Monday, April 17, 2017

Susan Aurinko: Photographing a Feminist Saint

Susan Aurinko is a professional curator, life-long artist, and photographer of Loyola University Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition, Searching for Jehanne — the St Joan of Arc Project. Aurinko’s travels in France sparked a personal obsession with the figure of Joan of Arc, and led her to visit and photograph all the sites where Joan of Arc had visited during her life. Aurinko then superimposed images of depictions St. Joan from artists and sculptors onto her photographed sites to create beautiful photo-based objects. This exhibition explores the iconographic female saint through the lens of popular culture, literature, feminism, and theology.

Aurinko came to photography through art school, at which she studied painting, graphic design, and filmmaking. She says the skills she gained from all these different mediums has contributed to her success as a photographer. The goal of Aurinko’s photo series is to illuminate St. Joan of Arc as the feminist heroine that Aurinko sees the saint to be. Aurinko states that she did not set to find a feminist heroine when she began this project. However, Aurinko expresses that St. Joan of Arc’s short life, characterized by extreme courage, was exemplary and definitely feminist. Aurinko sees St. Joan as an appropriate heroine for young girls who may be confused or having trouble growing into strong and determined young women.

Je Suis Cy Envoiee Par Dieu Le Roi du Ciel.

Aurinko's creative process can be characterized as intrinsically motivated, influenced by her cultural environment, and aimed at creating a new photographic medium. First, Aurinko is intrinsically motivated because she has repeated stated that this project is not about her, but about bringing to life the figure of St. Joan. Aurinko wants visitors to read the titles and labels, which are all quotes from Joan herself, to feel like they now know St. Joan on some level. Additionally, Aurinko creates her pieces within a western society—one whose religious culture is dominated by Christianity. The photographs are best understood through the lens of Western Catholicism. Lastly, Aurinko’s artistic process is creative because it aims to create something new out of photography. Aurinko reaches beyond the matted, framed photograph, and makes something else out of photography. Aurinko layers photographs on top of eachother and even thoughtfully decides on the accompanying frame, considered an inseparable part of the piece.

And I Answered the Voice that I was a Poor Girl Who Knew Nothing of Riding and Warfare.

In sum, Susan Aurinko’s exhibition Searching for Jehanne — the St Joan of Arc Project is a creative endeavor that allows the spirit and background of the artist, as well as the subject, to clearly shine through.


Check out the artist’s website here,, and be sure to visit LUMA to see Searching for Jehanne — the St Joan of Arc Project on view July 1, 2017 through October 21, 2017.


Interview with the Artist, March, 20, 2017.

1 comment:

  1. I really like how the project combines both the modern landscape of the where Joan would have been to the style and "old" aspect of the painting. I think it requires a lot of creativity and precision to figure out which angle or what scope of the scenery can and needs to be incorporated so that it fits in with the natural look of the painting. I wonder how the artist carries this out. Are the photos edited then combined? Are the shots taken completely natural without an editing and then superimposed? What lengths does Aurinko go to make both images compliment each other. Regardless, I think Aurinko has done a wonderful job with this. In the second picture, I didn't even notice the background was superimposed but it gives the painting its context and symbolism.


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