Exhibit explores human rights and social issues



The “Human Rights and Social Issues” exhibition is on display in Rod Library.

SOFIA LEGASPI, Campus Life Editor | [email protected]u

A “Human Rights and Social Issues” exhibition is currently on display in the Learning Commons of the Rod Library. The exhibit corresponds with the Frederick Douglass Power of Words Festival taking place this week.

Julie Ann Beddow, fine and performing arts collection library assistant, organized the exhibit and coordinated the theme.

“We were fortunate enough to work with Darrell Taylor of the UNI Gallery of Art,” Beddow said. “He loaned several pieces that were thematically selected [. . .] so we have some really fascinating pieces that cover those issues and that would fall under the social issues.”

Issues addressed in the exhibit include anorexia, suicide, protest and LGBTQ struggles.

One of the most striking pieces on the wall depicts a woman reclining on a sofa with a cup in hand labeled “DIET.” Macabre figures surround her and appear to be mocking her, one holding up a mirror with the word “FATTIE.” In the bottom right corner, a girl embraces a coffin. Other words in the image include “CALORIES” and “THINNER.”

“When we unwrapped and brought all the pieces over, that is the piece that got more responses from head-turnings as we were hanging the work on the wall,” Beddow said about the piece, a lithograph by Jenny Schmid titled “Anorexia Girl” from The Downfall of Young Girls Series.

Two UNI students — sophomore studio art major Patrick Wilkie and junior finance major Mustafa Akbar — helped curate the exhibit. Both expressed how difficult curating can be.

“It’s amazing how much we can accomplish through teamwork,” Akbar said about the experience. “People think that putting up an exhibition is only about picking up nice artwork. But putting together a show is a lot of work, and if you don’t know what you’re doing then you might find yourself [in] over your head.”

Aside from being student-curated, Beddow said that artworks displayed in that particular section of the library are usually student pieces. However, for this exhibition, only one of the pieces on loan from the UNI Permanent Art Collection was student-made. Created by UNI alum Scot John Schwester in 2006, the watercolor piece is titled “After the Protest.”

The other half of the exhibit, dealing with human rights, includes photographs of Irish artist Danny Devenny taken by Phillip Hopper, an assistant professor in UNI’s communications department.

Devenny, best known for painting politically connotative murals, has murals of Frederick Douglass in Ireland and Massachusetts.

“During July 2005 I had the incredible good fortune to encounter Devenny on Falls Road in Belfast, Northern Ireland,” Hopper wrote in his artist statement. “According to Bill Rolston, Devenny first painted a Frederick Douglass mural in 2003 on a wall in New Bedford, Massachusetts opposite the home where Douglass first found refuge after escaping from slavery.”

Rolston had published a series of photo essays documenting political murals in Northern Ireland. While Hopper was photographing Devenny working in 2005, Rolston joined them and began painting alongside Devenny. In one of Hopper’s photographs, he captures “the old friends enjoying a bit of a craic, or mischievous fun, at the expense of a nearby photographer.”

According to Hopper’s artist statement, Douglass had visited the United Kingdom and Ireland in the mid-1840s.During that time, he wrote the following: “I breathe, and lo! the chattel [slave] becomes a man. I gaze around in vain for one who will question my equal humanity, claim me as his slave, or offer me an insult. I employ a cab — I am seated beside white people — I reach the hotel — I enter the same door — I am shown into the same parlour — I dine at the same table — and no one is offended.”

Beddow encouraged students to visit the exhibit while attending the Frederick Douglass Power of Words Festival and celebrating the bicentennial of his birth.

“Also to see some of the social issues that they may only think about and not talk about [. . .] we’ve got it on art on the library walls,” Beddow added.

The Human Rights and Social Issues exhibition will be on display until the end of October. The Frederick Douglass Power of Words Festival continues on campus through Saturday, Sept. 22. A list of events can be found at frederickdouglassfest.uni.edu.