Chris Dant (b. 1989 Columbus, OH) is a visual artist who uses photographs and mixed media to explore ways art can promote empathy between his audience and his subjects. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of North Texas in 2012 and his Master in Fine Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame in 2016. In 2015, Dant was commissioned by the South Bend Museum of Art to travel around the state of Indiana and photographically document the still existing projects constructed by the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) in the 1930s and 40s. In addition, Dant has recently exhibited his work in New York City and received the Walter R. Beardsley Award for Best in Show, for his MFA Thesis Exhibition, Worthy Sons , from the Snite Museum of Art in Notre Dame, Indiana. Chris is currently an Adjunct Instructor at the University of North Texas.
This ongoing body of work presents a specific group of teenagers I met in 2014 through a youth organization I volunteered for in South Bend, Indiana. All of these young men share a passion for skateboarding. I have learned, though, that this is not their only commonality; each of these boys lives in a home without their father present. I wondered how this group of teenagers navigates through the critical phase between boyhood and manhood without any sort of guidance. However, the more time I spend with them, the more I realize that these boys come together to support one another and their friendships help fill the void where their fathers are absent.
I use the camera not only as a documentary tool but also as a means of affirming value. By turning the camera on them, the photographs give these teenagers an agency they’ve seldom had at home or in their neighborhood. The photographs serve as a location to invite the viewer to be present. Through intentional shifts in how I photograph, from public to private views and the apparent passage of time, the work encourages a familiarity that prompts empathy and compassion within the viewer.
This group of photographs presents moments of stasis amidst the action occurring in the surrounding space, whether in the home, the neighborhood or the skatepark, and allows the viewer to contemplate one’s own perspective on this complex and complicated chapter of teenage life.
Chris Dant, 2016