Krista Kelly

Krista Kelly

Short Exhibition Review

Erina Duganne

Texas State Galleries: Gallery [1]

Many Wars

Illumination of Internal Pain

Upon walking into the exhibition of Many Wars by Suzanne Opton the audience is confronted with darkness, the only light is across the room illuminating six prints of five men and one woman soldier presenting the psychological effects of war through photography. Each subject is covered in a thick blanket that is mute or neutral in color and has a solemn facial expression and appear to be attempting to hide from the viewer. This is achieved through the use of the blanket or through the redirection of their gaze. By redirecting their gaze and physically covering themselves it seems as if they are trying to hide some form of psychological pain, further distancing themselves from society i.e. the viewer and deeper into their own dark shadows. Though each subject has a solemn stare, there are a few of the subjects who are looking directly at the viewer, confronting them with the emotion portrayed within their eyes and in their stance.

It is the subject that is titled Pia Towle-Kimball – Iraq, who is one of the subjects confronting the viewer with a direct gaze. She has the blanket cloaked over her head and around her shoulders in a similar manner as the Virgin Mary. Her face is solemn and the viewer can see the pain in her eyes, however, through this “direct pain” the viewer can also get the sense of an exhausted strength that exists within her and that has developed through her processing the traumatic stress that can be an effect of war. It is still noticeable that even though she has strength in her confrontational stare, that she still remains physically hidden by the blanket which could be seen as allusion to hiding her pain.

This context of hiding does not only exist within in the prints subjects, as seen through  facial expressions, gaze and their use of a blanket as a means to physically hide themselves, but it also exists in the way the exhibit space is set up. The darkness enveloping most of the space takes the audience off guard and is done by allowing them to enter into a darkness they may not be accustom to seeing in an everyday exhibit. Much like the darkness that most aren’t accustom to seeing in everyday life that is only a product of one being and fighting in a war like the subjects of the prints. While the viewer is being consumed in darkness the only light provided is being used to illuminate a pain that is not only hidden in the darkness but has become a part of the darkness. The viewer could experience this use of darkness and illumination as if they are stepping into and even being invited into the dark psyche of the subjects and getting to see a portrayal of the pain they experience and hide every day. Which successfully puts the viewer in the mind and the shoes of these soldiers by allowing them to both feel hidden within the space while still feeling exposed. (512)

Image result for suzanne opton many wars

Suzanne Opton, Many Wars: Pia Towle-Kimball, Iraq