Chris Ireland is an exhibiting artist and educator, originally from Cleveland, OH. Chris has been interested in photography ever since he risked being grounded as a child when he took his mother’s cherished 35mm Canon AE-1 camera to school without her permission. She not only didn’t ground him but supported his education that lead to a BFA in Photography from the Cleveland Institute of Art (2003) and an MFA in Digital Media at Washington State University (2007).
His current research is based on representations of family and personal experience through the vernacular of photography. His works have been featured in exhibitions at numerous venues both nationally and internationally, including the Center of Contemporary Art in Seattle, WA, the Colorado Photographic Arts Center in Denver, CO, Filter Photo Space in Chicago, IL, Umbrella Arts Gallery in New York, NY, the San Antonio Public Library, and the Houston Center for Photography. Chris is currently a member of 500x Gallery in Dallas, TX.
Ireland lives and works in the Fort Worth, TX area, where he is an Associate Professor of Art at Tarleton State University. He is the coordinator of the Art and Digital Media Studies programs, and teaches courses in digital imaging and new media.
I first heard the term, Ordinary Time, sitting at church with my Mother every Sunday morning. It refers to any week of the Catholic liturgical year that is not associated with Easter or Christmas. On those days, there were no decorations, carols, candy, or gathering in front of the camera to take pictures for the family album. At the beginning of the service, the pastor would count each week of Ordinary Time until the year had past. I spent countless ordinary Sundays with my mom, so many that those memories formed a forgettable continuum. Waking up, making toaster waffles, going to church, doing homework, watching football…much of my family experience has been organized around routines, a series of set pieces that are reenacted daily and on schedule by the hour.
I used to joke with friends that at any particular time of day, I could accurately predict where my family was, exactly what they were doing, eating, watching, etc. In 2006, I started to take photos of the ordinary daily minutia surrounding my mother, father, and brother who still resided in the same home I grew up in on 8867 Edgehill Road. At that time, observing my family’s routine felt like a comforting exercise in nostalgia, as I had struggled to define myself my first few years away from home. In 2016, I returned home more often, not long after an accident involving my mother that left her alive but permanently brain damaged. The images in this series are moments in time, separated by 10 years, that show the daily patterns and rhythms of life that do not necessarily change, but adapt to alterations in the family dynamic.
The house on 8867 Edgehill Road that contained all of my nostalgic childhood memories depicted in family albums is cracking and slowly aging, just like our old Chevy Station Wagon that eventually stopped running, and just like my mom’s deteriorated mental state. My brother and father, who both suffer from mental disorders since birth, still inhabit the same space and are struggling to cope emotionally. Yet, the absence of one or multiple family members has never altered the routines of daily life. To be present with my family as a member and as a photographer, only requires me to accept my role and participate in those rituals with them. This is my way of doing it.
Q&A: TARLETON STATE UNIVERSITY
Why Tarleton State University?
Tarleton State University, part of the Texas A&M University system, is a growing Art program that offers a BFA in Studio Art and an interdisciplinary Digital Media Studies degree that offers students a chance to take multiple levels of Photography along with classes in Video Art, Filmmaking, Animation, Interactive Media, and Game Design. While we are still a relatively small University compared to many of the larger private and public schools in Texas, Tarleton offers many of the same opportunities those schools offer at a much greater value, with a favorable teacher to student ratio, allowing many opportunities for portfolio development such as internships, study abroad and student groups such as the Tarleton Photo club. Tarleton recently sponsored the Society for Photographic Education South Central Chapter conference in 2017 which brought in guest speakers such as Charlotte Cotton and Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison.
What courses do you teach?
I work vary closely with all the art majors on campus, especially in the fields of Photography, Digital Imaging and Design. I teach beginning to advanced level Photography courses, Interaction Design, Graphic Design, Photography History, and Digital Arts courses.
How does your program bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary photographic practices?
Tarleton does not have a wet darkroom, however we do include alternative process digital printing in our curriculum. Student are also encouraged to take courses in Video Art and Filmmaking, along with Computer Programming and Creative Writing, to further develop their artistic practice. We are a relatively new program and we are growing and expanding our curriculum every year to accommodate new ideas and the influx of students we have coming into our program. We don't yet have a reputation or style in terms of the way we teach our students and I think that works to our advantage since we can adapt to change much faster than other more traditional art programs and curriculums..
Describe the process of output for photographs.
Students print their work for various exhibitions around campus, including their BFA Senior Portfolio Exhibition at the Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center. Students can print in the Art labs as well as at our Tarleton Maker Spaces. Students also show their digital work in a variety of other forms, from installation to projection and other forms of experimental media. It is my job to open their minds to the variety of ways to display their work including but not limited to the matted/framed photographic print.
Describe the critique format.
Critiques are a regular occurrence in our classes. Other faculty are known to drop in, as are various guest artists from our visiting artist program and our Artist in Residence program. Our student run group, the Tarleton Photo club, also meets weekly to go over student work and find new ways to show their work off campus. Advanced Photo students often run their own critiques, and anyone is invited to attend those as well. These opportunities happen organically and independently because of our engaged students who want to make things happen. Often times all I have to do is step back and let them make it work.
Where can we keep up with your photo department online?