The 2022 Paula Riff Award

The 2022 Winner is Aimee Beaubien

We’re thrilled to present the 2022 Paula Riff Award Winner! We received hundreds of submissions for this year’s competition from photographers across the country and around the world. Juror Aline Smithson had quite a challenge selecting a single artist. The Center for Photographic Art and Lenscratch are pleased to announce that Aimee Beaubien is this year’s winner!

Juror’s Statement
Thank you to Ann Jastrab and the Center of Photographic Arts for aligning with Lenscratch to offer the annual Paula Riff Award. This award is very personal to me. Paula started her journey into alternative processes in my classes and I had a ringside seat into her trajectory and legacy as a unique photographic artist.

It was a complete pleasure to spend time with all the work submitted, each truly worthy of recognition. I was thrilled to see work I was familiar with, but also have so many new artists and projects to consider.

Ultimately, I selected Aimee Beaubien to receive the 2022 Paula Riff Award. Beaubien’s use of color, her fearlessness in challenging what we think of as a photograph, and her incredible sense of play were qualities that inspired my decision. And many folks don’t know that Paula, towards the end of her life, was working on constructions that were inspired by mobiles and was taking her work off the wall and into a 3-D space. I think she would be thrilled to know that this award is going to a fellow innovator.

Congratulations to Aimee Beaubien, and also many thanks to all who submitted.

About Aimee
Aimée Beaubien is an artist living and working in Chicago. Beaubien reorganizes photographic experience while exploring networks of meaning and association between the real and the ideal in cut-up collages, artists’ books and immersive installations. A photographed plant, interlaced vine, woven topography merge into fields of color and pattern and back again expanding the ever more complicated sensations of reading a photograph and experiencing nature. Beaubien’s work has been included in national and international exhibitions including SF Camerawork, San Francisco, CA; Demo Projects, Springfield, IL; Gallery UNO Projektraum, Berlin, Germany; Houston Center for Photography, Houston, TX; Marvelli Gallery, New York, NY; The Pitch Project, Milwaukee, WI; Virus Art Gallery, Rome, Italy. Her work is held in the permanent collections of Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, Chicago, IL; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. Aimée Beaubien is an Associate Professor of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL where she has taught since 1997. Aimee’s website. >     

Artist Statement
I document my own personal entanglements with domestic spaces, institutions, archives and narratives suggested by things and associative histories. I photograph in my tiny Chicago garden, my mother’s lush Florida garden and gardens in between. I translate my responses into an array of different representations of size and push color to its limits, cutting my printed notations apart to completely reorganize photographic material and experience. 

My work draws from an environment of hyperstimulation and interruption; comparing the disjointed experience of attention and distraction to the sharp recontextualization of collage. These webs of connections are rewoven into vibrant configurations, tethered within installations and unfolding in artists’ books. Expanded ranges of time are illuminated in environments folding around and stretching into the peripheries of visual and architectural space. 

The imaginative expanse of the home, museum and garden holds me. In it, lines blur between public and private, institutional and domestic, labor and leisure, propagation and contemplation. With my camera, I move through different types of collections reflecting on our attachments to objects, focusing on the complex tethers to the things that we collect. I began to think more deeply about how the idiosyncratic nature of our personal collections extends into the compositions of the gardens we construct. 

Wild, fast growing vines slink through the yard and climb around our house. Inside my home studio, plants mingle with huge tangles of cut and woven photographs that dangle down from the ceiling. I photograph the ever-changing conditions in my studio as plants dry and projects grow. From my photographs I create ephemeral paper structures that accommodate, attach to, climb, trail, cling, spread, creep and rearrange within each new exhibition environment: loudly, brightly. 

The spliced open and folded, the domestic and the collected, the intersecting and multidirectional structure: these are the substance of my photographic cut-ups that take form in artists’ books, collages and installations. My works are vivid yet fragile assertions of personal and art historical trajectories at the margins of the archive. 

About Paula Riff
Paula Riff was a Los Angeles based artist known for creating one of a kind camera-less photographic works on paper that embrace bold colors, form and design. She combined the historical processes of cyanotype and gum bichromate allowing her a physical and intimate relationship with the materials that she used to push the boundaries of the medium while considering themes of abstraction and the natural world.

Her work was selected for the Critical Mass Top 50 Award in 2018 and 2019, and she was a 2018 finalist for the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women in the Alternative Process Category. Paula also received the Museum Purchase Award at the Medium Photo Festival in 2019. Her work has appeared in numerous museums, galleries, publications, and exhibitions throughout the U.S and internationally, and is also held in private collections.