Emma Bee Bernstein graduated in June 2007 from the University of Chicago with a BA with honors in Visual Arts and Art History. She committed suicide in December 2008 at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy, where she was on an internship. Bernstein wrote her senior thesis on feminism and fashion in contemporary photography, and exhibited the photographic series, Masquerade, as part of her senior thesis exhibition. She also exhibited her photographs at A.I.R. Gallery in New York City, the Smart Museum in Chicago, and at the University of Chicago. Bernstein was the photo editor of the Chicago Maroon. She was featured in The New York Times for her work in Vita Excolatur, a University of Chicago erotica magazine. She published her writing in M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online #4 in 2007.
In Emma’s Dilemma, a film directed by Henry Hills, Bernstein interviewed dozens of artists from the downtown New York City art scene from 1997 to 2002. Bernstein worked as a curatorial assistant in the Photography, Contemporary Art, and Prints & Drawings departments at the Art Institute of Chicago, at the Renaissance Society, and was a docent at the Smart Museum. She was a Teaching Artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and was a mentor for Step Up Women’s Network. In New York City, she was a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum. A.I.R. Gallery has named one of its yearly Emerging Artist’s Fellowship Program Awards in her honor. Belladonna #4, which features Bernstein’s writing and photographs, was published by Belladonna Books in 2009. GirlDrive: Criss-Crossing America, Mapping Feminism by Emma Bee Bernstein and Nona Willis Aronowitz was published by Seal Press in October 2009.
Emma Bee Bernstein (1985–2008), Masquerade: A Retrospective, her first solo show, was held in February 2010 at the DOVA Gallery at the University of Chicago. The exhibition was co-curated by Laura Letinsky and Katherine Griefen. This exhibition was accompanied by a slide presentation curated by Antonia Pocock and a catalogue with essays by Kate Bussard and Matthew Jesse Jackson. The exhibition highlighted the signature aspects of Bernstein’s work – the inflection of social, political and historical awareness that marks her projects. Her interdisciplinary approach to photography combines fashion, documentary, (self) portraiture, feminism, and a unique blend of dark humor mixed with heady optimism.
Her second solo show, Emma Bee Bernstein: An Imagined Space, was co-curated by Phong Bui, publisher of the Brooklyn Rail, and Linnea Kniaz and was presented at the Janet Kurnatowski Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, from March 25-April 23, 2011. This show was reviewed in The New York Times on April 8, 2011 by Holland Cotter.
Exquisite Fucking Boredom: Polaroids by Emma Bee Bernstein, her third solo show, was curated by Phong Bui. The show took place at Microscope Gallery in Brooklyn in 2012. The more than 200 Polaroids included in this show were taken during Bernstein's college years from 2003-2007. The show also included personal notebooks, and Bernstein's short film, Exquisite Fucking Boredom (2006). This show was reviewed in several publications including The New York Times by Holland Cotter, L Magazine, Culture Push, Jacket 2, and The Brooklyn Rail.
Bernstein's Polaroid series was featured in Come Together Sandy curated by Phong Bui at Industry City, Brooklyn in 2013. Her work was discussed in an online catalog essay by Taylor Dafoe. Several new publications discuss her work: Cornelia Barber's essay, "Looking at Emma's Dilemma" in Lemon Hound and Michele Gerber Klein, "Stealing Time: Emma Bee Bernstein" in Brooklyn Rail, Dec./Jan. 2015.
Emma Bee Bernstein’s website is here:
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