Hi! I’m Susan E. Bennet, and I’m a new media artist living and working in St. Louis. I use photography, video and writing to explore social issues, particularly those of interest to women.
I am applying for a RAC grant this year to complete the second phase of a project I began last year, UNDEFINED.
Originally conceived as a collaborative female response to a sexist St. Louis Business Journal article, the project focused on creating portraits and written profiles of St. Louis women: entrepreneurs, business owners and artists. Most were featured with an object that helped define their current careers and future aspirations.
The project was extremely successful. It was the subject of much community engagement and discussion, and was highlighted in the Riverfront Times and on HEC-TV. The portraits and a video overview of the project were later exhibited in a solo show in January 2017 at SOHA Studio + Gallery.
Selection of phase one portraits:
The UNDEFINED video features the portraits of and quotes from the women involved, with a background track of their combined voices, each telling stories of sexism they’ve encountered in the workplace.
Installation at SOHA Studio + Gallery
I learned much from the first phase of UNDEFINED, which featured 39 local women. Due to the time-sensitive nature of the project and limited access to a work space, I photographed all the women over 2 days in August 2016, and as I assembled the exhibition I realized that it would have been extremely powerful to have video of each women telling her story to the viewer, in her own words.
I now want to continue my exploration of sexism and its effects on women’s lives by examining the obstacles facing young women in St. Louis in their school and work environments. While the first phase of UNDEFINED featured women more established in their careers, the second phase will be pared-down, featuring 5-10 women between the ages of 16-22. With fewer subjects I will have a chance to conduct a more in-depth exploration of these women’s experiences, and document not only their images but also their own descriptions of their lives in video interviews. Phase one told us what it’s like in the business world, my hope is that phase two can shed some light on what it’s currently like in local schools and for women just entering the workforce.
I am asking for grant support to:
- upgrade my current camera body
- invest in new studio lighting and a camera lens suited to the project
I will be donating my own time to the project, approximately 80 hours.
I plan to complete this work in the summer of 2017, recruiting and selecting the women in June, filming and photographing them in July, and editing the piece for publication on my website/YouTube channel Ooh St. Lou on August 29, 2017 — one year after the initial launch of the first phase. After the work is published I will again seek a gallery for a solo or group show in which to exhibit.