(American, b. 1978; resides in Chicago, IL)
Shannon Benine’s photographic projects examine the ways war and energy consumption intersect with her life and community in Chicago. Three bodies of work by the artist are represented in the Midwest Photographers Project, each taking a notably personal look at the complexities of American politics.
In the series Westhope, Benine portrays the oil town in North Dakota where she grew up, a community at the end of an oil boom, searching for a new identity as it struggles to cope with the diminishing fossil fuel that once nourished its economy. TheWaiting Room series is a collaborative project created by Benine and a relative, Casey, in the armed forces. During his 2006 deployment to Iraq and subsequent return to civilian life, the pair worked together to create photographs, videos and audio clips that overlay scenes of routine American life with fragments of combat and violence. The resulting installation reflects on the encompassing anxiety soldiers and military families cope with during wartime. The 03.19.03 series also examines the physical and psychological effects of war; this time in the form of a delicate sculptural wall hanging made from photograms of unfolded peace cranes. Resembling both a patterned tapestry and a wall of bullet holes, each segment of the panel represents the life of a fallen U.S. soldier who once lived in the region where the work is being exhibited. The piece serves as both an ongoing memorial to the American casualties of the Iraq war, as Benine continues to fold cranes for every fallen soldier until the end of the war, and as a social critique of the devastation of combat.
Shannon Benine was born in Tacoma, Washington and holds a BFA from The University of Washington and an MFA from The University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2008, she received a CAAP grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and has been in numerous exhibitions in the United States and abroad. Collections holding works by Benine include The National Center of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia and Lafarge of North America, Seattle, Washington. She currently teaches photography at the School of the Art Institute Chicago.