On October 15 at 4:30 p.m., the guest curators of “Say Good-bye to…” unveiled their exhibition of contemporary political artwork compiled as a farewell gesture to the outgoing Bush Administration. Donna Harkavy and Marion Wilson chose to have their opening discussion in Clifford Gallery among the artwork to provoke discussion among the students and faculty in attendance.
They explained that the exhibition has a dual focus by including portrayals of President Bush and key members of his administration as well as representations of events associated with the Administration. Such events include the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and the PATRIOT Act.
“We were talking over breakfast one morning, and Marion told me about this idea she had to put together an exhibition called ‘Say Good-bye to Texas,'” explained Harkavy, a curator by profession. “I of course wanted to help her, and it became our project. The more we talked, the more it became about saying good-bye to George Bush.”
There are a variety of different mediums represented in this exhibition. Upon entering Clifford Gallery, directly to the left are fragments of what look like the exterior of a home. They are in fact pieces of a latex replica of a demolished Lower Ninth Ward home, constructed by Sculptor Takashi Horisaki. Although only pieces of it are featured in Clifford, he was able to recreate the entire house, finishing his project just one day before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raised it. Junior Hannah Feldman expressed that although she does not have any particular political leanings, this piece was especially powerful for her.
“Katrina was such a big event for our generation,” she said. “It affected everyone, and knowing that our government failed the people who needed it most was very upsetting. It was powerful to see the remnants of the storm, because even if you can’t go to New Orleans, you can get a sense of what things look like through that piece.
Many of the artists in the exhibition tend to use media in their work. One artist recreated a series of the iconic photographs that were taken in Abu Ghraib prison. He removed the most charged image in the photograph, intending to prove that even when the image is gone, we still see it there. It serves as a commentary on the affect of the media in the lives of Americans.
There is one particularly striking image by Wayne Gonzales that at a glance appears to be an elaborate pattern of bright colored dots making up the rays of the sun. It is a photograph of the coffins of American soldiers returning from the Iraq war. It has been distorted to create an optical illusion that requires some concentration, and the realization of the true subjects of the piece is incredibly moving.
“It is a photograph that was very controversial when it was first published,” said Wilson. “The government maintained that it would be upsetting to the families of the dead, but the press insisted that it was an image that demonstrated the true cost of the war. In the end, obviously [the press] won.”
Many of the images currently showing at “Say Good-bye to…” in Clifford Gallery are very controversial and may provoke drastically different opinions in those who choose to explore the exhibition. The curators indicated that they are especially interested in reading people’s opinions in the comment book that they have provided.
“Say Good-bye to…” will be showing until December 12.