Cheryle St. Onge‘s project “Natural Findings,” which looks at the natural world as if through the eyes of a child making discoveries, has been ongoing since 2009, and has received the support from the Guggenheim Foundation. The project, St. Onge says, “unfolds” season to season, depending on where she is and what inspires her. In a new exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, OR, St. Onge has expanded “Natural Findings” to include new work and her personal journals. “Those very ubiquitous half-sheet size black books became my go-to journals after grad school as a way to make sense of what I was reading, who I was meeting and seeing enroute to my picture making,” St. Onge told PDN via email. “I wanted these journals to be a place where I wrote down the connections that were unfolding in my head about what was happening around me and in my work.”
St. Onge is showing at Blue Sky as a result of winning the Exhibition Award from Photolucida’s Critical Mass competition. She entered the competition after attending the organization’s portfolio reviews, which take place every other year in Portland. St. Onge, who teaches photography, says that she’d wanted to send an exhibition proposal to Blue Sky, but hadn’t found the time. “Perhaps I speak for many artists, in that we can be somewhat fractured between having a family, teaching, making work—keeping life on track,” she says.
Relationships with other artists have been key to encouraging St. Onge’s creative work. She attends a yearly retreat with eight other women artists, for instance. They rent a summer house for two weeks and hold what she calls “a self-styled Art Camp,” she explains. “We make work and then we support each other’s new work during the year in between summer camp.”
Photographer friends also encouraged her to attend Photolucida, which eventually lead to her exhibition. “My ‘Natural Findings’ work went from ideas in my head, to runs through swamps with my kids and my 8 x 10 camera, to reviews at Photolucida, to an exhibition via the Critical Mass award,” she notes. “I think it is important to let our work leave our heads, leave our studios and be open to sometimes forceful, sometime gentle forward pushing—and that is what happens at Photolucida.”
“Natural Findings” is on display through May 2, 2015.
Related: How To Make The Most of a Portfolio Review (For PDN subscribers; login required)
Portfolio Reviews From the Photographer’s Side of the Table