Osterloh debuts art installation at Columbus Museum of Art
Gina Osterloh, an assistant professor in Ohio State’s Department of Art, was set to debut her “Mirror Shadow Shape” gallery at the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) in 2020. But the project — which contains photography spanning 15 years of Osterloh’s career — was put on hiatus when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Three years later, thanks to the commitment of photography curator Anna Lee and a fantastic staff at CMA that kept the momentum going, Osterloh’s show is finally coming to life.
“It just makes you kind of nervous but also grateful at the same time,” Osterloh said. “There were periods where we didn’t know what was happening, if the show could continue. But the museum stayed committed, and I’m very grateful for that.”
The opening reception for “Mirror Shadow Shape” is Thursday, Feb. 23 at 5:30 p.m., and the show will be open to the public through Oct. 8. The show features some of Osterloh’s signature photography, including life-size constructions made just for the camera, photographs of her drawings and pictures where she utilizes herself as a subject.
The work in Osterloh’s work exhibition uses bright colors and scenes created in a photo studio to deal with questions of identity that arose from her upbringing. Growing up in Ohio, Osterloh is the daughter of her Filipino mother, who survived World War II, and a father, who comes from a German-American farming family. Her mixed-race, Filipino-German-American identity was not an available box to check on forms — including on college applications — especially prior to the year 2000. Though “Mirror Shadow Shape” will not address the issue of her identity directly, Osterloh has no doubt that it has been a major influence on her body of work.
“As my work grew, it has always returned to questions of, ‘How do we perceive belonging, how do we perceive difference, how do we perceive sameness?’” Osterloh said. “It plays with how we innately create categories as human beings but also how we perceive space and how we perceive figures in space. How we identify an individual, how do we identify a group. It very much deals with the underlying constructs of identity.”
Osterloh and CMA have also produced a book for the show, which should be available shortly after the opening. While there are 41 works on display in the museum, the companion book shares than 70 pieces of Osterloh’s photography and also documents earlier performances of hers from 2014 and 2018.
Osterloh is an artist who has exhibited all over the world, with her works displayed in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. In her role as a professor in the Department of Art, Osterloh tries to share her many experiences of opening a gallery with her Ohio State students. Often, Osterloh says, photography is still taught through discrete categories or genres such as social documentary, portraiture, and abstraction.
But her lessons try to show students that it’s possible to embrace strategies of abstraction and portraiture together. Students don’t have to choose or limit themselves to a genre. Likewise, she opens students’ minds to the possibility of combining digital and analog (film) photography. Her students know they have a professor who is drawing on real-world experiences to share with them.
“I hope that through my teaching, students are introduced to ways they can embrace a hybrid approach to art-making,” Osterloh said. “I introduce students to methods where they don’t have to choose either/or, but use many options when their artistic and creative needs call for that. I hope I’m introducing students to a dynamic and flexible, pliable way of being an artist in the world.”
Osterloh’s students, as well as the public, are welcome to come visit “Mirror Shadow Shape” at CMA. Osterloh will also be discussing the exhibit at CMA on April 6 along with Sheilah ReStack, the Chair of Studio Art at Denison University, who interviewed Osterloh for an essay in the companion book.