- Contemporary Visual Art for Human Rights -

Laura Migliorino

Posted on December 01 2016

The author explores spaces in a state of abandonment or of unexpected departure, creating a feeling of being animated and inhabited but absent at the same time. Laura Migliorino in this series proves to be interested in the transition period ..

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I believe that is the strength of photography, the ability to strike the heart so profoundly by capturing a single harrowing moment in time, or taking the viewer on an emotional journey of introspection. – L. Migliorino

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Laura Migliorino is an American photographer born in Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, city where she grew up and obtained her master degree at the University of Minnesota. Laura Migliorino teaches photography at the Anoka-Ramsey Community College, in addition to having received several grants from the Jerome Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board, she has gained numerous prizes and recognitions. Laura has exhibited internationally for over 30 years, her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, DOMUS Magazine, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and DWELL Magazine. Migliorino's works are in the permanent collection of the Walker Art Center, Weisman Museum in Minneapolis and at The Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

Migliorino’s photographic work entitled "Absentia: abandoned past" is the continuation of an artistic / documentary path that over the past ten years has explored the symbiotic and intimate relationship between people and their homes, it is a series where the photographer tries to capture the aspects that make the house a safe haven where to feel protected, a place, quoting McLuhan, that becomes a collective media through which people may store and channel heat and energy, an environment in which to preserve memories, and again a place through which we can understand man and the evolution of civilization since its inception.

The author explores spaces in a state of abandonment or of unexpected departure, creating a feeling of being animated and inhabited but absent at the same time. Laura Migliorino in this series proves to be interested in the transition period in the lifetime of a place, from one era to another. According to the photographer houses are like the human body, citing her words, "they are born fresh, clean, and full of hope .. a house may be reborn and be rehabilitated, sometimes it dies and becomes a memory."

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L.A.: Hello Laura, to start can you tell us a little bit about yourself ?How and when did you become interested in photography?
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Laura Migliorino: I was born in Cleveland Ohio, and grew up in a Chicago Heights, a Chicago suburb. My neighborhood was full of new immigrant families but is dominated by Italian – Americans. I am 100 percent Italian, all four of my grandparents emigrated from Italy and the influence of Italian culture is very strong. 

I received my BFA is from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and my MFA is from the University of Minnesota. My early work is in printmaking, painting and drawing and I came to photography later in my career. The shift happened when my work became more political and I began integrating photographic imagery into works on paper. Over time I fell in love with the photo process and imagery. For the past 20 years my work has been photo centered but often approached from a painterly eye. 
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L.A.: What does photography mean to you or what is your statement as a photographer?
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Laura Migliorino: Photography is a magical medium but contradictory too. While it is immediate, it is equally illusive. Photography can be a source of truth and misleading, it can capture the painful reality of war as well as create a mythical, fantasy for the viewer. It is the versatility in photography that I love so much and how democratic the medium has become.
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L.A.: How does this project relate to other projects you have done?
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Laura Migliorino: My work has a long history of capturing the relationship between people and the environments they live in. The intimate nature of housing, shelter and living environment is so essential to how one is defined, that is cannot be separated. As we look at the evolution of the human race from Pre-History to today, how humans shelter themselves is key to understanding a civilization. The work explores the symbiotic, and perplexing relationship between people and their homes. The focus of my work has been on the people, and the human component dominates the content of the image. Absentia is an extension of this exploration.
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L.A.: What kind of relationship you have with the contexts you are shooting? What's your degree of involvement with these?
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Laura Migliorino: In this project Absentia I am interacting with the space itself and spend time feeling the space before I shoot. I explore what people have left behind, clothes, books, mail, food, and personal items. I wonder about who they are, what was life like here and why they left. I often visualize family scrapbooks full of moments captured in this home and imagine a narrative for the families who lived here. I think of the laughter, the crying, and the pivotal moments that people carry with them for life that played out within these rooms. The house is alive with memory.
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L.A.: How do you think photography can be used to drive social change?
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Laura Migliorino: The idea of photography as a tool for social change is what brought me to
photography. In the 1980’s my work became more political as I lost many friends and my own brother to AIDS. I found my voice in the photographic image in a way that I could not express in any other medium. I believe that is the strength of photography, the ability to strike the heart so profoundly by capturing a single harrowing moment in time, or taking the viewer on an emotional journey of introspection. The photograph is a nimble medium with an expressive power..
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L.A.: What are you busy doing in this period? Have you any future project?
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Laura Migliorino: My next project is The Hidden Suburbs Revisited: American Muslims. The focus of the photography project is to illustrate the very ordinary lives of American Muslims living in the Upper Midwest, a beacon of Americana. The final photograph of my original series The Hidden Suburbs: A Portrait is a Muslim family, and the image has stayed with me. The current inflammatory and dangerous rhetoric vilifying the Muslim community has to be challenged, forcefully. The image of Muslims living very ordinary lives with the backdrop of the Minnesota suburbs is a profound visual statement. The American suburb remains a powerful symbol for all that is American, and the Muslim community in Minnesota is fast embracing suburban life.

Islam is not new to the United States. Muslims arrived in the colonies, around 1700, mainly through the slave trade. Slaves were unworthy of Christianity, and thus allowed to continue practicing their religion. Islam took root in America and the first Mosque was built in Iowa, the heartland.
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Laura Migliorino www.lauramigliorinoart.com
 
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