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Art Exhibition Explores Themes of Violence, Healing

Claudia Alvarez
Photo courtesy of the Society for Contemporary Craft

A group of toddlers stands with their hands in the air; another toddler points a gun straight at them.

This is the first thing visitors to the new Contemporary Craft exhibition ENOUGH Violence: Artists Speak Out will see.

The scene is part of a ceramic sculpture series by Claudia Alvarez, who is one of fourteen artists included in the exhibition.

The artwork investigates the impact violence has on our lives, as well as the role of creative expression in overcoming the trauma caused by violence.

Janet McCall, Executive Director of the Society for Contemporary Craft, said not all of the pieces are as jarring as Alvarez’s, because many people may be turned off by such a shocking display.

“We very thoughtfully selected works of art that we felt provided opportunities for expression, for conversation, for healing,” said McCall. “We wanted that to be the direction of the show.”

A piece by former Pittsburgher Boris Bally repurposes guns collected by municipal buyback programs.

Credit Aaron Usher III / Photo courtesy of the Society for Contemporary Craft
Photo courtesy of the Society for Contemporary Craft
"Loaded Menorah" by Boris Bally

“He’s made a beautiful large scale menorah sculpture, a symbol of light and healing, out of some of these guns that came back from the street,” said McCall.

The exhibition is somewhat of a departure for Contemporary Craft. Not only will it run for seven months, but it also incorporates community outreach and a speaker series.

McCall said she hopes visitors will find the experience to be a healing one. She said many people find it difficult to talk about violent episodes, and the exhibition offers people a variety of ways to share their stories.

“They might express that story in a drawing that they would create,” said McCall. “They might express that story in writing down what happened to them. They might, through looking at one of the works of art that an artist has made, begin to allow their own emotions to come to the surface.”

McCall said at least one featured artist found that her feelings surfaced as she was creating her art.

Julie Sirek, who herself grew up in a family where there was a lot of physical abuse … said she learned at the age of 7 that when this violence occurred, she was not allowed to speak about it, to acknowledge it in any way, and she had to just stuff it back into herself,” said McCall.

Sirek is a textile artist who began making delicate white dresses as a tribute to victims of domestic violence, but she soon found that the process helped her deal with her feelings about her own violent experiences.

Contemporary Craft’s exhibition ENOUGH Violence: Artists Speak Out is free to the public and runs through March 22nd.