

Personal and public photographic archives draw connections between seemingly disparate storylines – an American road trip, the return of Halley’s Comet, and NASA’s Teacher in Space program, which invited the first civilian to leave the Earth aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986. Shortlisted for the Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation First Photobook Award, 2016. Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why? By Aspen Mays & Dan Boardman, edited by Christina Labey, designed by Elana Schlenker. Published by Conveyor Studio & Houseboat Press, 2016. 206 Full Color Pages, Double Wire-O Bound, Edition of 500

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?, Artist Book, 2016
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?, Artist Book, 2016
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?, Artist Book, 2016
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?, Artist Book, 2016
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?, Artist Book, 2016
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?, Artist Book, 2016
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?, Artist Book, 2016
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why? Artist Book, 2016 (Jeremy Haik for Conveyor Studio)
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why? Artist Book, 2016 (Jeremy Haik for Conveyor Studio)
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why? Artist Book, 2016 (Jeremy Haik for Conveyor Studio)

    

IV

Ships That Pass in the Night

California Dreaming

Tengallon Sunflower

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?

Ships That Pass in the Night

Sun Ruins

Dodging Tools

Concentrate and Ask Again

Every leaf on a tree

Ships That Pass in the Night, COR&P, Columbus, Ohio, 2013

Drawing on real-time satellite feeds of maritime positioning data, custom software determines when and where two ships “pass in the night” anywhere on the open ocean. A panel of bright lights flash, signaling these serendipitous moments. A printer records the names of the ships and their locations.

Ships That Pass in the Night, COR&P, Columbus, Ohio, 2013
Ships That Pass in the Night, COR&P, Columbus, Ohio, 2013
State of the Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2014

V

Sun Ruins

California Dreaming

Tengallon Sunflower

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?

Ships That Pass in the Night

Sun Ruins

Dodging Tools

Concentrate and Ask Again

Every leaf on a tree

Just days before one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded devastated central Chile in 2010, I arrived in Santiago to begin a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Chileʼs Astronomical Observatory. I used an abandoned darkroom at the Observatory for my studio, and it was against this backdrop of destruction that Sun Ruins was conceived. During this time, I had access to rejected prints, negatives and ephemera from the labʼs archive, and Sun Ruins brings together two series that I created from this material. Both components call into question the expectation of photography as a documentary and categorical medium and each explore—to different ends—the visualization of knowledge in both studio art and observational practices.

Punched out stars 9, gelatin silver print, 7×4.5in, 2011
Punched out stars 6, gelatin silver print, 8×10in, 2011

To create the series Punched out stars, I used a hole punch to physically remove each prominently-visible star from found silver gelatin prints of unknown dates.

Punched out stars 5, gelatin silver print, 6×7.75in, 2011

The Sun 1957 is the collective title of 25 silver gelatin prints that depict the Sun from a mid-century international survey of sunspots. Finding the film negatives separated from contextualizing logbooks and labeled only by month and the year 1957, I loosely followed this organizing principle by making contact prints of the negatives in grids. There is no record of November.

May 1957, gelatin silver print, 15.5×11.5in, 2010
The Sun 1957 , 25 gelatin silver prints, 15.5×11.5in, 2020
Cerro Calán, collage (burning masks and Kodak box), 20.75×14.75 in, 2011

VI

Dodging Tools

California Dreaming

Tengallon Sunflower

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?

Ships That Pass in the Night

Sun Ruins

Dodging Tools

Concentrate and Ask Again

Every leaf on a tree

Dodging Tools, Edition of 100 with one cyanotype print, Risograph printed, die-cut covers, spiral bound, published by Penumbra Foundation, 2018, designed by Leandro Villaro

The photograms reproduced in this book are made from my collection of dodging tools, started in 2010, with several that I found in an abandoned darkroom at the National Astronomical Observatory in Chile during a Fulbright Fellowship. I was initially struck by the ways in which their basic utility seemed to stand in opposition to the vast technological sophistication of the telescopes being used at the same facility. I came to think of their improvisational character as sharing a common tool-making impulse, all in service to the subjective nature of seeing.

Dodging Tool 8, gelatin silver photogram, 11×14in, 2014
Spread from Dodging Tools, Artist Book, 2018
Dodging Tool 1, gelatin silver photogram, 11×14in, 2014
Dodging Tool 2, gelatin silver photogram, 11×14in, 2014
Dodging Tool 5, gelatin silver photogram, 11×14in, 2014
Spread from Dodging Tools, Artist Book, 2018
Dodging Tool 10, gelatin silver photogram, 11×14in, 2014

    

Dodging Tool, cyanotype, 8×10in, 2018
Dodging Collection, gelatin silver photogram, 42.5×64in, 2013

VII

Concentrate and Ask Again

California Dreaming

Tengallon Sunflower

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?

Ships That Pass in the Night

Sun Ruins

Dodging Tools

Concentrate and Ask Again

Every leaf on a tree

Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Universe yet?, 1.5in button, unlimited edition, 2009
Untitled (Fireflies inside body of my camera, 8:37-8:39PM, June 26, 2008),inkjet print, 73×59.5in, 2008

Utilizing humor, this work approaches profound questions of existence from the perspective of an amateur and non-scientist, accessing a common desire to understand concepts that may feel outside of the grasp of the scientifically untrained. This body of work utilizes a wide range of photographic techniques from photogram and experimental light sources, to performance documentation, sculpture made specifically for the camera, high-res scans, and video.

The Future of the Future (Spaceman), inkjet print, 53×68in, 2009.
TV Static Photogram 1, chromogenic photogram, 20×24in, 2008
Map of the World (after Buckminster Fuller), inkjet print, 16×30in, 2008
“Woodstock” (3:52, CSN&Y), inkjet print, 26×40in, 2008

VIII

Every leaf on a tree

California Dreaming

Tengallon Sunflower

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why?

Ships That Pass in the Night

Sun Ruins

Dodging Tools

Concentrate and Ask Again

Every leaf on a tree

326, from Every leaf on a tree, inkjet print, 8×5.33in, 2010

For this exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Chicago, I produced a site-specific photographic installation titled Every leaf on a tree. The installation consisted of two bodies of work: Every leaf, which documents every leaf on a tree outside of the my studio at the time and consists of over 900 individual color photographs; and Every book, a series of photographs that document every book about Albert Einstein available through the Illinois Collegiate Inter-Library Loan service. These were then organized according to the color spectrum to create a series of individual “rainbows”—referencing Einstein’s theories about light and gravity. 

16, from Every Book about Albert Einstein available through the Illinois Collegiate Inter-Library Loan Service, inkjet print, 35.5×24in, 2010
Installation view of Einstein Rainbows from Every Book about Albert Einstein available through the Illinois Collegiate Inter-Library Loan Service, MCA Chicago, 21 inkjet prints, approx. 20×6 feet, 2010
Installation view of Every leaf on a tree, MCA Chicago, 450 (of 900) inkjet prints, approx. 20×6.5 feet, 2010
Installation view of Every leaf on a tree, MCA Chicago, inkjet prints, 2010
531, from Every leaf on a tree, inkjet print, 8×5.33in, 2010
606, from Every leaf on a tree, inkjet print, 8×5.33in, 2010
1, from Every Book about Albert Einstein available through the Illinois Collegiate Inter-Library Loan Service, inkjet print, 35.5×24in, 2010