On Nov. 5th, the University of Northern Colorado brought Dustin Shores, a talented photographer, to show students what goes into the process of being an artist. Shores is from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Shores says his own work is about, “[F]amily, love, and loss address[ing] the social and economic systems in which we endure.”
He showed two bodies of work, the first being his video about the 2016 election titled “Spin Spun.” This work symbolically emphasized his own feelings about the election, on how American politics seemed to be “spinning out of control. ” The video that he presented showing a performer named Cody spinning a sign did not seem to connect to his feelings on the 2016 election. The only indication that the video centered on American politics was shown in the American flag t-shirt that the performer wore and it was not an intentional choice of Shores. In the video, Cody spun his sign while disembodied voices of people screaming, like in an amusement park played in the background.
These two concepts seemed to fall flat for the audience of students as he had to explain the reasoning behind his work. What was missing from this piece and the next seemed to be a well-developed story-line connecting the images and in this case sound to what he was trying to convey.
Shores then presented his largest body of work titled, “Leaving Alice,” about his own life growing up with a grandmother who fostered many children. As he stated in his website, this body of work seemed to try to comment on the social and economic systems of the United States, but it fell flat on the message he was trying to get across. The message fell flat because the photographs he highlighted for his showcase seemed to be too disjointed from the societal problems of the foster care system, even if they were photographed in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Although Shores tried to work through complicated concepts involving the instability of the foster system his attempts go unnoticed by many in the audience. “Leaving Alice,” was meant to look at the 25 plus foster kids his grandmother took in while he was growing up and therefore, show how children in foster care are often pushed around from place to place and can often fall through the cracks.
However, when trying to comment on these, Shores has to explicitly state what he is trying to convey through his photographs what often do not show much attempt at connecting with this concept. When looking at this project, the theme should have revolved around family because the main focus seemed to be on his grandmother and reconnecting with his foster siblings and not societal problems. It is easy to see why these concepts seemed to jumble together and not quite hit the mark for the audience, as this project was his MFA Thesis Exhibition for the University of Arizona.
When looking at his future work, people can hope to find a more cohesive story behind them, as hopefully in the future the artist will not feel forced to connect his work to the societal problems. Shores’s artwork seems to be more emotionally placed in his own life and seems more suited to being framed in that way. His work will be unencumbered by the academic standards of art and will hopefully be a better testament to his talent as a photographer.