About the Photographer
American, b. 1957
Physically, Sentinels is a mixed media installation in which a table supports a grove of six light boxes, each built to different dimensions and illuminating a duratrans photograph of a distinct floral image, accompanied by a looped audio component. Intellectually, it is a response to a specific place that develops and explores Antonia Contro's ongoing fascination with discovery and travel. A 2002 Rockefeller Fellowship afforded Contro one month in Bellagio, Italy to refine new ideas and hone familiar techniques. Immersed in the majesty of her environment, she found herself particularly captivated by the cypress trees, which she called her "sentinels." Almost annually Contro embarks on a big cumulative project, and it is often a collaboration. Lou Mallozzi, a fellow Rockerfeller Fellow, orchestrated the audio element's multiple voices in Sentinels. The voices include a young girl, a gardener speaking in Lombardi dialect, a woman reciting biological fact, and a man reciting from Ovid's Metamorphosis. At times they overlap or echo as they sing and speak, layering scientific detail and poetic emotion to evoke a collective impression of the creators' shared experience.
There brings together Contro's experiments with media ranging from drawing to photography to collage. It is comprised of eight more or less circular elements on a vertical board: four drawn on the board with the illusion of depth, and four holes cut through the board which frame photographs of branches and vegetation. The small coin-sized holes demand an intimate proximity, drawing the viewer in to an inspection of the scene's essential details. The images have been cut and rearranged from a single beautiful, if generic, landscape of trees and pond. In their new configuration they become more ambiguous, and it is easy to confuse water and sky. The colors of the pictures are somewhat faded and cyan, their shifted palette not quite true-to-life in a manner that recalls memory and dream.
In 1957 Antonia Contro was born in Chicago, where she continues to live and work. She holds a BA from Northwestern University (1979) and an MFA in Painting from the University of Illinois, Chicago (1987). Never formally trained in photography, Contro pulls from many media to explore themes of journey and transformation inspired and informed by her Venetian heritage. She has had exhibitions at Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago; Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, Indiana; Printworks Gallery, Chicago; and Gallery A, Inc., Chicago. Her work is included in the collections of Poloraid Corporation, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Wabash College, Crawfordville, Indiana; and in Illinois at The Illinois State Museum, Springfield; Rockford Museum, Rockford; Kemper Corporation, Long Grove; and Motorola Corporation, Schaumburg. In addition to her creative work, she is also the Executive Director of Marwyn Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing visual arts education and career development programs for underserved youth in Chicago's elementary schools.