Kristen is currently making fragile images, susceptible objects, and contingent gestures in Albuquerque while teaching photography/visual literacy at the University of New Mexico, where she will complete her MFA in Studio Art in the spring of 2018. 

She wants her work to hover along the edge of existence, though it exists concretely enough to have been exhibited this year at Form & Concept in Santa Fe as a 2017 SITE scholar, 516 Arts in Albuquerque, and David Richard Gallery as an invited artist for The Santa Fe Art Project, and featured online and in print by Der Greif and Oranbeg Press.

She received her BFA in Studio Art and a BA in Psychology from the University of South Florida in 2014 and hurdled directly into grad school with very little life experience outside of academia.

She hopes you'll visit to keep alive the work of a brilliant artist/human with whom she shared too little time in this world.

The Same Impossible

2015 – current

We call out repeatedly into some elsewhere, hoping for reverberation. 

Do overlapping echoes interrupt or make one another more whole?

Jaro Studencki died in early 2015. 

I’ve been making pictures of the physical places we occupied together, the unreachable places we could not occupy together, and the places of measured breathing between preservation and adaptation in which I now dwell.

A photograph of the reflection of a foggy sky in murky hot spring water tries to disappear, but is fixed in space as a print on paper. 

A photograph of pond water lives also as a video projection onto a static pool, awaiting disruption.

Jorge Luis Borges says that art can not presume to express some essence, only to mention or allude to the thing. 

A 4x5 slide, exposed by someone else, hovers in an elongated frame lit between two sources. Swelling or shrinking as it’s moved along its hinged path, the slide casts a ghost image that does not resolve until the frame is just shy of contact with the wall. 

Peggy Phelan says of the prospect of shared subjectivity, referencing Barthes,
“It must involve a full seeing of the Other’s absence (the ambitious part), a seeing which also entails the acknowledgment of the Other’s presence (the humbling part). For to acknowledge the Other’s (always partial) presence is to acknowledge one’s own (always partial) absence.”

A pillow-organ, imprinted with words from a notebook I should never have had access to read, is inflated with my breath and gradually exhausts, unable to sustain any promised repose.

Anne Carson writes, “How does distance look?”.

Dissolving and reconstituting thin boundaries and heavy breadths, images at best spur refrains of, “Have I seen that/ been there/ felt this before?” while I continue to ask, 

“How much can I hold through remembering? 

How much of You is sustained through what's left? 

How much can We know by looking?”

We Did Approach, and Hesitantly So , 2016

We Did Approach, and Hesitantly So, 2016

Somewhere Better , 2016

Somewhere Better, 2016

Cat Tooth , 2017

Cat Tooth, 2017

As If to Alert a Ship at Sea , 2016

As If to Alert a Ship at Sea, 2016


Why the University of New Mexico? 

UNM was the first of seven schools I visited in courting a program. My former partner Jaro, who was weeks from completing his own MFA track at my undergrad alma mater, the University of South Florida, flew with me to Albuquerque from Tampa and, by the end of our three-day visit, kind of spoke out of the corner of his mouth to me with something along the lines of “you should still check out everywhere else, but I don’t think you’re going to fall in love like this again.” Everything about this program was (and has since proven to be) right for me.

The warmth as well as the dynamism of the faculty and student community here is astounding. I was made to feel like part of the family before I’d even committed to join it. Our four photo faculty have such distinct personalities, histories, and praxes, so their influence on their students in no way leads to formulaic, cookie-cutter-esque work coming out of this program. Upon arrival and in my time since, Adrienne Salinger (now my committee chair) has made me feel immeasurably less crazy (or perhaps less alone in being completely crazy?) for everything I’ve thought, felt, and struggled with throughout this process. Meggan Gould has continuously quelled my insanity with her imperturbable, encouraging presence and is exactly the kind of instructor I hope to become. It’s such a privilege to work under Jim Stone’s great wisdom about the “photo world” and the world in general, and the (constructively demagogic? [sorry, Patrick, if those aren’t your preferred descriptors!!]) intellect alongside Patrick Manning’s earnest insight has propelled new perspectives from which I frame my work and kept me on my toes. I’ve been lucky to find exceptional mentors, like Szu-Han Ho, Kirsten Buick, Ellen Babcock, and Ligia Bouton, in other areas as well. 

How truly interdisciplinary this program allows us to be is an asset. The art history and theory studies I’ve absorbed through Szu-Han and Kirsten have been amongst the most impactful. To give an idea of the scope of course offerings we’re encouraged to explore, I’ve also taken papermaking, weaving, collaborative lithography in partnership with the Tamarind institute and, currently, modern dance (a total shit show for my uncoordinated self, but Kelsey Paschich is a very forgiving instructor).

I can’t stress enough how much of a gift UNM’s three-year structure has been. I needed the first year to begin to plant my feet in the desert-y ground and flail around in my studio (which I’m 100% still doing) before honing in on what I could come to own as a substantive body of work.

