Kery Skarbakka

Kerry Skarbakka (b. 1970) creates performance-based photographic work depicting existential anxieties and loss of control through the acts of falling, drowning and fighting. Skarbakka’s work has been exhibited in galleries, museums and art fairs internationally. Highlights include the Torrance Art Museum, CA; the Haifa Museum of Art, Israel; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the North Carolina Museum of Art and Fargfabriken Norr, Stokholm. A 2005 Creative Capital grantee, he has received funding from the Oregon Arts Commission and The Ford Family Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Chicago Center of Cultural Affairs. He was also awarded a commission from the City of Seattle through the 1% for the Arts Program. Skarbakka’s work has been featured in notable publications including Aperture, Art and America, After Image and ArtReview International. Extensive online media coverage includes the Huffington Post, Wired, Slate, The Guardian and many others. Additionally, Skarbakka has appeared on several live radio and television interviews including NBC’s “Today Show. His work was included in After Photography, a documentary film series by Stan Neumann and Juliette Garcias, co-produced by the Centre Pompidou and Rene Daalder’s, Here is Always Somewhere Else, a documentary film about Bas Jan Ader. Skarbakka received his BA in Studio Arts from the University of Washington and an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. He serves as an Assistant Professor of Photography at Oregon State University.

White Noise

Statement: White Noise

For the past twenty years, my art has met at the intersection of studio arts, performance, and constructed photography. The core of my work explores the nature of existence through performative physical acts and expanded roles of identity. Within this context of reaction to the vulnerabilities of the human condition, the agency of my body naturally carries male/masculine connotations within representations of frustration, anger, and the loss of control. White Noise,
takes this subtext a step further. Initiated after the birth of my son in 2015, my concern for his future advocated for a more decisive direction by centering on the crisis of masculinity and discord emanating directly from the white male community.

Upset at political correctness, immigration, the loss of jobs and a way of life, angry white men have forcibly attempted to reshape the socio-political landscape. Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, White Noise follows the life and eventual downward spiral of one particular white man…me. His story is situated upon my story that began with growing up in an authoritarian Evangelical household on a small farm outside Pulaski, Tennessee (the birthplace of the KKK) and eventually enlisting in the US Army.

Over the years, I’ve put in a painstaking amount of work into overcoming my conservative upbringing and religious encoding. However, an alternate narrative could have emerged, another reality, another portrait; that of an angry white man, driven by the tenets of hate, misogyny and bigotry…pushed to the edge.

Grounding the work in my own beginnings is necessary for context. It offers a place to enter larger conversations of masculinity, race, identity, and the ongoing debate of nature versus nurture. It drives attention to certain forms of destructive messaging and deep-seated cultural influences that aid in creating white toxicity. It suggests that angry white men are a class within whiteness. However, they are not born. They are bred, fashioned by enculturation, often supported by religious dogma and motivated by fear. By projecting their innermost dialogue and insecurities onto the other, they succeed only to protect themselves through
misinformation, aggression and control.

While it can be argued that the resentments within the angry white male community largely originate from a distrust of government and social reactions to the decline of white culture, the tricky waters of whiteness, masculinity, and identity are delicate subjects to navigate through a single visual discussion of an angry white male. By design, this work rides the fine line between interpretation and perspective during a time when nationalism and religious extremism are on the rise on a global scale. My intent is to provoke, to push the conversation, and to bring all sides to the table.

To view more of Kery Skarbakka’s work please visit his website.