Artist explores pageant culture through self-portraiture

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“The Arrival” (2024). Photograph on PVC board. Part of the Mr. Society of 23 exhibition. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Songco.

Jeffrey Songco, known for his immersive exhibitions that explore identity and community with a charming spin on self-portraiture, is unveiling the next iteration of the “Society of 23.” The Saugatuck Center for the Arts is rolling out the red carpet for “Mr. Society of 23” – a multimedia art installation that explores the ins and outs of pageant culture through the perspective of the brotherhood of “Society of 23” members.

Artist, Jeffrey Songco, creator of “Mr. Society of 23,” on view now at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. Courtesy photo.

In the “Society of 23” extended universe, there are 23 brothers – each played by Songco himself. His previous works, such as “Society of 23’s Locker Dressing Room” and “Society of 23’s Trophy Game Room” (displayed at ArtPrize 9 and Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory respectively) featured physical spaces meant to be occupied by the brothers and give visitors a peek behind the curtain into their society. “Mr. Society of 23” marries Songco’s interest in pageants with his ongoing “Society of 23” project.

“I often daydream about scenes or situations that the brothers of my mysterious brotherhood get themselves into, and it felt quite natural for me to imagine that they had their own pageant of sorts, but I wasn’t quite sure what the structure or point of the pageant was,” Songco said.

“Backstage” (2024). Photograph on PVC board. Part of the Mr. Society of 23 exhibition. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Songco.

“For my solo show at Saugatuck Center for the Arts, I finally created the actual pageant from start to finish and documented it through photographs and an installation artwork. I’ve made a series of 14 photographs and I’m really happy with the final images. I feel like I’ve taken a big step forward in the way I’m presenting a scene of multiple brothers. I’ve taken a few risks in composition and color that have brought me out of my comfort zone and result in images that feel very cinematic.”

 

“Mr. Society of 23” will be showing at the SCA, 400 Culver St, Saugatuck, from now until May 17.

Songco is also celebrating the installation of one of his other projects, “Facets” – a permanent fixture of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport as of October of last year.

 

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Ever since Pasha Shipp could talk, she's been dreaming up colorful stories. Fantasy creatures, mysterious kingdoms, enchanted forests, you name it. As she reached adulthood, she decided to take the magic out of her head and put it down on paper. Pasha has been writing for Grand Rapids Magazine since November 2015, and has loved every minute of it. She has a master's degree in Communication and a bachelor's degree in Film Studies from Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University respectively. When she isn't daydreaming and writing stories for the magazine, she's exploring the many hidden treasures of Grand Rapids with her fiancé.