Young Americans: Photographs by Sheila Pree Bright
May 3 – August 10, 2008
The High Museum, Atlanta
Lower Level, Wieland Pavilion
Young Americans is a portraiture project exploring the attitudes and opinions of young Americans (18–25 years old) toward their nation and their identity as Americans. Individual relationships to the nation as a whole are of increasing relevance as political engagement comes to the foreground in the 2008 election year. The themes explored in Young Americans also echo those of the Civil Rights Era, as examined in Road to Freedom: 1956–1968 and After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy, on view simultaneously beginning June 7.
Young Americans consists of 28 large-format chromogenic prints, several accompanied by statements from the subjects revealing their opinions and attitudes about American culture and society. Sheila Pree Bright began working on the series in the fall of 2006, and her swift development of the project led to her selection as the inaugural recipient of an artist-in-residency at the Amistad Center for Art and Culture. Her subjects are photographed with the American flag in poses reflecting elements of their identities and feelings about their country. Pree Bright collaborates with her subjects by inviting them to choose their own clothing, poses, and interactions with the flag. She has said of the work, “Young people born between 1982 and 2000 constitute the largest generation since the baby boomers, but they are often portrayed negatively in our society. I wanted to give them a platform to speak for themselves—to show and describe how they feel about this country. I also wanted to include young people from diverse backgrounds and socio-economic groups.”
A 2002 National Graduate Seminar Fellow at the Photography Institute at Columbia University, N.Y., Pree Bright earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in photography from Georgia State University in 2003. Her photographs are included in public and private collections across the United States. In 2006 she was awarded the prestigious Santa Fe Prize. Presented annually by the Santa Fe Center for Photography, this prize recognizes young artists working in photography who show special promise. Currently a studio artist at The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, she was awarded the En Foco New Works Photography Award (1999) and the National Bronica Award (2001). Pree Bright’s work prior to Young Americans highlights issues related to ethnic identity and gender and includes the series Suburbia, which focuses on home environments of African Americans residing in the suburbs.
Exhibition Organization and Support
The production costs for the Young Americans project and exhibition have been generously underwritten by the AETNA Foundation. The exhibition is organized by Julian Cox, Curator of Photography at the High Museum of Art, in partnership with the Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. The exhibition will travel to The Amistad Center for Art and Culture, an affiliate institution housed within the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn, this fall and will travel to additional venues to be announced.