[Oct. 2016 Arts] “MORE Than Words” exhibit encourages resilience and change

By Alice Hickson ’17

 

“This is what artists do, they make something visible.”

These are the words of Gerry Snyder, Dean of the Pratt Institute School of Art and curator of the the “MORE Than Words” exhibition.  

The exhibition, which premiered on Sept. 9 at the Westport Arts Center and will run until Oct. 29, features world-renowned artists like Andrea Bowers and Carry Leibowitz. The focus of the exhibition is a response to bullying in a broad cultural context.

“Our goal for the exhibition is to raise awareness, drive positive change and foster an open conversation around the emotionally charged topic of bullying,” Derek Goodman, a Westport parent and Westport Arts Center Board member, said.

Much of the artwork is contemporary, ranging from articles of clothing to looped digital files to felt pennants. Beverly Semmes’ featured work is an enormous dress cloaking the wall, meant to embody the myth of female appetites and desires, while also commenting on gender roles.

“There will always be a group that’s marginalized and pushed to the side,” Amanda Innes, executive director of the Westport Arts Center, said. “It’s really, really powerful that that can be visualized in this exhibit.”

In response to “MORE Than Words,” the Westport Arts Center accepted entries from the public for their next exhibit called “I Am More.” For the first time ever, they had a junior category for middle and high schoolers, 17 and under who wanted to submit a work of art that spoke to the issue of bullying, whether it was addressing stereotypes or personal identity. The call for entries is officially closed, but the chosen works will be displayed in the Westport Arts Center starting Nov. 11.

Hannah Schmidt ’19 took advantage of the new junior category and submitted her acrylic painting entitled “Hear My Silence.”  

“I have always wanted to bring my art outside of my room or the classroom,” Schmidt said. “So I thought this would be a great place to start.”

Leslie LaSala, Director of Marketing and Communications at Westport Arts Center anticipates the “I Am More” exhibition will be more personal in nature as student artists are encouraged to submit new or previous artwork on subjects that address both the struggle and strength required to face all aspects of bullying and power disparities.

“The dichotomy between the two exhibitions could be seen as a ‘zooming out’ view on a national level for the curated show, and ‘zooming in’ on the community level for the juried ‘I Am More’ show,” LaSala said.

The submissions are judged by Snyder, Pamela Hovland and Ward Shelley, who are all artists themselves.

“No matter what our age or the context, unkind words and actions have the ability to puncture us, leaving emotional wounds that may or may not heal,” Hovland, a senior critic in design and a professor at the Yale University School of Art, said. “At various times in our lives we need to remind ourselves that we are more than words.”