Jean Sousa

(American, b. 1949; resides in Chicago, IL)

Jean Sousa is a multi-disciplinary film and visual artist whose work often explores notions of family, time, and memory. In her Al & Alice series (2016), Sousa appropriates images from an archive of family photographs inherited from her aunt. The collection includes portraits of the artist’s relatives, dating back to the turn of the nineteenth century. Frustrated by the inability to truly know her ancestors through mere photographs, Sousa re-photographs the portraits, blurring the subjects’ faces beyond recognition, to create new images removed from her own familial narrative. Her images, printed at large scale, have the potential to represent any viewer’s mother, sister, grandfather, or family member, and emphasize the impossible feat of truly knowing one’s roots.

Continuing on themes of family and memory, Sousa’s Elegies series (2001) originated as an homage to the artist’s deceased mother. Shot on 35mm film in a multi-step analog process, Sousa works with a moving subject and long exposure to create ghostly portraits of a female body. Using two projectors, the body images are superimposed over photographs of patterns in nature such as leaves, flowers, soil and stones, and then re-photographed. The resulting figures appear superimposed on the Earth, referencing death and burial as well as the layered stages of mourning.

Jean Sousa completed her BFA from the University of Massachusetts (1974) and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1976). Her work has been exhibited at San Francisco Camerawork, San Francisco, CA (2017);Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL (2014); Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA (2013); Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL (2008); the Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL (2004); and the Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN (2002); among others. Her films and photographs are in the collections of Canyon Cinema Foundation, San Francisco, CA, Collectif Jeune Cinema, Paris, France, and Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL.