Jordie Oetken

Jordie Oetken was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2012, she was awarded the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship to study at the Yale/Norfolk School of Art before graduating with a BFA from Murray State University in 2013. She has held residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and Vermont Studio Center, and will graduate with an MFA in photography from UCLA in 2017.


Relying on an inference to connect to a conclusion of fact, circumstantial evidence is consistent with an assertion but does not rule out other, contradictory assertions. Like a fingerprint at the scene of a crime, such evidence both asks for and speaks to subjectivity.

What does it mean to help someone, or to hold someone, to oppose someone, to inflict pain upon someone, perform with someone, exhaust someone, or trust someone? The notion of struggle implies the opposition of multiple forces; it suggests divergent goals, separate intentions to be fought for. The photographic frame plays an essential role in this body of work, intentionally using its containment to heighten each happening. Female limbs cross in and out of the image; hands graze the edge, though each figure’s face always remains just out of view— affording closeness while maintaining distance. Both scale and lighting intensify situational drama. Measuring over five feet on their longest side, the large photographs mimic the confrontation of Baroque paintings, with vivid, warm tones ultimately falling into void-like darkness. Each is purposefully seductive, intended to hold attention long enough to destabilize initial assumptions of violence, and eventually reverse the understanding of gesture from obviously vicious to potentially tender.

This work seeks to create an uncertain distance between fiction and reality, with photographs claiming authority through their formal and theatrical nature, while dismantling this authority simultaneously. At times relying on small clues to draw large distinctions, each image is meant to disclose more than it often does. Using scale, lighting, and strategies of containment, a continuous tension is maintained: Who is each body to the others? What is not being clarified? Is this reality? Is this fiction? Must we know? Or are the two confused?

To view more of Jodie’s work please visit her website.