City Lights Gallery gave artists the chance to “Make Art Not War” in Bridgeport, on Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. The evening consisted of lectures directly from the artists featured in the exhibit.
Their artwork was a part of an open discussion with the guests that came where they had the opportunity to answer questions and give feedback on the artists’ work.
The exhibit displayed all types of art including digital collages, paintings, abstracts, pop-ups, sculptures and film.
Gallery Curator Suzanne Kachmar was very happy with the turnout of the event. To start the talk off, Kachmar began with welcoming everyone and speaking of the occasion.
“When I realized that the talk was going to be on 9/11, I was challenged with the question, would that be a bad idea? Then I realized the reason why that tragedy occurred was because we don’t have enough dialogue. Which is what today is all about,” said Kachmar.
Kachmar then introduced her artwork that was featured in the gallery. It was a pop-up that had an American flag and on top of the flag was a toy gun. She continued to explain its creation, bringing up certain elements that were important to her like the toy gun, elaborating on how a dangerous weapon is being given to a child in toy form and that’s where it all begins.
“When I look at art, I think of two things: design and content,” said Kachmar. “I look at what the message could be and then how it was executed.”
To follow up, Margaret Roleke presented her artwork, which was a vibrant, large, 3-D piece that was called “Cowboys and Indians.” It involved many toy soldiers, toy fences and other toys one can think of.
“My artwork is supposed to look visually interesting with bright colors and something to admire. But, when an onlooker looks deeper you begin to see the elements that I’ve hidden to relate to the message I’m trying to convey,” said Roleke
Artist Gustavo Azael Torres stood to introduce his two different pieces. His art was unique because it wasn’t about a certain issue of war in aspect of gun violence, racism or battle, but of the war within oneself. On a wood canvas, viewers saw a man with a bullet hole through his head surrounded with birds.
“There is a bullet hole because when I was younger, at a corner store, I ended up having a gun pointed at my head,” said Torres. “This is how I let it out.”
Many comments were made about the emotion in his piece, but when asked more about the issue of not making war he stated, “War can be external and internal. Instead of going on that road, I decided when I get angry to have my escape through art.”
He continuously stated, “My art is my journal.”
The night continued to go on like that, where the audience followed around the room to hear each artist explain his or her piece, have an open discussion, and answer questions.
One discussion escalated quickly into an argument on gun violence after looking at Rod Cook’s art. The piece consisted of a digital collage of pictures of naked women posing with guns in addition to newspaper clippings involving gun violence.
Cook stated, “I liked the idea that the influence [naked women holding guns] is sitting on the results [massacres involving guns].”
The argument then grew from the fact that, nowadays, it is okay for people to pose with guns, which some members of the audience disagreed with. The right to bear arms was also brought up where one member stated, “If a person has a gun, what makes him or her think that he or she could take on the entire US army by having a gun.”
Artist Iyaba Ibo Mandingo introduced his work uniquely, reciting an original poem titled “9/11,” which spoke about how not only America suffers, but the entire world.
The last artist to present was Mia Lipstick, who introduced her three pieces involving a huge peace sign and daisies. She ended her discussion asking everyone there to raise their hands giving a peace sign and recite the Peace Pledge. The room raised up their peace signs and repeated after her, promising to keep love and peace in their hearts forever.
After the exhibition, Kachmar was asked why she decided to have these artists speak.
“I think it’s important for those who don’t understand expression through the arts to get words with it. Having an opportunity to hear the artists explain their pieces and get back story allows the viewer to appreciate the work more and also helps artists with getting feedback on his or her work,” said Kachmar.
If you have not been exposed to the exhibit, “Make ART not WAR” gallery will be open through Sept. 24. Visit City Gallery at 37 Marcle Court in Bridgeport or visit citylightsgallery.org.