Remembered/Reimagined, the first exhibition on view in the new Dowd Gallery space at 9 Main Street (Beard Building), Cortland, features the work of contemporary artists Wennie Huang and Shari Diamond. The show is divided into two sections based on the themes of remembered and reimagined community and will be on view from August 28-October 2O, 2012. An opening reception will be held on September 6 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Wennie Huang is a Brooklyn-based installation artist who was born and raised in Cortland. Her parents moved to the area from Taiwan in the 1960’s, and she recalls growing up as “a member of the only visibly ethnic family in the community.” Her work deals with issues of memory, identity and particularly with the complex nature of her connection to her parents’ culture.
In Summoning the Ghosts, Huang refers both to her Asian heritage and to the history of the Dowd Gallery’s building, which housed an undertaking business during the nineteenth century. This installation features rows of cast paper feet arranged like tombstones in a cemetery. The feet symbolize the presence of ghosts, or the residue of absence. They refer to a Chinese superstition that certain mischievous phantoms can only be distinguished from regular human beings by their lack of feet.
Helix consists of over 3,000 red chenille stems woven into tree silhouettes that represent a beloved maple tree at Huang’s childhood home. Lace-like forms extend from these trees out through the windows and onto the building’s façade. These “vines” are reminiscent of the ivy she recalls seeing as a child on SUNY Cortland’s Moffett Center, where her father taught mathematics. The red color references the red velvet covers of her mother's treasured family photo albums from Taiwan.
The Price of Inflation, a playful piece that requires interaction, was derived from Huang’s nostalgia for her youthful experiences riding bicycles and blowing up balloons–sometimes to the breaking point. Viewers are also invited to type on the vintage Smith Corona Skyriter, included in the installation as a means of marking the company’s strong presence in the area while the artist was growing up.
Shari Diamond is a Brooklyn-based photographic artist who seeks to highlight the similarities between the Jewish and Muslim faiths. Her work was inspired by a group of Muslims who risked their lives in Paris during World War II to rescue many Jews. She offers us a glimpse into a reimagined contemporary Jewish-Muslim community through her digitally combined imagery of synagogues and mosques. Though she photographed the interiors of these structures in Paris and Istanbul, she suggests that they could have been photographed anywhere with the same, universal result.
The seamless nature of the montages dissolves borders and creates new spaces in which reimagined realities of coexistence, respect and exchange are possible. Icons, ceremonial implements and distinctly attired followers of each of the two religions appear before the viewer in unity under one roof. Re Imagining Relations no. 20, for example, features a synagogue dome emblazoned with the Jewish Star of David. This superstructure is supported by spandrels decorated with the geometrical patterns and calligraphic text typical of Islamic art. Some of the works spotlight the physical division between male and female worshippers common to the orthodox versions of both religions. In Re Imagining Relations no. 16, Muslim women to the left of a barrier don scarf head-coverings and Jewish men to the right wear yarmulkes.
Diamond’s large-scale, lifelike presentation readily allows the visualization of what could be and makes a seemingly unattainable peace between the two communities quite literally appear feasible. Through her work, she aims to inspire a fresh dialogue regarding the elimination of boundaries, the preservation of humanity and the encouragement of empathy in Jewish-Muslim relations.
“A Virtual Conversation with the Artist: Wennie Huang” will take place on September 19 at 5:00 p.m. This unconventional artist’s talk will feature a partially performative video call from the artist in Brooklyn. Her father, who still lives in Cortland, will participate in the talk from the gallery.
“New Ways of Seeing: Jewish-Muslim Relations,” will take place on October 9 at 5:00 p.m. This discussion featuring Shari Diamond and Sanford Gutman, professor of history emeritus at SUNY Cortland, will explore the intersection of art and politics and new ways of looking at Jewish-Muslim relations.
The Dowd Gallery is newly located at Main Street SUNY Cortland, 9 Main Street (Beard Building), 3rd Floor, Cortland, where it will be based for approximately two years while the Dowd Fine Arts Building on the SUNY Cortland campus undergoes renovations.
This exhibition is sponsored in part by the Institute for Civic Engagement and the President's Office.
All Dowd Gallery exhibitions and programs are free and open to the public. To schedule a group tour, please contact Erika Fowler-Decatur at 607.753.4216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.