In a word or phrase, how do you describe your relationship with God? Vague? Steadfast? Nonexistent? How about out of focus?
A week ago Friday, Northwestern’s Te Paske Gallery was filled for the opening of photography professor Phil Scorza’s show, “selfie.” The show is comprised of three main exhibits. The opening reception was a hit, sparking good conversation and self-evaluation.
Although it is a show that encourages active participation, “selfie” was inspired by Scorza’s own personal growth.
“There are two things of discomfort for me,” said Scorza. “One is shooting people; I usually shoot inanimate objects. The other is that I don’t like to walk up to people and talk about faith. I wouldn’t normally do that, which is what pushed me to do the project.”
Scorza originally had a list of pre-selected people he wanted to contact for the project. However, he also added walk-ins, including a person making a delivery to the gallery. Scorza asked them to sit down and answer questions about their relationship with God and the church. While he was talking with them, he asked them to hold a small plastic church figurine in front of their face.
He then took a series of 20 photos per person. With each photo, he adjusted the camera’s settings to alter the focus and depths of field. Sometimes, the face would be in focus; other times the church. Scorza wanted this change in focus to represent the closeness or distance from his model to God and to the church.
After his photo subject had left, Scorza reviewed each of the photos and selected one that best represented the conversation and answers.
The other two pieces are equally as moving. Scorza had shot 20 photos of Virgin Mary yard statues in front of everyday items, such as garages and barbeques.
Together, these pictures represent how everyday objects can crowd together and fade into the background, blocking our spirituality. A wall covered in Sharpie marker writing makes up the third and final piece, offering an open invitation: Describe your relationship with God.
Scorza was adamant about anonymity when he was having conversations with his subjects.
“But what could we do with the comments people made?” Scorza said. “I didn’t have my subjects associated with them, so I took their statements and had kids in my class write the statements on the walls.”
Naming the exhibit took Scorza by surprise.
“I’m shooting the images, and then there was this epiphany while I was looking the images selected,” Scorza said. “It was the outstretched arms.”
The pieces also invite self-reflection and opportunities for sharing. This moment of anonymity allows for people to share an element of themselves that they normally wouldn’t reveal.
Those who attend the exhibit are also invited to participate. Wooden racks with markers are attached to the walls. Those wanting to share their thoughts are welcome to write down a few words.
“This way, the whole gallery is a work of art,” said Scorza. “Without any labeling it actually gives the person experiencing the gallery ownership of the show. It’s fun to come in every morning to see when a wall changes.”
If you’re interested in spending time reflecting on seeing ideas about God and where others are in their faith journey, take a walk over to the art building, add something to the wall and experience the peace that ensues. “Selfie” is well worth it.