May 6, 2014
Text Written By Anna Dunbar
Currently on view in Doric Hall at the State House is Violence Transformed: Celebrating the Transformative Power of Art. Violence Transformed is probably one of the most important organizations operating in Massachusetts today. Each year, Violence Transformed curates and hosts a series of visual and performing arts events “that celebrate the power of art, artists and art-making to confront, challenge and mediate violence.” In my opinion, there is no greater purpose for art than to facilitate social change especially as it pertains to the violence that we see daily on a local, national and international level.
April 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the Massachusetts Victim Bill of Rights. So far, Violence Transformed has held residence in the Marran Theater Gallery at Lesley University, the Towne Art Gallery at Wheelock College in addition to participating in The Annual Victim Rights Conference at the Seaport Hotel. From the end of April through early May, Violence Transformed fills the empty spaces of Doric Hall with messages of social injustice and hope in one of their most important and poignant exhibitions. As you might imagine, the message of Violence Transformed becomes emphasized to its furthest degree by having the exhibit set in the Massachusetts State House, where change can be made.
Jonathan Shirland, Visual Arts Director of Violence Transformed and Professor of Art History at Bridgewater State University, brilliantly and carefully curated the exhibition. Every inch of historical context within Doric Hall was thoughtfully incorporated into the exhibit. For example, one of Brian Murphy’s sculptures echoes the classical sculpture located at the tour guide desk. Another piece by Jamal Thorne, 45 to Lebron, is carefully positioned so that the John Adams portrait in the hall is reflected directly in the subject’s eyes. These important curatorial decisions help set the important tone for the exhibit and drive home the very significant message of Violence Transformed.
The Doric Hall exhibit features dozens of artists and organizations advocating for change through art. There are a variety of works about a variety of issues. It is sad that we live in a world where there is so much subject matter to choose from within the “theme” of violence. There are works about racial inequality and gender inequality. There are many pieces about gun violence and those directly affected by it. There are sculptures about torture in Guantanamo Bay and of course, a touching memorial to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. However, mixed within these works about everyday violence are pieces about hope. Violence Transformed calls attention to the violence that occurs each day across the globe but we are also given insight on how to move forward as a better people. We are reminded that there is hope for all of those affected by violence both directly and indirectly.
Artist and founding director of Project eXodus, Elliot Salloway, creates art in order to raise questions and discussions about genocide. Over 262,000,000 people have been murdered by genocide in the 20th century. “This body of work poses the questions: how is this possible and what can be done to prevent it in the future?” Manuel Schroeder believes that advertising through the media only creates fear and fuels desire in order to mask evil. Schroeder is determined to uncover those hidden messages. One particularly difficult piece to take in is eight small, red chairs set up in a circle seemingly waiting for story time to start. Gail Jerauld Bos’s project “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: The Children’s Chairs Project” represents the eight children that are killed everyday by guns in America. “Our communities are dangerous places for our children. As adults we must make it a safer place.” There are some artists in the exhibition that are using art simply as a means to help them better their lives, such as Jordam Burnham.
Director of Violence Transformed, Mary Harvey, summarizes the incredible strength of people and ultimately, summarizes the mission of the organization:
“Violence can pitch us into very dark and disturbing places- taking from us a sense of safety, of hope, of meaning and even of self. Yet we do survive and somehow become able to embrace one another in grief, in anger and in possibility. Injured- some would say damaged- and torn apart by fear and rage and awful acceptance, we pull from the darkness fragments of ourselves and moments of connection. Thus is the fragile but powerfully transformative process by which we pull light from darkness and begin again.”
There is so much we can learn and need to learn from Violence Transformed and the artists and organizations they work with. If you have the means, visit the State House by May 9th. Otherwise, be sure to visit Violence Transformed’s website for upcoming events and to donate to their cause!
**EDIT: A previous version stated that 262,000 people have been murdered by genocide instead of the correct number, 262,000,000**
GET THERE: Take the Green Line to Government Center or the Red Line to Park Street
SEE IT: On view through May 9th.
MORE INFO: http://www.violencetransformed.com