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Arts Review: “The Future of the Past: Art and Activism”

For the sixth year in a row, Lesley University’s Graduate School for Arts and Sciences, in partnership with Violence Transformed, has opened the exhibit “The Future of the Past: Art and Activism.”  Displayed in Marran Gallery, this exhibit asserts the ability of art, artists and the process of making art to reflect on the modern world. Since 2010, Lesley and Violence Transformed, an annual series of powerful visual and performing arts, have collaborated to bring about recognition of the important role of artists and activists in acknowledging, confronting and challenging violence all around the world. “The Future of the Past” series has been occurring at Lesley since 2014 and focuses on violence relating to a specific group, nation, or point of time in history.

The opening reception took place on March 26th in the Marran Gallery. Attendees were able to explore the exhibit and discovered the meaning of the art. The artists whose work are featured in the exhibit were also able to talk to attendees about their work and the process creating it. Some discussion questions that were proposed to the audience were “Is this the world we want?”, “Is this a society with which we are content?,” and “Should we, can we, will we act to improve our world to address the violence and harm that humankind seems prone to, to pursue social justice for all?”

Twelve artists are featured in the exhibit, two of whom are faculty members in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. By displaying their work, the artists are encouraging people to become actively involved in social change and seeking social justice. Various forms of art are used to represent this, including paintings, sculptures, palettes, a sewn quilt and a dance performance. Each piece focused on a specific social issue. To name a few, The Vulva Quilt, facilitated by Michaela Kirby and Michelle Napoli, speaks out about incest and female sexuality; Stephan Reynolds’ choreographed dance performance “My Brother’s Keeper” addressed masculinity and gender-based oppression; Ginny Sanger portrays feelings of fear many minorities have of the Trump Administration; and Lorie Hammermesh reflects on the feelings of sexual abuse survivors, through watercolor paintings.

This exhibit uses art to make statements for social change in an astounding way. These pieces visualize the emotions and experiences of being a minority in a society, in a way that allows others to understand their experience. It also allows these artists to use their work to make their voices heard, and to represent much larger issues for those who cannot speak for themselves.

The fact that this is the sixth year of this particular exhibit shows Lesley’s commitment to promoting social change by providing art students with an opportunity to involve themselves in social justice. The art is outstanding, and it is evident that everyone involved in this exhibit put immense effort into their work. Their stories, told through their art, allow us to get to know the artist on a personal level in a way that makes us want to keep fighting for change in our society.

“The Future of the Past: Art and Activism” will be on display in the Marran Gallery on the Doble campus until April 15th.

Several examples of the works of art on display in the Marran gallery through April 15th.

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