How has your experience at the University of New Mexico informed or shaped The Same Impossible

I applied to grad school with a series of constructed self-portraiture that I ultimately feel did more to perpetuate the problems of representation of the passive/objectified/agency-stripped “Female Body (I denote with the biggest grain of salt)” than to subvert them, so a pivot in my practice was already due.

I think there’s a presumption when deciding to pursue an advanced degree that one has something fairly particular to communicate and investigate more deeply, or at least a convicted desire to be situated in dialogue with other makers. I thought I had some of those things, but then I experienced all-consuming loss and my worldview crumbled which, in hindsight, was maybe the most ideal moment to come here and embark on this. 

I started in the photo program and proceeded to not make a photograph for the better part of a year. My colleagues and mentors have since reminded me with endless patience that, yes, there are places and reasons for sifting, translation, and obfuscation of source material, but that my camera-based images in and of themselves are valid. Also, that grief work is valid and can serve as much more than catharsis. Also, that my continued existence is valid. The Same Impossible has come from these reminders.

What kind of exhibition or arts-related job opportunities exist in the area for current students and recent graduates? 

Albuquerque has a remarkably vibrant, if a bit insular, art scene given its distance from any major art-hub cities. A few commercial and non-profit fixtures (Sanitary Tortilla Factory, Central Features, 516 Arts, Richard Levy, to name a few) are run by awesome people who give local artists a platform and also draw visiting artists and attention from well beyond this locale. 516 Arts hosted our Annual Juried Graduate Exhibition last year, both 516 and Central Features have offered internships and more permanent positions to current and recent grads, and Richard Levy currently represents two of our MFA painters. John Sommer’s Gallery and CFA Downtown are UNM student-run spaces. Artist-run Tannex, Graft, and Small Engine Galleries are flourishing collectives who host experimental events and shows. Community art spaces like Harwood and Working Classroom are amazing resources for advocacy and outreach and the museum scene in the area (e.g. Albuquerque Museum, National Hispanic Cultural Center) is thriving. Santa Fe, just an hour away, has a growing contemporary art voice that’s increasingly more connected to Abq.

What’s the most memorable piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor?

I’ve received such a continual stream of important lessons that “most” anything seems impossible to settle on, but here’s one that’s articulable and broadly applicable: Meg Gould tells us to always break our own rules. Or, better yet [though easier said than done], don’t let yourself set them in the first place. Of course its important to shape some parameters for any given piece to develop and resonate in its most effective form, but when those rules aren’t constantly reevaluated they can become arbitrary and really restrictive.

What advice do you have for prospective students looking to attend the University of New Mexico? 

1) I strongly believe that I’ve become part of a tight cohort who will be more likely to help champion each other in seeking future opportunities than to compete for the same ones. Albuquerque’s position outside of a major art city is advantageous in this way. Many of us will cast a wide net in considering where to land next, some will put down roots here, and we’ll all have a diverse and expansive network of professional contacts/lifelong friends to call on when we need one another!

2) The opportunity to teach throughout this program is an incredible gift and a big responsibility. We shadow a more experienced TA the first semester, so when we become an instructor of record in the second it’s a little less like being thrown into the deep end. I still have serious imposter syndrome, but I’ll leave here having developed curricula (with ample support in the form of regular group meetings and shared resources) and a philosophy of what I might want a future classroom to look and feel like (Ranciere’s The Emancipated Spectator is a solid undercurrent for that and is something I assign at the beginning of every semester). I’ll graduate having taught intro photo, Visualizing Ideas (essentially photo 2), and an upper level course merging 4x5 and lighting techniques, and I’m currently GA-ing for Meg Gould in the first semester interdisciplinary grad seminar. I’m so lucky to have had this remarkable range of experiences, not to mention the financial burden that’s lifted through TAships.

Where can we keep up with your photo department online?

What other photo programs and artists should we be keeping an eye on? 

My colleagues here are too many to namedrop inclusively, but I am inspired by each of them and their work. For brevity, my immediate photo cohort is Amy Johnson, Jess Peri, Sallie Scheufler, Nick Simko, and Ariel C. Wilson. 

Eugene Ellenberg, who completes his MFA this month and is my steadfast muse, just had an exquisite show, We Appreciate Your Progress, at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory.

Sean P. Campbell and Elizabeth Murphy are in Abq from Glasgow for a short time and both possess a very special something in their work and being. 

Great things/people are always passing through my undergrad home too. USF’s small but mighty photo area is run by the brilliant Wendy Babcox. Robert Dallas, Alan Phan, Taylor Finke, Marcus Desieno, and Mayu Nagaoka were particularly impactful to my time there and still. William Douglas and Pat Blocher are there now and I don’t know them but do admire them.

Internet strangers and vague acquaintances I’ve been ogling lately include Jacinda Russell, Katrin Koenning, Eli Craven, Martin Usborn, Alexander Coggin, İpek Çınar, and Anouk Kruithof.

Please do keep Jaro’s profoundly beautiful, important work alive by visiting: