FOR YEARS, Tobia Makover put herself and her work first.
“For so long, I was striving to be a solo artist,” Makover admits. “As an artist, I work so hard to make any sort of a name for myself, to make a market for myself. My, my, my. Me, me, me.”
Then Makover was asked by photographer Lori Vrba to be part of a group show, “Sleight of Hand,” during Click Photography Festival in Raleigh, NC. The timing was perfect, and Makover loved Vrba’s work, so she gladly accepted the invitation and had the time of her life.
“None of us knew how exciting this was going to be,” Makover remembers. “And that changed so much. That is the moment it stopped being about me and it was about us. I found my tribe.”
Finding her tribe led her to create “Kindred.”
Makover invited fellow photographers Vrba, Dawn Surratt and Sal Taylor Kydd to contribute work for a weekend-only experience at 2818 Bee Rd.
“The tribe is about supporting other artists and lifting them up,” Makover explains. “It wasn’t about my work or my moment. It was about accessing the work and making it flow and seeing the bigger picture and supporting each other. You can be jealous, you can be green with envy—I am every day working with these artists.”
The four artists create similar work, which lights up Makover’s face as she talks about it.
“Sal Taylor Kydd’s work is ethereal, it’s finessed, it’s clean,” Makover says. “I feel my work is all clumpy and messy—I work really fast. Her work is just perfect and light and airy. Dawn’s is light and airy and really installation-based. Lori just did a whole install for Keith Carter, who’s a famous photographer and also her friend—she’s just all fancy pants.”
Hearing Makover gush about other female artists feels refreshing and very necessary in this moment, especially when they could be considered each other’s competition.
“All four of us have a similar vibe, a similar vision in our art,” says Makover. “Instead of shunning them, we’re coming together and we’re celebrating those commonalities.”
This isn’t Makover’s first time curating a show. After the successful partnership of “Sleight of Hand,” Vrba invited Makover to curate another exhibition.
“Lori said, ‘You’re going to curate the next show, and not only that, we have three-fourths of the space and instead of five artists we’re going to have ten,” laughs Makover.
The result, “Murmurations,” was a neatly-organized display of work that got Makover’s feet wet with curating.
“One thing about artists curating other artists is that we were very much a part of our own shows,” says Makover, “which can be difficult, but not when you say, ‘Hey, I’m not being objective, I’m not doing a survey of photography. I am being subjective. I’m inviting artists that I identify with that I think will make a great show.’”
In the approach for “Kindred,” Makover chose to abandon the neatness of “Murmurations” in favor of a more experiential feeling.
“Even in ‘Murmurations,’ where each artist was sort of self-contained, even those flowed within each other,” she says. “[Kindred] is going to be much more overlapping. Sometimes you won’t know where one artist ends and another begins.”
Makover’s vision for “Kindred” as an installation is informed by “Myself a Memory,” an installation curated by her friend Marcus Kenney.
“The last big show I had done in Savannah was with Marcus and I had work on the floor, everywhere,” says Makover. “I really wanted to do something very clean, very simple. For this show, it’s a white space, and I wanted it to be that you walked into this white cloud—very airy, very simple, a spattering of movement.”
Makover came to SCAD in 1996 for an MFA in photography under the old guard of Tom Fisher and Craig Stevens.
“In retrospect, I learned photography as a craft, but also with my hands,” Makover remembers. “That was really important to me and most of why I fell in love with it.”
Makover took a trip to Eastern Europe to research her family that died in the Holocaust since her grandfather wouldn’t talk about it.
“I was unearthing old memories, old facts, old ideas, things that are uncomfortable and a little bit dark,” she shares. “But I really always wanted my images to be beautiful. It’s not just about death, it’s also about rebirth.”
Somewhere along the way, Makover discovered encaustic photography, the missing piece of her puzzle. She dove into the process and transitioned to full-time artist to make it work.
That devotion to her work, and all the realizations she made along the way, prepared Makover for this moment for “Kindred” to shine.
“This work is by warrior-type women,” Makover muses. “A lot of time, if you look over art in the ages, the feminine gets a little lost and our voice gets lost. I used to try to harden up my work a little because it was too romantic, but guess what? Fuck you. If it’s too romantic for you, go somewhere else. No apologies. Not only is there a niche for what I make, it’s an important niche. My voice, our voice, matters.”