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Hillman Photography Initiative Identifies New Agents


August 19, 2015

Pittsburgh, PA…Lynn Zelevansky, The Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) announced today the creative team of Agents charged with formulating the second cycle of programming for CMOA’s Hillman Photography Initiative. The Agents are Liz Deschenes, Steffani Jemison, and Laura Wexler, along with CMOA’s curator of photography Dan Leers.

An incubator for innovative thinking about photography, the Initiative recruits these Agents to generate the theme and programming for the Initiative over the course of the following year. Cycle One launched the Initiative with an ambitious roster of forward-thinking projects, including

Deschenes, Jemison, Wexler, and Leers will gather in Pittsburgh with program manager Divya Rao Heffley in September 2015 for conversations and strategy sessions facilitated by MAYA Design. Over the course of several days, the Agents will formulate plans for a public program to be realized by CMOA in 2016. The program will investigate photography in an era of the medium’s rapid transformations. Throughout the year, it will expand upon the museum’s photography program to offer dynamic, inventive, and interactive experiences both on site in the museum and on digital platforms.


About the Agents

Liz Deschenes (lives and works in New York, NY) is an artist who uses photographic processes to reflect upon and push the boundaries of the medium itself. Her work often makes precise reference to its institutional site and the history of imaging technologies. Deschenes was the recipient of the 2014 Rappaport Prize and she has had one-person exhibitions at several institutions and galleries, including  Mass MoCA (North Adams, MA), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), Secession (Vienna), Miguel Abreu Gallery (New York, NY), and Campoli Presti (London and Paris), among others. She has participated in group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the 2012 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY). A forthcoming retrospective exhibition opening at the ICA Boston in the summer of 2016 will be accompanied by a comprehensive monograph. Deschenes teaches at Bennington College and is a visiting artist at Columbia University’s School of Visual Arts, Yale University, and Bard College.

Steffani Jemison (lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) uses photography and performance as platforms for dialogue to examine “progress” and its alternatives. Jemison’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including solo projects at the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (Providence), and LAXART (West Hollywood, CA); collaborative exhibitions at the New Museum (New York, NY) and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art (Copenhagen); and group exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum (New York, NY), The Drawing Center (New York, NY), the Studio Museum in Harlem (New York, NY), and other venues. Her publishing project, Future Plan and Program, commissions and publishes literary work by artists of color. Jemison’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Kadist Foundation (Paris). She is also part-time faculty at Parsons The New School for Design, and Cooper Union.

Laura Wexler (lives and works in New Haven, CT) is professor of American Studies and professor and former chair of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Yale University. There she serves as co-director of the Public Humanities Program, and founder and director of the Photographic Memory Workshop. She is Principal Investigator of the Photogrammar Project, which has received NEH support to make a web-based interactive research system for mapping, searching, and visualizing the more than 170, 000 photographs from 1935 to 1945 created by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information. Her many essays and books include the award-winning Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U.S. Imperialism (2000), Pregnant Pictures (2000), and “‘A More Perfect Likeness’: Frederick Douglass and the Image of the Nation,” in Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity, edited by Maurice Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith (2012).

CMOA Agent

Dan Leers is the curator of photography at Carnegie Museum of Art. From 2007 to 2011 he was the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. During his tenure at MoMA, Leers worked on a number of projects and organized the exhibition New Photography 2011: Moyra Davey, George Georgiou, Deana Lawson, Doug Rickard, Viviane Sassen, Zhang Dali. Leers also acted as a curatorial advisor to the 2013 Venice Biennale. From fall 2013 to spring 2015, Leers was an independent curator in New York during which time he organized six exhibitions and published more than ten articles and essays in the Aperture blog and Frieze among many others.

Hillman Photography Initiative Program Manager

Divya Rao Heffley is the program manager of the Hillman Photography Initiative. She is a current member of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s Task Force on Arts, Culture & Creative Industries and has juried/reviewed the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Emerging Photographers Competition, Photolucida’s Critical Mass International Photography Competition, and CENTER Santa Fe’s REVIEW Santa Fe. Her writing has been published in Design and Culture and the Center for the Future of Museums blog, and is forthcoming in Museums and Visitor Photography (fall 2015) and Museum Ideas: Innovation in Theory and Practice, volume 2 (fall 2015). Heffley has lectured at Brown and Harvard Universities and her PhD dissertation, Vision in Motion: Architectural Space Time Notation and Urban Design, 1950–1970, addressed intersections between urban design, planning, and spatial perception.

Stay tuned for announcements on Hillman Photography Initiative programming in 2016. Online conversations around the new topic of exploration begin in January 2016 at blog.cmoa.org. The next #NOWSEETHIS event will be May 7, 2016.


Support for the Hillman Photography Initiative is provided by the William T. Hillman Foundation and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the oldest surveys of contemporary art worldwide. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understand of the built environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. The Hillman Photography Initiative serves as an incubator for innovative thinking about the photographic image. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at www.cmoa.org.

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