Issue No. 6 Cover Artist
Written by Madison Miller
Photos provided by Adele Winn
Adele Winn is a Louisiana-born photographer, designer and visual artist who moved to Memphis to attend the Memphis College of Art before continuing her career at Memphis Photo Imaging.
Winn’s work is a culmination of different visual arts, thematically representing the juxtaposition between nature and society. Outside of her personal practice, Winn works towards archiving history through restoring and preserving photographs.
Born in Lafayette, Louisiana, Winn describes her childhood as very encouraging. Her father and mother worked as an architect and teacher respectively.
“I was just pretty lucky—being in a place that's so humid and green and technicolor,” she explains.
In addition to attending public school, Winn was enrolled in The Academy of Visual & Applied Arts program, which she describes as a more college-like experience that solidified a foundation for her future career in the visual arts.
When a recruiter from Memphis College of Art came to speak at Winn’s high school, the young artist knew that was where she wanted to attend.
Although she was accepted to MCA, she deferred to spend her first colleigate year at home, attending the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. However, the following year she moved to Memphis to attend the College of Art.
Upon graduating, Winn got a job at Memphis Photo Imaging where she has worked for the last seven years.
During her tenure at MPI, Winn says she has learned invaluable skills that drive her personal practice.
The Memphis College of Art curriculum was built around the Bauhaus ideology requiring students to take their foundations before focusing their choice of study.
“College didn't really necessarily teach me photo-editing skills, per say. You know, there's a lot of self-driven practice with school. But you're doing so many different things that you can't really sit down and focus on one technique,” she says. “Now when I photograph, I like to go to a place that I feel something about and then capture what I see and recognize it in the moment.”
Throughout college, Winn concentrated on conceptual photography. Though she no longer prioritizes that style, she still explores scene construction. However, it’s more so become a method of practice for her technical skills and to experiment with new ideas.
Winn describes her piece, “One Year”, from her BFA show as an ending to her more conceptual, self-portraiture work.
“One Year” was a mixed media, installation piece. In the gallery, a plaster figure sat on a white chair facing a wall of photos. The photos are a year’s worth of self-documentation of Winn’s face and body.
She explains that this project still feels relevant to her, which is why she still includes the seven-year-old piece in her portfolio.
“The idea is that we keep documenting, capturing, archiving people’s family histories and photos. After seeing these things that need to be properly archived; you think about all the pictures that you’ve shot on your phone. They’re in JPEG format which deteriorates over time, and people don't go past a certain year when they're looking at their stuff. I'm really bad about it too. I'm just keeping and keeping and keeping, but what am I actually going to go back and do with that?” she asks.
After graduating, Winn continued to maintain a relationship with MCA, joining in on the annual Horn Island trip for the past six years.
The annual trip conducted over the past 30 years includes students, faculty, staff and alumni making a twelve-day trip to Horn Island, inspired by American artist Walter Anderson. The use of technology on the island is limited, which in turn, gives participants the opportunity to better connect with the island and their peers—to produce work without distraction. Unfortunately, 2019 marked the end of the school’s three-decade involvement with the island.
“Not that it can't exist in some capacity, but there was something special, extremely special, about the people who went out there. It was always changing. It’s something I don't think can be recreated. But the trip was special for me—not only because having a retreat is just awesome, and I like outdoor things, but it makes you push yourself. You get out of all these daily comforts that you're used to existing in,” Winn explains, “You can say, ‘Oh, I'm so bored,’ or ‘Oh, I just want to relax. I just want to do this. I just want to watch some TV. I just want to play a game and be mindless.’ But when you're out there, you’re away from all these different things. You have to restructure your mind. ‘What is necessary? What do I need in my life? How am I actually processing things day to day?’ Because it's a ten-day trip you really have time to get into not just survival, but your mind’s creative survival.”
Currently, Winn is producing a clothing line using work she’s created over the last decade. She creates digital collages using scanned film which she then prints on shirts, pants, hats, socks and other articles of clothing.
Before this issue went to print, Winn debuted the first of her fashion line in a group show in conjunction with Courtney Whitlow and Natalie Hoffman.
Winn says she finds inspiration in the juxtaposition between nature and our present environment, social media, family and friends.
“I do get a lot of inspiration from friends, and stuff that they're working on. Not that I'm copying the things that they're doing, but like seeing someone you love making something awesome. It’s inspiring in and of itself,” she says.
Winn explains that each body of work is connected individually in a way that is relevant to her. However, her life’s work is linked by themes of collection, archiving and family history.
“A lot of the stuff that I shoot is from home and of family,” says Winn. “I photograph the things that I miss and the things that I want to see—the things that I want to take back with me when I come to Memphis.”