University at Buffalo

Colleen Cunningham


Colleen Cunningham
Graduate Work
archival inkjet prints, 27″ x 27″
editions of 5


Icons of beauty, strength and gender abound in contemporary popular culture. We are inundated daily with visual examples of how to present ourselves. These images affect our self-perception as well as how we relate to other individuals in the corporeal world. I am interested in the endless combinations that can be generated using the imagery of pop culture. I use collage to create hybrid characters that highlight the bizarre and often contradictory relationships that exist among the iconic images that we consume. The figures and their environments reflect the struggle between affirmation and critique that we face when encountering the images in their original contexts. At once seductive and horrific, these tableaus are a visual incarnation of personal conflicts that arise for me when confronting the source imagery. Ideals of gender, beauty and strength are simultaneously challenged and reaffirmed as I expose the symbiotic relationship between fantasy and the corporeal that exists in pop culture.

5 thoughts on “Colleen Cunningham”

  1. I visited your website and I can see this statement applied more to what is on the website rather than these images presented with the text on the blog. I really do not see a play of gender, symbiotic relationships, beauty, or fantasy when I look at these images. Am I reading the wrong statement? Or is this a first attempt at translating your previous work into a new media of straight photography? If this is so, I would highly suggest to incorporate some of the themes or styles you used on your website. There is also no “environment” as mentioned in the text…it is just confusing.

    The work on your website is very tight with what you are saying and trying to convey. I think there are some really great ways to incorporate the collage effect in photography without all of that cutting and pasting or photoshop work. –assuming the straight photography technique is to stray from post process— For example, Thomas Allen’s work at

  2. These images are composed very simply yet hold so much information worth discussing. The poses the models posses really compliments your ideas of strength in gender roles when pared with these large animals. It seems to me that the large animals in the images figuratively represent persons that we sometimes have to confront on a daily basis.

  3. The statement refers more closely to my collage work, but these photographs are part of the same body of work. I do not use photoshop, all of my collages are hand made and my photographs are not altered. For me the two are separate languages with which to convey similar ideas.

  4. Colleen—

    Thank you for the clarification! The connection has been made and the ideas weighed differently from one to the next. Coming back to these images again, I see a visual style evolving from one series to the next even though they are visually different (in production as well). There is an uncanny and vibrant feeling to both as well as the notion of commodity. I hope to see your progress in this work as time goes by.

  5. Very interesting juxtaposition of subjects and that they are hand made collages makes them even more interesting. The lighting really sets the images apart. I agree of the uncanny and vibrant feeling that Heather commented on.

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