Jennifer Colten is a photographer whose work examines the representation of landscape, embedded cultural geographies, and environmental implications of land use. Her work examines patterns of cultural erasure and is invested in multiple forms of collaboration with communities, local histories, and public spaces. For the past seven years, Colten’s work has been primarily centered within the American Bottom region, a continually enigmatic and compelling 65-mile stretch along the Mississippi River in Illinois.
Colten is part of a team of artists, educators, and researchers recently awarded a Mellon Foundation Humanities Grant for the project Mississippi River Open School for Kinship and Social Exchange. Centered within five hubs along the Mississippi River, this emergent work facilitates creative partnerships at the confluence of race, geography, and cultural knowledge.
In 2021, she was included in the Saint Louis Art Museum’s exhibition, “Art Along the Rivers,” where her photographs were placed both inside the museum exhibition as well as on six billboards in the landscape of the American Bottom.
Past and ongoing projects have received support from a Regional Arts Commission Fellowship Grant recognizing sustained commitment and artistic vibrancy. Colten’s work is focused on the region’s social and racial inequities, and in 2017 she was awarded a Ferguson Academic Seed Grant from WashU for longstanding work documenting Washington Park Cemetery, once the largest African American Cemetery in the St Louis region.
In addition to private collections, Colten’s photographs have been included in a number of international public collections including at the Denver Art Museum; Museum für Fotografie in Braunschweig, Germany; Museum Hundertwasser in Vienna, Austria; as well as across Colombia at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogota, Museo de Antioquia, and Bellas Artes Instituto in Medellin.