When I began I-95, something I hadn't really given any thought to was about how my work might move into the "art world." Believe me, I am insanely ambitious and worked my ass off on making my work as strong as I possibly could and making photos that I hoped could be eventually be considered important in the canon of American photography, but it was all within the context of making I-95 a tour de force. I just never really thought about the possibility of my work moving into the academy or institutions. Well, except for fantasizing about having a show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Turns out that was the right fantasy for me.
And so when people from the art world began to take interest in my work, how great was it to get grants and accolades and critical acclaim during the course of I-95? Oh, that's rhetorical, because it was fucking AMAZING. I consider my audience to be everyone and was thrilled to be able to expand who would see the parts that comprised the annual installation. In 2002 I got a Leeway Grant, a local grant for Philadelphia women and trans artists. And then the Philadelphia Museum of Art bought a few of my photos, and then I got a Pew Fellowship and then I was in the Whitney Biennial and had a show at the Philadelphia ICA and two solo shows in New York at Bruce Silverstein gallery and then I got a United States Artists Fellowship and I published a book of my work, America, and month long trips to Alaska and Madrid. Are you kidding me? I have had to exist in a state of suspended belief to constantly move forward. You can't imagine how phenomenally grateful I am for all of the opportunities that have accompanied this critical success. Especially because all of these otherworldly opportunities came right back to I-95.
In 2009, a man who became a good friend of mine, Ignacio, set up an intensive project for me Madrid and I was in Spain for a month. I stayed in a studio in Lavapies, a multicultural and very old neighbor in the center of Madrid, and that's where I met Senora Jacinta, a woman who lived with what seemed to be a thousand pets in a tiny apartment. My Spanish is terrible, practically non existent, but we managed talk a little bit and I visited her house a number of times, sometimes by myself and sometimes with a friend who spoke Spanish and English. Senoria Jacinta told me that she kept a dead bird in her freezer because she couldn't bear to bury it yet. I heard that. We all deal with grief in different ways and here was a moment I totally understood. The photo I made of her showing me the bird came right back to South Philly. "Woman Holding Dead Bird" was number 146 in the 2010 I-95 installation. It was the first photo in the 5th aisle.
I worked as a babysitter until 2005, and I made the photo below while driving one of the kids who I babysat home from Hebrew School. There was a house we called the "train house" because of the large number of train related items on display in their yard and I often pulled over in their driveway with the kids. At Christmas they had this single star on display in their yard, a star that implied you were up looking up at the night sky and seeing a constellation in the shape we use to signify "stars." Alex took a few photos with my camera and I made this one with the flash. Thanks for stopping with me, Alex. I should probably share photo credit with Alex for this one. "Star" was toward the end of the 6th aisle in 2010 installation, it was number 214.