Nostalgia and longing are emotions meant to be felt wholly and expressed authentically.
Stephanie Sunberg and James Molitor prefer to capture them in photo.
The two Minneapolis-based artists find nostalgia and longing in others and in themselves — like two lovers or creators of an intimate self-portrait.
Sunberg and Molitor joined to open their wistful exhibit “April is the Cruelest Month” at Modus Locus on Friday. The exhibit will run through April 30.
The artists met through a mutual friend, Saulaman Schlegel, who eventually became a co-curator of the exhibit with Mirna Rae. Before seeing any of their work, Schlegel said they felt they all experienced life in similar ways.
When Schlegel looked at Sunberg and Molitor's work, it became obvious that a collaboration needed to happen.
“There’s romance, there’s love and there’s alienation in all of these photos — every single one,” Schlegel said. “And inside of these people as well.”
Sunberg fell into photography by accident. While in college, she needed to take a class in another medium to finish her art minor. Her options were printmaking and photography, and the latter called to her.
She developed her style as she traveled throughout Europe and the U.S., photographing “perfect moments” in passing.
“I wait for that perfect, perfect moment and will do anything to get it,” Sunberg said. “When it comes to the light, when it comes to the angle, when it comes to waiting for a kiss or a couple that I’m pretty much watching.”
The product of this has a style that elicits deep introspection from the viewer. Soft colors and scenes of lovers make you reflect on your own romanticized daydreams.
“Every time I would go to Europe or anywhere else, I kept hoping that I would find love of my own,” Sunberg said. “I thought in Europe they just love differently. So I kept going back there searching for that, and I ended up finding myself, just finding everyone else in love and taking their images.”
The narratives captured in Sunberg’s photos compliment the yearning to find a place for oneself in Molitor’s self-portraits.
Molitor, a University of Minnesota student majoring in fine art with an emphasis in photography, began their self-portrait series about two and a half years ago. Their style is similar to photographer Francesca Woodman, with ghostly figures and simple backdrops.
“It first kind of felt uncomfortable, like it should be secret,” Molitor said.
However, the portraits have become an exploration of place in several contexts.
“It really speaks to a lot of things that’s like a sense of not having a place, searching for yourself in a place,” Molitor said.
The curated photos for the exhibit create the same experience of self-reflection for the viewer. Molitor and Sunberg’s photos are placed intermittently together, pushing you to reconcile with relationships — both with yourself and with others.
“What we came away with was a greater understanding of ourselves and all of our own work, all of our own practices,” Schlegel said. “These artists are so insanely talented, they’re so relevant, their voices matter infinitely, now more than ever.”
What: “April is the Cruelest Month”
When: Now through April 30
Where: Modus Locus, 3500 Bloomington Ave., Minneapolis
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the exhibit's end date and omitted the name of a co-curator. The exhibit runs through April 30.