About the Photographer
American, b. 1984
In her series Go Deep Into the Woods (2007-2010), Jennifer Ray gathers information from online communities to locate and photograph sites in public parks where men meet for secretive and anonymous sexual encounters. Though the subject matter is predicated on physical encounters, human figures are absent in the images; their presence is merely suggested by descriptive traces of activity by depicting discarded condoms, pages of pornographic magazines, and reconstructed love notes. In addition to documenting the debris left behind, Ray also finds suggestive evidence of physical encounters, such as the imprint of bodies in grass or initials carved into branches that resemble two bodies entwined in an embrace.
In the lush and often manicured settings of Ray’s photographs, nature becomes an unexpected host to taboo activity. Conventional distinctions between public and private space become blurred, and the juxtaposition between the serenity that is characteristic of public parks and unseen sexual activity is amplified. Nature, often portrayed as a location of scenic and spiritual beauty, becomes a seductive stage to harbor a hidden world of deviance and fantasy.
Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Jennifer Ray completed a MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago (2010), and a BA in Studio Art at Oberlin (2007). She has exhibited at the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago (2010); Chelsea Art Museum, New York (2011); Chicago Cultural Center (2012); the University of Massachusetts Amherst (2012); and Recycleart, Belgium (2012). Her work is held in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Bloomington; and Hornswaggler Arts, Chicago. Numerous awards and grants include the ACRE Residency (2010); Albert P. Weisman Award (2010); and the John Mulvany Scholarship (2009). Based in Chicago, she is currently a visiting professor of photography at Oberlin College.