Art exhibit explores oppression, liberation

Multi-faceted gallery to hold reception

Liberation from oppression, be it from forces that are physical, psychological or societal, is intrinsic to all of mankind.

In this month’s exhibit on display in the Eddie Rhodes Gallery titled “Politics, Power and the Human Condition: Art and Liberation,” this concept is explored and extended six different ways by six artists.

Each artist’s opus encourages a unique dialogue regarding humanity, subjugation, individual freedom, coercion and deliverance, to name only a few of the concepts presented.

A reception will be held for the exhibit Thursday from 4-7 p.m. in the Rhodes Gallery in A-5. Refreshments will be provided and some, but not all, of the featured artists will be present.

Featured artists include Lorraine Bonner, Adrien Heloise, Judy Johnson-Williams, Carolyn Martin, Christopher Olsen and Julee Richardson.  From hand-cut paper reliefs to oil on canvas to sculpted clay, the materials and techniques used are as diverse as the artists.

Bonner, who works with clay, said, “I have now begun a new series, some of which is represented by the work in the gallery, in which I envision the actual human beings, our people, each of us with our own combination of melanin, keratin, underlying blood vessels and fat which create a skin color as unique as our fingerprint, coming together to resist the abstract themes of domination and hierarchy represented by white and black. I refer to this new series as ‘Multi-hued Humanity’.”

Olsen, on the other hand, brings to the gallery his “Modern Madonnas,” traditional oil paint on canvas or wood paneling depicting modern-day women with children. He employs the Renaissance technique of Chiaroscuro, a strong contrast between light and dark, and combines conventional aspects of the Madonna, like the presence of a halo and architectural features, with contemporary women.

“I use traditional themes rendered in a contemporary way,” he said.

From his travels, where he draws inspiration, Olsen has depicted women from various places of modern controversy, including Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan and Cambodia.

He said what he likes about oil is that it is archival, as well as open to more technique options, as opposed to acrylic paint or water colors, which he describes as “not his thing.”

Bonner said, “One of the most important features of the clay is the ease with which it is possible to convey human characteristics and expressions, which I think make it easier for people to relate to the work and see something of themselves in it.”

Arranged at the beginning of September by adjunct fine art professor and acting gallery curator Dana Davis, the gallery has appeared closed to passers-by and received minimal foot traffic.

“The gallery still has access issues, as there are few volunteers willing to sit gallery during the day,” Davis said. “Anyone may ask any faculty or volunteer staff to open the gallery. They simply close the locked door when they leave.

“We are insured but it might be tricky if the gallery is untended and something disappears. There have been no thefts in the gallery as far as anyone can remember.”

Despite the setbacks, Davis said he is still very excited for the gallery and reception, adding that he has made some recent improvements to the room.

“I think that the gallery is a great space,” Davis said. “It handles shows that combine flat work on the wall and sculpture on the floor quite well.

“We have added LED lights because of their efficiency, as well as the fact that the old halogens continually blew the circuit breakers.”