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Beauty found beneath ‘Rubble’ of war

Dion Johnson, director of University art galleries, tours “Out of Rubble” in the Harris Gallery with Myra Garcia, vice president for advancement, at the reception Tuesday. This photo series, “Repairing Lebanon” by Lenka Clayton, shows ruined buildings from the 2006 conflict with Israel. Clayton had no idea what the buildings looked like before destruction, so she digitally altered them to look new and untouched by war. / photo by Celine Dehban

Dion Johnson, director of University art galleries, tours “Out of Rubble” in the Harris Gallery with Myra Garcia, vice president for advancement, at the reception Tuesday. This photo series, “Repairing Lebanon” by Lenka Clayton, shows ruined buildings from the 2006 conflict with Israel. Clayton had no idea what the buildings looked like before destruction, so she digitally altered them to look new and untouched by war. / photo by Celine Dehban

Cody Luk
Staff Writer

Students and faculty members studied and discussed post-war artworks at the “Out of Rubble” exhibition reception Tuesday in the Harris Gallery.

This exhibition is a collaboration between gallery director Dion Johnson and curator Susanne Slavick on the visual aftermath of wars.

“I think they’re magnificent works of art and disturbing as subjects of elements,” Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Al Clark said. “I think this is one of the most exciting exhibition we’ve had this year.”

Clark, who is also in charge of the Honors Colloquium, had a group discussion with the students.

Sophomore business administration major Joel Sierra and sophomore accounting major Martin Luke Galvan led the discussion and provided further information on the curator and the artworks from their research.

Galvan read books and watched documentaries on the curator. His favorite artwork in the exhibition is Simon Norfolk’s “The Remains of the Halat-Fidar Bridge” because of the major contrast between the city above and the warfare ruins below the bridge in Lebanon.

Sierra talked about the destruction of war and he asked questions such as why we fight with each other, to start discussions among the students.

He cited Wafaa Bilal’s 2009 “The Ashes Series,” as his favorite work. In the photograph, an undamaged Louis XIV chair is standing in the middle of the bombed Saddam Hussein palace in Iraq. Human ashes are visible on the ground and the room is clearly destroyed.

“The chair is symbolic,” said sophomore business administration major Wesly Tan. “Like the U.S., and how even when the rest of the world is blowing up, we’re just sitting there, thinking we’re almighty.”

Sophomore art history major Liam Machado also liked “The Ashes Series.”

“My favorite one is the chair one because of the idea of the chair being in the center of the frame, not being affected by the bombing,” Machado said. “It really is a photograph that captures the circumstance perfectly.”

Machado is also interested in the exhibit because he found familiarity with the theme. Photographs are also easier to understand since they capture reality, he said.

Junior psychology major Alejandra Gonzalez said curator Slavick’s “Rescind: Bird in Rubble” is her favorite artwork because of the calm blue colors and the movements around the bird.

“For me, I’ve always thought war is harmful and destructive but seeing the pictures gave the visual aspect of it,” Gonzalez said. “It’s different from hearing about it.”

Faculty members also discussed their opinions of the artworks with each other.

The image of a female veteran from Jennifer Karady’s “Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan” is Clark’s favorite in the exhibition. It is a staged photo with many objects in the room, such as a pink stuffed rabbit. The rabbit represents a dream the veteran had, where there was a pink rabbit chasing her, with a bomb inside.

“It is a compelling one,” Clark said. “She doesn’t seem real when you first look at it, but then you hear her story.”

The students took turns standing in the middle of the group to discuss and reflect on the artworks while Clark and other students contribute with their own opinions.

The curator lecture prior to the reception was canceled last minute because Slavick was unable to attend.

“Out of Rubble” runs until Nov. 14. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.

Cody Luk can be reached at cody.luk@laverne.edu.

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