April 25, 2017

Meet Kalee Appleton

SMU’s Director of Visual Resources talks 2-D photography in a 3-D world

Photographer Kalee Appleton grew up in New Mexico, but earned her master’s in fine arts at Texas Woman’s University. “I’m a member of a long legacy of artists who studied under Susan Kae Grant,” Appleton says. “Susan has a way of being able to determine what each of her students needs in order to grow.” For Appleton, that was “freedom and encouragement to experiment.” Now she’s passing on that wisdom as the Director of Visual Resources at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Through her own robust practice of image-making, Appleton addresses the condition of contemporary photography and how it is represented in a three-dimensional world. The ongoing series Surrounds examines how photographic backgrounds, like those used in commercial studios, operate as independent objects. Appleton, who financed her early fine-art projects by working as a corporate and aviation photographer, has an intimate understanding of how these backgrounds are used to manipulate perspective and provide false context for their subjects. In Surrounds, she transforms the 2-D tool into a self-sufficient sculpture. A new 40” Canon printer enables Appleton to bring Surrounds to new heights; pieces for an upcoming show at Brookhaven College stretch eight feet high. Considering the state of photography, Appleton is reflective. “I think we are living in a very pivotal moment in time, and firmly believe that, through looking at and commenting on vernacular and mainstream photography and its ubiquitous nature, we can begin to understand more about the trajectory of our society.” —Kat Herriman