Visual Art

Power of One

Dean Johnson Gallery

Through Aug. 24

We can all feel good about artistic efforts and celebrity proclamations about this cause or that one; but when we're made to see what that proclamation is truly about, a much greater service is performed. Power of One at Dean Johnson Gallery (through Aug. 24) does just that. A small but powerful exhibit that shows the human side of the suffering and hope attached to HIV/AIDS in a community that is so powerless before it, Power of One shows and tells the story of HIV/AIDS in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa through arresting photography in a documentary presentation.

Worldwide, more than 40 million people have been infected with the AIDS virus since it was recognized just two decades ago. Even more striking, at least 70 percent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. You read that right: 70 percent. Roughly 6,500 Africans die from AIDS every day. Currently there are 11 million children there orphaned by the disease - and counting. In Kenya alone there are 1 million orphans - imagine all the children in Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne combined, without parents.

So what gives? While Power of One doesn't get at root causes per se, it focuses on individuals and the on-going challenge of fighting the insidious war between health and diagnosis, debilitation and death. Power of One specifically documents the IU-Kenya Partnership, which began in 1990. Counted as one of the more successful HIV/AIDS treatment programs in Africa, the partnership between Indiana University School of Medicine and Moi University College of Health Sciences in Kenya - called AMPATH (Academic Model for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS) - operates 11 free clinics in and around Eldoret, Kenya. The program has treated more than 10,000 patients, most of whom would not have survived otherwise. The program continues to grow, and now brings in other partner medical institutions.

Power of One speaks to that single inspiration that triggers an individual to take action and make a difference. (An obvious example is Mother Teresa.) But not every individual who sets out to help others, or even one other, and truly makes a difference, becomes a national celebrity, and this is what makes the Power of One effort unique.

Eleven individuals comprise the initial Power of One team, which was begun to bring awareness of the impact of a few on so many. Photographs by the project team who visited Kenya in August 2004 comprise the exhibition, which includes text to form a hybrid presentation format that is both aesthetically pleasing (if disturbing, in some cases) and instructional.

The signature image, by Charlie Russell, is of a small black hand resting in a large white one. Lovely in its simplicity, it also suggests the humanity of helpfulness - a microcosm of the macrocosm that this effort seeks to change. Photographers including Stan Abell, Lori Crantford, Beth Fried, Jonathan Fried, Ron Pettigrew and Charlie Russell collectively offer a beautiful composite of individual lives: from a pretty young woman who smiles for the camera, unashamed of her HIV status, to an older man sitting in a waiting room, his eyes milky and vacant. Then there are the upbeat photographs of doctors and their Kenyan protégés working together in the clinic.

As a former president of South Africa once stated, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." Those who set aside themselves to help others show us that perhaps that's the best kind of power there is.

Power of One is on view at Dean Johnson Gallery, 646 Massachusetts Ave., through Aug. 24. Call 634-8020 or visit for more information.

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