Alums - Columbia College Chicago

Evan Baden

artist statement for Under the Influence

Teen culture, especially American teen culture, is filled with “viewers.” Young people are constantly inundated by imagery of iconic figures, elevated to an almost religious level. The constant bombardment of this imagery has an effect on teen culture. Teens begin to shape their behavior based on what they are seeing.

To explore this idea, I am using some of the most iconic images, figures, and tropes of pop culture as a starting point. I enlist the help of high school aged people and together we create our own image. The image that we create together directly communicates with the images in pop culture that teens are so used to seeing.

By participating in the making of my images, the models in my images are–if only for a moment–transformed into the very thing they admire and aspire to be; the very thing they have spent so much time looking at. Now, they too will be looked at. They perform for some unknown, imagined viewer who exists in the near future. There is no concern for who that viewer is–whether they are male or female, young or old– only that they exist, and that they will be looking.

what do you love about the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago?

Columbia's program is great for several reasons. First, there are is the faculty. Not only are we graced with 9 full-time faculty who are fully dedicated to assisting the graduate students in any and all ways possible, but there are over 70 adjunct faculty that are quite accessible as well. Most anybody is easy to get a hold of and meet with. It feels like a small community even though we are part of the largest art college in the country. Secondly, the facilities are spectacular. Again, a benefit of being part of a very large institution. Finally, the freedom I expect to gain from a third year of working closely with the faculty while attending fewer classes. That gives me the extra time to expand and resolve the work I am engaged with now.

graduation date: Spring 2014

Evan Baden, The Nasty Thrill…  (2012) 42x75".



Robin J. Carlson

artist statement:

In this body of work, I examine my relationship with authorship/performance in relation to my experience of subjectivity.  By employing surrogates to enter the world on my behalf, I contain and possess my performance or affect as a strategy for releasing a potentially more genuine expression of my essential self.  Through the process of making and animating surrogates, I am able to establish a venue where my subjectivity can be exposed retroactively in its meta-relationship to the reality it is alienated from.  My work is heavily influenced by the teachings of Jacques Lacan and the subsequent evolution of his ideas by other theorists. 

what do you love about the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago?

Columbia College Chicago has provided an excellent venue to learn about the art world from practicing artists in every stage of their careers.  The location is ideal for complete immersion in the gallery and museum scene.  I highly recommend this school to exceptionally motivated, self-sufficient students who are ready to take control of their own careers. 

graduation date: May 3, 2012

Robin J. Carlson, Still from 22 second animation loop




Jess Dugan

artist statement

Individual identity and sexuality are constructs far more complicated and fluid than we typically give them credit for.  They are multifaceted, constantly changing and evolving in relation to our private experiences and relationships with others.  Though these identities are internal and psychological, they are read and understood by others through our actions and bodies.  Every breath we drew explores the power of identity, desire, and connection through intimate portraits of myself and others.

As someone who is a part of the transgender community on the female-to-male spectrum, I am especially interested in masculinity and its social construction.  After photographing people within the transgender and gender variant communities for the past ten years, I am now photographing a wider variety of people who embody masculinity, including masculine-presenting women and transgender and cisgender men, through a lens of intimacy and connection.  By making photographs that allude to desire or reference a longing for a shared understanding, I am raising more universal questions about how we each come to define our identities and seek out a meaningful, intimate connection with others.... By examining the ways in which societal gender construction affects everyone, regardless of their identity, I hope to create an important and necessary dialogue about the complexities of identity and the search for intimacy. 

what do you love about the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago?

I chose Columbia College Chicago because of the exceptional faculty, the philosophy of the program, and the opportunity to work at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. I have been both challenged and supported as an artist and my work has grown significantly as a result of working with my mentors, most specifically Dawoud Bey and Kelli Connell. Columbia's three-year MFA program offers a rigorous studio practice, an engagement with critical theory, a visiting lecturer program, and access to an inspired and exciting faculty of working artists.

graduation date: May 2014




Josh Poehlein

artist statement:

Through the creation of a fictional disaster scenario, Stay Calm explores the aesthetics and anxieties surrounding catastrophic events. Announcements, posters, and instructional pamphlets evoke our attempts to plan for the fundamentally unpredictable and chaotic. Interspersed throughout the work are images of a mysterious aftermath, alluding to, but not divulging the exact nature and scale of the event. Stay Calm is a work in progress, and will undoubtedly change on my road to completing it.

what do you love about the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago?

One of the best things about Columbia College Chicago is our access to the Museum of Contemporary Photography. The Museum is on the first floor of our building and is constantly filled with interesting exhibitions, intelligent curators, and internationally recognized artists. I am fortunate enough to work at the MoCP as a graduate intern, and knowing that I had that opportunity was a big part of my decision to attend Columbia. I also am a fan of the three-year program we have at CCC. This timeframe allows for experimentation and exploration before committing to a project for your thesis show.

graduation date: May 2013




Sara J. Winston

artist statement

Familiar materials have specific uses and life expectancies that add structure and comfort to daily procedures. My work is concerned with what else we can know about these items by looking at them after they have served their purpose. The core of my work reveals the infinitely varied roles, forms, placements, uses, and colors of banal, often ephemeral, and sometimes grotesque materials.

Collecting objects from my apartment and the city, I construct still lives, both outside and in a studio environment, to investigate formal juxtapositions of organic and inorganic materials. I use photographic space to fragment and isolate temporary constructions in order to explore the aesthetic and conceptual values of everyday refuse.

what do you love about the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago?

The community at Columbia College Chicago has encouraged, challenged, and supported me as an artist beginning a career. The 3 year MFA structure allows ample time for experimentation, research, and development while offering great networks of support. I am continually guided and inspired by my peer group and faculty, CCC alumni, and visiting lecturers.

graduation date: spring 2014