LOCATIONAL IDENTITY: MOVING FROM TRAUMA TO FREEDOM

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Photographs courtesy of Emily Albr

MARK BLANCHARD (FAR RIGHT) DISCUSSES HIS WORKS WHILE OTHER PANEL ARTISTS LISTEN

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Even though many UIS students only go to Speaker Series events because they are required to, there is always an important message to take home. In the case of “Locational Identity: Moving from Trauma to Freedom,” the hope is that students will better be able to understand and identify the schisms between groups of people, why they exist, and how these people can reconnect after centuries of trauma and violence.

Co-sponsored by the UIS Visual Arts Gallery and the Chicago Artists Coalition, last Monday’s ECCE discussion featured the artists of the current Visual Arts Gallery exhibition, “To Unmake a Fold.” Cass Davis, Mark Blanchard, kwabena foli and Kelly Kristin Jones each explained their works in detail while applying those contributions to the greater theme of the exhibition and its counterpart currently being displayed at the Chicago Artists Coalition, “Tracing Faults.” A reception and catalog release was held afterward.

Even though the artists all come from different sociocultural backgrounds, they each have faced struggles within their own communities to be heard, seen and treated justly. Cass Davis grew up in a rural, small town in central Illinois and was instructed to see the world through a narrow evangelical lens. Though some find comfort and freedom in religion, Davis felt ostracized as a queer individual, eventually relocating to the Windy City to create art. Her pieces capture the stark contrast among farmscapes and city -scapes, shedding light on the polarization between differing communities.

Mark Blanchard plays with identity politics and the juxtaposition between the image of the self that others project onto someone and his or her actual self. Blanchard can be seen capturing a photograph of hooded figures in a dark home or creating a virtual reality game allowing the participant an objective look into the lives of south side Chicago residents. He wants people to think about the things that they have been conditioned to think so they can transcend those limitations.

kwabena foli also grew up on the South Side of Chicago and experienced discrimination, judgement and isolation because of his ethnicity. He addressed the fact that the common narrative about Chicagoan black men is primarily negative, constricting and violent, making him feel caged in by those around him. However, these experiences have given him the drive to vent about these issues openly so that they may be eradicated. “All social change starts with imagination,” he stated during the panel talk. Prospectively, foli hopes that by shedding light on these experiences and the unseen humanity in his sociocultural subgroup, the story can be rewritten.

Kelly Kristin Jones utilized location as a “genesis of art.” Her most prominent pieces involve using photoshop techniques to cover misleading monuments in which white men are glamorized in fabricated or exaggerated stories. Even though this is a futile act – a cry into the void – she hopes that these bold actions free space up for everyone, if only for a moment. Her works in the gallery feature photographs of “old white male” monuments covered up with a wide variety of feminine features, an absurdist collaboration sardonically poking fun at the situation.
“To Unmake a Fold” will continue through February 20 during standard Health and Sciences building (HSB) operating hours.