Columbia alumni earn opportunity to showcase work at Hyde Park Art Center

By Noah Jennings, Reporter

The Ground Floor installation is showcased in the Cleve Carney Gallery. K’Von Jackson

When Jordan Kagan Putt graduated from Columbia in May 2020, he missed the opportunity to have his photography featured in the annual thesis exhibition due to the pandemic.

But thanks to a new exhibit at the Hyde Park Art Center, Putt said he has been given an opportunity to showcase his work.

“I still have a chance to show the work that I’ve been working on, and I have more space and more time to get something together,” Putt said.

Putt is one of four Columbia alumni selected for “Ground Floor,” an exhibit at the Hyde Park Art Center showcasing the work of 20 recent graduates from five Chicago schools with master of fine arts programs.

The Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., is the host to The Ground Floor Installation showcasing art from emerging Chicago artists. K’Von Jackson

Along with Putt, Columbia alumni Jonathan Castillo, Atefeh Farajolahzadeh and Forrest Simmons will have their work on display through April 3.

Putt, who graduated with an MFA in photography, said his work as a land surveyor in Arizona inspired his current photography, and his project strives to create a contemporary record of what Arizona looked like long ago by taking photos in Arizona and putting them next to old surveyor maps.

“I started to notice land surveying is so similar to documentary photography,” Putt said. “If I combine them both, then I can make this work that references the earliest surveys of the West, as well as referencing the earliest photographic documents of the West.”

Farajolahzadeh, who graduated with an MFA in photography in 2019, said she draws from her experiences as an immigrant from Iran to drive her work.

A gallery patron reads texts that have been scattered throughout the gallery. K’Von Jackson

“[I use] some mundane or everyday events that I experience in my work and also my experience as an immigrant facing suspension between two different places,” Farajolahzadeh said. “You feel that you are neither here nor there.”

While still incorporating photography, Simmons, a 2020 alum with an MFA in photography, uses backlit light boxes for his photographs that he said “explore multiple levels of human consciousness.”

Simmons said he started practicing photography after being inspired by the reboot of the TV program “Cosmos.”

“I was in my 30s before I ever picked up a camera for the first time,” Simmons said. “[‘Cosmos’] was the first step in reigniting a childlike sort of sense of wonderment. That really became a driving force for me and making art.”

While “Ground Floor” has been a biennial exhibit since 2010, Kelli Connell, a member of the Exhibitions Committee at the Hyde Park Art Center and the graduate program director of the Photography Department at Columbia, said this year, the exhibit is special because of students like Simmons and Putt who faced a canceled thesis exhibition.

Jonathan Castillo’s still life shots and portraits depict life in Chicago’s many diverse storefronts. K’Von Jackson 

“I’m particularly excited for the class of 2020 grads,” Connell said. “This show for them—no matter what school they came from—it probably means so much to them to have their work highlighted in Chicago. … It means something a little bit more poignant this year.”

Farajolahzadeh said she wants viewers to visit the museum with a completely open mind for the best experience.

“I don’t want to put any ideas in [the viewer’s] head,” Farajolahzadeh said. “It’s open to their interpretation.”