Professor Profile: Uta Barth

Uta Barth, a conceptual photographer and UCR’s own professor emeritus of art, has been named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow for her latest works, “white blind” (bright red) in 2002 and “…and to draw a bright, white line with light” (2011). This prestigious fellowship, nicknamed the “genius grant,” awarded Professor Barth a no-strings attached sum of $500,000, to be dispersed over 5 years. In the words of the MacArthur Foundation, it’s an award for “individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and promise to do more;” it’s “an investment in a person’s originality, insight and potential.”

The MacArthur fellowship is one of the nation’s most respected grants; since 1978, they’ve awarded funds totaling over $5 billion. According to the foundation, Barth’s innovative use of “evocative, abstract photographs explore the nature of vision and the difference between how a human sees reality and how a camera records it” was reason enough for her fellowship.

Even more fascinating however, is her use of the mundane in her last two installments. Barth intentionally photographed the seemingly nondescript surroundings in her home to draw attention to the physical act of observing, to perception itself. She aims to challenge our perspective in life, through, according to Barth, the use of light as the medium in her work.

By manipulating shades and curtains in her home, Barth draws in natural sunlight and captures her images using the sunlight as the subject of each scene. The effect of which, according to the MacArthur foundation, is that each of her photos “evoke the subtle passage of time while also highlighting the visceral and intellectual pleasures of seeing.”

For UCR, Professor Barth’s fellowship carries it’s own meaning. In an interview last month with Bettye Miller, Barth said, “I plan to still teach, but on a very part-time basis. I learn much from teaching, I learn from students and I learn what I am thinking when forced to put language to it. I think it is a valuable thing to do.” Having such a prestigious member of the arts community on staff will undoubtedly be an invaluable resource for all of UCR’s shutter-bugs and you other photographically inclined members of our student body.

Professor Uta Barth’s work is represented in many public and private collections around the world, including local venues such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Getty Museum and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles to name a few. With an open mind, perceptions of reality, life, and our interactions with the world are able to be challenged.

Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
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