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The Personal Ads and The B-Sides

Karen Connell & Frank Ishman

Filter Photo is pleased to present a two-person exhibition featuring compelling new projects by Karen Connell and Frank Ishman.


Karen Connell’s project, The Personals Ads, is based on an advertisement she placed in The Village Voice, NYC in 2000 under “Women Seeking Men.” It read:


Princess Buttercup seeking her Westleigh. I, too, have long, golden hair and have been captured by too many unsavory men. Be my hero and save me from such fate.


Princess Buttercup and Westleigh are two characters from a novel and subsequent movie, The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. It is a humorous take on the heteronormative fairy tale format. Connell advances this familiar narrative by providing a framework for people to express what they might be looking for in a potential mate/pairing.


Twelve men called in response to her ad and she recorded their messages. Listening to their voices, Connell conjured up images of what she thought they might look like based on how they described themselves but also very much based on her cultural background, experiences, and biases. She then drew the men using law enforcement software that is used for witnesses in identifying suspected criminals. Using the software’s limited bank of facial elements and with her own, admittedly, biased image bank, she constructed multiple drawings, finally settling on a composite. With the use of video layering, the viewer watches Connell’s stereotyping play out as she constructs the men’s images over time, never fully satisfied with the end result of a mental image of a man she has never seen.


In Frank Ishman’s project, The B-Sides, he films minorities in silhouette who have not subscribed to the normal stereotypical activities of their race/cultural background finishing with a frontal reveal to the camera. The B-side of a track is considered to be the less important side of the album, the side one doesn’t necessarily have to listen to in order to decide whether or not to like the album. The B-side, though, is how people will judge the entire album if they don’t like the tracks.


Ishman says, “The B-Sides constantly play in my head, the second side to the personal album of my life. The A-Side of this album is the glossy, heavily mastered tracks that I present to the world every day. I know as soon as the album is turned over to the B-Sides, my color, speech, education and perceived financial status all come into play. The B-Sides is a quick glimpse into my head and my thought process. The comments in the accompanying video are mere fragments of past events, words individuals have said to me in Chicago and things I’ve overheard throughout my life. As proud as I am of the entire “Album” the B-Sides haunt me every day.”

Exhibition Dates: June 2 – July 22, 2017

Location: Filter Space 1821 W. Hubbard St., Ste. 207 

Filter Photo is proud to acknowledge the support of the David C. & Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation and a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events in producing this exhibition.

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