Exhibits embrace anti-war activism

Challenging the norm and society, two artists currently featured in the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery in Purnell are making statements about political issues past, present, and future; moving their audience members; and compelling them into action.

Joyce Kozloff’s exhibit Exterior and Interior Cartographies is exactly what it says: cartography. This ancient study of maps has never typically been revered for its aesthetic nature or riveting subject matter. However, Kozloff’s work absolutely revamps her subject by adding flair and meaning. Kozloff earned a BFA from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1964 and an MFA from Columbia University in 1967. She is currently a member of Artists Against the War. The works shown in the Miller Gallery are a collection of Kozloff’s work over a span of about 10 years.

In the exhibit, splashes of rich color and collage adorn traditional nautical maps. Hand-drawn figures and scenes of war overlap on paper as Kozloff works to dispute old political faculties. On the third floor, “Sing-Along American History: War and Race” is a motley of different well-known historical landmarks and issues: The Mason-Dixon Line, Gettysburg, and the Louisiana lowlands blend with drawings of different ethnicities and fragments of old songs. Similarly, “American History: Going Global” is set on a red backdrop, showing a map of the world blanketed with American tanks and soldiers.

In the middle of the gallery’s second floor, the first thing that draws your attention is a cradle placed in the center of the floor. Titled “Rocking the Cradle,” the work has a blue interior with navigation arrows pointing towards places such as Babylon, Apolloniatis, and Baghdad — sort of the cradle of civilization. A truly inspiring piece, “Bodies of Water” is an acrylic-on-canvas work that depicts a nautical map of the sea. Layered on top of the map are quantities of cut and glued collages of parts of the human digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems.

Kozloff spoke of her time at both a chiropractor’s office and on a ship as a crew member. These experiences combined resulted in the creation of the piece. “The rivers and streams inside the body are like the ones in topographic maps, and I was somehow intuitively making that connection,” Kozloff said.

Also on the second floor are a series of frescoes. The frescoes on panels give a warped, almost 3-D feel to the maps, typically flat. Kozloff captures the feel of certain cities perfectly, tastefully blending the culture and atmosphere of each. “A Tale of 3 Cities: Los Angeles 1878, New York 1661, Roma 1561” is a series of frescoes done on three panels. Los Angeles is done in a sandy, sort of desert-colored underlay and is very grid-like, with a concentrated network in the center. New York shows flags and ships of Denmark with a grassy-green depiction of the current-day financial district. Roma is done in black and white, with the exception of spot color on a small area in the center labeled in Latin, and the small panel is completely covered with densely-populated houses and buildings.
Kozloff said her favorite piece was “Dark and Light Continents.” The most captivating piece by far, “Dark and Light Continents” is a gigantic map of the world where the lighter areas represent the more populated regions and the darker areas represent those uninhabited. Stars strewn across the canvas are actually constellations, so that the work looks like a view of earth from behind the stars.

On the first floor of the Miller Gallery, a three-screen video documentation attracts the attention of visitors. “Disarming Images” is an hour-long slide show of the movements all around the United States in opposition to the war in Iraq. The movie follows the protests from the time of 9/11 up through the third anniversary of the start of the war.

The creative director of the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery, Anne Messner, is currently an adjunct professor at Pratt Institute. Like Kozloff, Messner is a member of Artists Against the War. She spoke on the wealth of images and information from the compilation of footage from people and various sources around the country. “We put out an open call all through the Internet, and people responded,” Messner said. Those interested sent in footage and materials of their own accord in an effort to contribute to a film that could educate the world on American opposition to the war in Iraq. Mesmerizing and deeply moving images paired with music, voiceovers, and text serve to paint a picture of a country’s unrest. On the right-hand screen, a steady stream of facts and statistics inform the viewer about the images on the screen and also describe the happenings in the anti-war movement since 9/11. “We really sought multiple sources to make sure it was as accurate as possible. It is a particular point of view. It doesn’t pretend to be objective in its direction, but it is factual,” Messner said.

The video documentary displays peaceful protests, speeches, and signs all across the United States. Footage of distraught Iraqis is interwoven with images of Iraqis and Afghans in their everyday lives, faces of deceased American armed forces, and Arabic and American weeping mothers. These images act as strong social and political commentary. “Our friend, whose name is Debra Werblud, felt very strongly that something more permanent that could travel to more places should be done in multiple languages about the peace movement taking place in the United States, since outside the United States, many people presume that Americans are all in support of the war,” Kozloff said.

Kozloff’s exhibit and Messner’s video documentation will remain in the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery until October 15. With these exhibits, you can see what makes cartography so interesting or take advantage of an opportunity to see a perspective of what has been going on in our country different from what’s been in the news.