Anika Steppe (1991) was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Photography at Ithaca College in 2013 and received her Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art at University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Steppe has been featured in Pilot Press’ “The Queer Anthology of Joy” and in the inaugural issue of “American Chordata”, and her writing on photography has appeared on Saint Lucy. She currently lives and works in Austin, TX. 

anika.steppe@gmail.com

The work is quiet, disarmingly so. Mostly small in size, her vistas big (night sky) and small (quilted cosmos) seem closer to the private images we live with: those we make because something made us laugh or pause, those others make and we only hazily remember, claiming some part as our own. This initial familiarity seduces. But with even a glance, Steppe’s photographs begin to wriggle and worm. Translucent surfaces, shifting scales, and constellated images keep my eyes in motion, in and out of focus, within and beyond each frame. A swatch of green paint, the sunny-side of the street, a fragmented self-portrait, ghostly crimson drapes catch and collapse in a window pane. Pink roses pattern crossed legs, constantly daring to flatten the flesh beneath. When their dark shadow pull focus, revealing delicate veins in the rock behind, I am pushed back to the shades of the window, to the wispy patterns of a tree I had not seen. Insisting on the contingency of her subjects—slippery, multiple—Steppe ultimately offers up the stubborn misrecognitions and often joyous incommensurability of a self trying to self. 

The tiniest works—cheap viewfinder keychains—send me spinning. Steppe culls the images from her own archive, teasingly altering and re-photographing them in half-frame. I hesitate to say more than: illuminated by the glow of colored plastic, I face the practice of my own viewership. Across all this work, Steppe explores the medium’s capacity to mediate, not the world as such, but our ever-shifting relationship to it. These photographs do not “capture” places, “arrest” moments; rather, I am the one apprehended, seen, caught amid framings of her and my own creation. This is the work’s great gift. Steppe brings us to the photograph’s edge. A limit, but a false one, delineating an absence we can’t help but fill. It’s boundlessness, and our own, on the line.

—Francesca Balboni, on series "A Matter of Relationships" from exhibition catalog for "Affordable Dream House"

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