Visual arts review | thru sept. 29 On NPR last week, New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges, author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (PublicAffairs, 2002), suggested to Fresh Air host Terry Gross that even journalists get caught up in patriotism in times of war.
Mpozi Mshale Tolbert"s images from Ground Zero are on exhibit at the Indiana Historical Society through Sept. 29.
Hedges, who says he became addicted to the intensity of war, has covered a number of them, including the Gulf War. He implied that even journalists can lose their objectivity and lost sight of the fact that war is hardly ever productive, wars are never a clean business and they are always complicated affairs that raise larger issues. Two Indianapolis exhibits speak to the tensions between seeing and interpreting, and how, ultimately, we attempt to make sense of and heal from Sept. 11. 9/11 Remembered: Indiana at Ground Zero on view at the Indiana Historical Society, alongside Transformation: Expressions of Renewal and Hope, are local efforts to facilitate healing through expression. In 9/11 Remembered, Star photographer Mpozi Mshale Tolbert and reporter Tom Spalding accompanied Indiana"s disaster relief team to write about relief efforts. Journal accounts of both men accompany the exhibition. The exhibit, which includes color photographs in the human-interest vein, gives a personal view of Sept. 11 as seen from the eyes of photographer Tolbert, whose camera lens focused on individual faces and expressions of grief. But what is most striking about Tolbert"s choice of images is his inclusion of photographs that are not obviously about grief or destruction. One image depicts a crowd of pedestrians on a busy New York street; they are professionally dressed as if headed for work, and some even smile at the camera. In another photo, a woman looks at a diagram in what appears to be a makeshift relief center and appears to be laughing. By way of contrast, Tolbert includes the more expected images of a man being bandaged, burns visible on his cheek as well as an expression of pain and defeat; and a close up shot of a relief worker who gazes at the camera, his green eyes as clear as windows. But the most poignant image of all is that of a rescue dog with a bleeding leg. The dog"s eyes are wide and sharp with pain he has no way of understanding. The innocence of lives lost and forever damaged can"t be explained. But artists will often try to make sense of it, and their expressions can provide a healing balm. This was the intention behind Transformation: Expressions of Renewal and Hope, a collaborative effort on behalf of Arts/Sync, The Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Stutz Artists Association, Primary Colours and the 17 artists whose work is included. Visual art attempts to bring us meaning through symbol and metaphor. Some of this work is simply moving. In Brian Myers" "Umbrellas/Airplanes," umbrellas are propped against the wall like impotent airplanes, perhaps, symbolically speaking, or objects left behind by those who have left this world behind. Other images make more obvious references, while still others seem so remote as to be disconnected from any symbolic or literal interpretation. But overall, the work has strength of purpose and meaning. Divided into four categories, Confusion & Fear, Grief & Despair, Loss & Yearning and Acceptance & Hope, this exhibit is ultimately about grief. And through this window all of us, however connected or disconnected we are from those who perished on Sept. 11, have grieving to do. Both exhibits are on view through Sept. 29 at the Indiana Historical Society. The artwork in Transformation will be auctioned in early October and proceeds will to go Gleaners Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and the Madame Walker Theater Center"s Youth in Arts program. For information about Transformation, or to make a bid on artwork, call Stan Blevins at 847-1625. For information about both exhibits, visitwww.indianahistory.org