Student Art: Christopher Kirkwood II

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Christopher Kirkwood II makes trash sculptures, clothing, music, paintings and photography. Originally from Basking Ridge, N.J., he is now a junior anthropology major and photography minor at MSU.

Kirkwood’s most recent project is a series of photos titled “Macroscopic ephemeral footprints,” which captures the human instinct to litter, misplace, and forget. His concept is at once personal and global: whether mud or coffee cups, we leave traces of ourselves everywhere.

Exponent: When did you get into photography?

Kirkwood: The exact moment wasn’t when I started taking photos. My photo teacher in high school, Will Ortega, really got me into it. He was excited about my final project concept and showed me the avant-garde work of Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster Cycle.” It was amazing how much detail his concept had. The depth of his work could only be understood if you read his synopsis, and the thickness of the body took me into awe and inspiration. Barney’s work allowed me to dive deep into the ideological conceptions that bring an obscure thickness to my work.

E: What other artists influence your work?

K: Other than Barney, which sounds completely different out of context [laughs]…it would have to be William Eggleston. The way he uses composition and elements of color in the mundane is irresistible. Then there’s Man Ray’s futuristic approach — Zdzisaw-Beksiski’s street photography as well. The biggest influences of them all are my peers, I learn more from them than I ever could from school alone.

E: Do your anthropology studies affect your art?

K: The hours I spend in the library heavily outweigh my darkroom time. But I spend that time annotating passages in my books that relate, tone for tone, with the concepts of my photo projects.

E: What are your plans after graduation?

K: Hopefully to do ethnographic research about North American subcultures of modern day with a photojournalism element. But more on the art project side than a strict documentary.

E: How do you hope the “Macroscopic Ephemeral Footprints” project will affect viewers?

K: At face value, the body of work says to pick up your trash and think about your global footprint. I want people to go deeper than that, and think of how they affect their world, their community, their neighborhood, their social clique, and themselves. The little moments have meaning, whether we notice them or the next person does.

More of Kirkwood’s work can be found by searching flickr.com for the username chris_kirkwood3.

If you are a student artist and want to be featured, or you have comments about the article, please email matthew.kennedy.msu@gmail.com.