Sam Contis ’08MFA First Solo Museum Exhibition

Sam Contis ’08MFA will feature her photography collection of Deep Springs College in her first solo museum exhibition. The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) will host the exhibition which extends from May 3 to August 27. To describe the themes of Contis’s work, BAMPFA director and chief curator Lawrence Rinder writes, “While the ‘cowboy’ is essential to the Western myth, and a central figure in American masculine ideals, Contis’s photographs allude to another side of both the historical and present reality; that is, an experience of gender that is more nuanced and open to ambiguity. In the early days of the American West, when women were few and far between, it was not uncommon for men to take on traditionally female roles. Similarly, at Deep Springs, gender identity has always been open to fluid expression. And coursing through Contis’s photographs is a powerful countercurrent of softness, gentleness, and fertility”

“In addition to creating singular images, Contis is concerned with the syntactic relationships among works in a series. She arranges her works in the gallery in ways that draw out formal echoes and poetic resonances, especially those that undermine a predominantly masculine gender narrative. She suggests analogies between male bodies and the landscape, inverting the conventional trope of earth as female form. Images of young men nurturing plants or reclining in the nude balance pictures of dusty struggles in the corral or a blood-spattered cloth. Against the backdrop of ageless mountain ranges, the historically constructed categories of gender seem to melt away like a desert mirage.”

More information about the exhibition can be found here.