About the Photographer
American, b. 1980
Aspen Mays uses everyday materials to investigate photography’s role as scientific evidence and documentation. Starting with a sense of curiosity and using research as a catalyst for her work, Mays poetically translates scientific investigation into photographic works that raise far larger questions than they attempt to answer. Blurring the boundaries between creating knowledge and simply amassing information, her works held in the collection of the MoCP are representative of Mays’s experimental and conceptual approach.
In her color photogram of TV static, entitled 1% (2008), Mays refers to NASA’s claim that one percent of television static is caused by cosmic radiation left over from the Big Bang. Seeing remnants of the explosion that created our universe broadcast over a device that has dominated modern media culture demonstrates the curious ways our ongoing cosmic story is transmitted and made visible through technology. Later, when the artist was conducting research on a Fulbright Fellowship at the European Southern Observatory in Chile in 2010 and 2011, she created another body of work concerned with the cosmos, Punched Out Stars. While exploring the facility’s grounds, she discovered an abandoned photography darkroom with old pictures of stars tucked in hidden corners throughout the room. Using a hole punch, she removed the stars, leaving behind unmarked areas that might represent gaps in our ability to map outer space and revealing that much of the information connecting us to distant cosmic occurrences remains unintelligible.
Inspired by the American engineer, inventor, systems theorist, and designer Buckminster Fuller, Mays disassembled the 20-sided die that floats within the ink-colored waters of a Magic 8-Ball toy to create In Map of the World (After Buckminster Fuller) (2008). Here the deconstructed piece, being arranged in two-dimensional form, recalls the Dymaxion Map created by Fuller in 1946 that maintains the relative proportional integrity of a globe map when flattened. While Fuller stated that there is no “right side up” with his map, Mays’s map seems to suggest the limitless possibilities in looking for answers to our questions.
Aspen Mays completed an MFA in Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2009); a Diploma in Fine Arts at Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town, South Africa (2006); and a BA in Anthropology and Spanish at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2002). Her work has been reviewed in national publications, including Artforum and Art Papers. Solo exhibitions include Every Leaf on a Tree: UBS 12 x 12 New Artists/New Work, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2010); From the Office of Scientists, Hyde Park Arts Center, Chicago (2010); and Sun Ruins, Golden Gallery, New York (2011). Mays lives and works in Los Angeles.