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Mary Farmilant is a Chicago-based fine art photographer. Her art practice bridges the connection between knowledge and experience by incorporating auditory, olfactory and kinesthetic elements with her photographs. The illumination of social issues with beauty and visceral experience creates a conversation about art and activism.

Farmilant is well known for her images of the interiors of abandoned hospitals. For over a decade, she photographed Chicago’s Columbus Hospital before its demolition, and two sites in England, historic Hellingly Hospital, an early twentieth century insane asylum, and All Saints Mead, a general hospital. In these sites and others, she recorded the progressive deterioration of places that had once been centers of treatment and care. In her work, the human presence echoes in abandoned surgical theaters, dusty corridors, and emptied rooms. Farmilant’s passionate involvement with this subject stems from her background in nursing and her current concern with the issues we face today: the crisis in healthcare, debates about historic preservation of history, and the use of scarce resources.

Currently Farmilant is photographing on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation, a home to the Ojibwe people, her husband’s people, in Wisconsin. There in the Northwoods, she uses traditional color film to record the forest, waters, and sky throughout the seasons to capture the majestic serenity and sacral quiet. These images she prints on large panels of lightweight, translucent fabric that are hung singly or in groups in exhibition space.

Farmilant’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the U.S. and internationally, including the Galería Buenos Aires Sur, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Indianapolis Art Center, the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, Milwaukee, the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, Georgia, the Griffin Museum of Photography, Massachusetts, and the Vermont Center for Photography. Her photographs have been featured in the XIX Encuentros Abiertos - Festival de la Luz in Buenos Aires, CONTACT Toronto Photography Festival and the Bridge Art Fair Miami, and published in Touch and Go: Ray Yoshida and his Spheres of Influence, a catalogue of this artist’s work, in which Farmilant’s photographs reveal the private spaces in Yoshida’s home and studio. Awards include the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award in Photography, the Illinois Arts Council Special Assistance Grant, the Community Arts Assistance Program Grant (CAAP), and five artist residencies at the Ragdale Foundation. Farmilant is a founding member of two artist collectives, the Stella Collective and the Standard Usage Project.

Farmilant received her nursing degree from the University of Brighton, Sussex, England, and worked in neurosurgery before turning to photography. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree, with Honors, and her Master of Fine Arts in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, where she now teaches as an adjunct professor. She lives and works in Chicago, IL.

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Illinois Arts Council

This website is partially supported by the Illinois Arts Council.