‘Unidentified Woman’

SADAH professor of art Corinne Diop exhibits a collection of work in Staunton gallery

School of Art Design and Art History

Back to Top

“The dedication to making art was strong, and we all found our way,” recalled Corinne Diop of her time as an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Art at James Madison University. After graduating, Diop moved to Seattle to complete her MFA at the University of Washington then taught at several places in Baltimore, including Notre Dame of Maryland University, Community College of Baltimore, and School 33 Art Center, before returning to JMU. Now, as graduate director for the MFA in Art Program, photography area coordinator, and professor of art in JMU’s School of Art, Design and Art History, Diop is a practicing artist who shows her work nationally and internationally. Her practice centers around photography, including camera and scanner-based images, photo collage and montage, and installations of weathered photographs and objects.

Dymph de Wild introduces Diop at the exhibition opening.
Dymph de Wild introduces Corinne Diop at the exhibition opening.

Corinne Diop’s recent body of work, Unidentified Woman, was on view at the Beverley Street Studio School Gallery in Staunton, Virginia, from Nov. 17 through Dec. 31, 2023. Located in the historic district of downtown Staunton, Virginia, Beverley Street Studio School has adopted as its mission “providing the community and region with a variety of opportunities to explore the world of the visual arts through practice, professional instruction, and contact with practicing artists.” BSSS offers nondegree, high-level art instruction, lectures and gallery exhibitions in the historic downtown.

Diop’s exhibition featured work from her ongoing series highlighting daguerreotype portraits sourced from the Library of Congress collection. “I was struck by the portraits labeled as ‘Unidentified Woman’ rather than by name and decided to pull them out as ‘found images’...” Diop shared. “Scans of these small, 19th-century images on metal are brought back to life in the digital age where I can expand the scale and tonal range and add collage and montage elements.” Diop’s Unidentified Women series accentuates the already scratched and time-worn portraits with added imagery and text. 

Diop utilizes the skills she teaches in the classroom to bring new life to these centuries-old portraits. “Our photo program covers processes from all three centuries, including alternative processes, darkroom photography, and digital, so this work is fitting in how it references how the human condition is shared even as technology changes,” Diop explained.

I was struck by the portraits labeled as ‘Unidentified Woman’ rather than by name and decided to pull them out as ‘found images.’”

 — Corinne Diop
graduate director for art, photography coordinator, professor of art

The photography curriculum reflects a commitment to traditional photography, including 35mm manual camera basics and black and white darkroom skills using silver gelatin-based film and printing paper, yet also embraces advances in digital imaging and emerging technologies, encouraging an experimental and interdisciplinary image-making approach.

The School of Art, Design and Art History offers three degrees in studio art, the Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Art, and Bachelor of Science, and all allow students to gain a breadth of skills in a variety of media and course offerings. In addition to photography, students have the opportunity to explore ceramics, fibers, metals and jewelry, painting and drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. As an undergraduate student, Diop found strength from working in an intermedia approach with so many processes available to her, and she hopes her students can do the same. “If art students focus on what makes them unique as artists and on their underlying passions, they may be surprised at the many pathways open to them,” Diop shared. “Among our alumni are art professors, K-12 art teachers, art business and gallery owners, successful exhibiting artists, and many who work for museums or art-related industries — there is flexibility in finding the right life and career choices for all.”

Unidentified Woman 3, Distressed archival pigment print photomontage with pine needles, shredded paper, paint, and detritus, 63” x 47”, 2023.
Unidentified Woman 3; distressed archival pigment print photomontage with pine needles, shredded paper, paint and detritus; 63” x 47”; 2023

by Cameryn Norris ('22)

Published: Thursday, March 21, 2024

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Related Articles