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The Constructed Family

A project by Ursula Sokolowska

Ursula doesn’t have a lot of positive childhood memories. The early part of her life was dominated with feelings of “helplessness, excommunication, and constant movement” — she moved from Poland to the United States when she was 5. So, as a way to work through those memories, in 2006 she created the series The Constructed Family, using personal childhood imagery projected onto soft-form mannequins to recreate her past.

“I’ve always been drawn to spaces with light that have more of an urban, rugged feel. The spaces feel more raw which is what I like to shoot in general, so the series was also getting back to that raw or early place in my life. It’s reflective of my early childhood but it also shows how it resonates into being an adult. It’s a type of haunting, the feeling of a certain type of abandonment or the kind of feeling that resonates in a person depending on their childhood and feeling left alone or pushed to the side.

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At first, the series wasn’t autobiographical, but, after writing about her childhood, she felt placing herself into the projections would be a better fit. She bought some child-size mannequins on eBay and used photographs of herself from infancy until around 7 years old that expressed her feelings during those years. She then projected the images onto the mannequins she placed in environments.

“Memory and the brain are very fascinating. We all remember things a certain, subjective way but we also ask ourselves, did it happen that way? Was it that good or was it that bad?

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Ursula studied photography at Columbia College — 1997-99 —, completing her BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2001. Although her work is deeply personal, her images are also a reflection of separation of the body from consciousness and objectification.

Her photographs can be found in many public and private collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Tanqueray.

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ursula-sokolowska.com

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