I know some people are frequent visitors of the Katzen Arts Center, but for those that haven't crossed Nebraska Ave since you took that one art class there, I am here to convince you to maybe make the trek over and check it out again. So, to that end, let's go on a literary walk-through of the museum, and hopefully, by the end, I will have convinced you to go see these artists’ pieces in person.
Step through the glass doors and walk past the front desk and your eyes will immediately be caught by the shifting colors and textures of Diane Burko’s “Lenticulars.” With your every movement, the light causes the colors to swirl like water, wind, and ice, introducing you to her exhibit: Seeing Climate Change. Diane Burko is a painter, photographer, and climate activist who has seen the damaging effects of climate change first hand. Her work in this exhibit focuses heavily on the melting of arctic ice and the loss of coral reefs. Her paintings take up whole walls of the museum and include a variety of textures achieved through paint as well as textiles and other found objects. Recently, she has included a series on COVID-19 and the death that it has caused in our world. Her works are interactive even without touching them; I feel like I could look at them for a long time and still notice something new about it with every new glance. Somehow she has captured both the beauty of our natural environments as well as the tragedy of their devastation.
Photo from: PSB whyy.org / posted May, 28 2019
Continue up the Katzen museum steps to the second floor and your eyes will be drawn upwards as you are met by the massive hanging tapestries by Amber Robles-Gordon. You have made it to the second exhibit: Traversing US Colonialism. The collection includes paintings, collages, and tapestries
that discuss the relationship between US policy and US territories specifically surrounding access to resources, citizenship, and the right to sovereignty. Robles-Gordon was born in Puerto Rico and now resides in Washington DC; both locations are reflected in her work and she addresses the individual struggles of each as well as how they affect each other. My personal favorite pieces in this exhibit are her collages. They are eclectic and at first glance chaotic, but after looking closer you can see the organization and very intentional positioning of each element. She includes different materials, objects, images, photos, drawings, and paint to create extremely colorful and eye-catching pieces. I also really appreciate how personal her work is, she always connects her pieces to her personal experience and her communities which gives her work a much deeper and more emotional feeling to them. Similar to Diane Burko, I feel as if I could look at Robles-Gordon’s work for hours and still pick up on new intricacies.
Photo from: amberroblesgordon.com / posted June 21, 2021
Title: Reflexiones sobre el yo, la virgen maría y el colonialismo by Amber Robles-Gordon
By now your feet may be getting a little sore, but you won't regret it if you muster the energy to climb just one more flight of stairs to the top floor of the Katzen where you will find photographer Philip Brookman’s exhibit titled In the Light of Memory, 1969–2021. I’ve always been drawn to photography. I see it as a window into other people's lives, a snapshot of a singular scene that will never appear again quite the same way, and I think capturing that temporary moment in time is beautiful. That is probably why I loved this exhibit so much. In his In the Light of Memory series, Brookman captures mundane everyday life, whether that is a portrait of someone he meets in the subway, a friend, or a street view in the morning before anyone has woken up. His photos are real and untouched and always feel intimate like you could be standing right there next to the camera. Brookman has been working as a photographer and
curator since the 1970s and his commitment to social justice has influenced the subject matter of his work. In his diverse body of work and subject matter, he perfectly captures the imperfections and grit of everyday life from beauty and joy to struggle and pain. The exhibit showcases photos from many different places and environments both nationally and internationally. As you walk through his exhibit you will pass a quote on the wall that made me stop and write it down in my notebook. Not only do I think this quote perfectly explains the connecting thread of this exhibit that may otherwise seem random, but it also inspired me to think about my future work this way. It reads,
“My pictures are a visual diary of my experiences, but it’s a diary that does not follow a timeline or narrative. Maybe it’s more like a dream journal.”
Photo from: americansuburbx.com / posted July, 14 2015
You can see all these artists and more from now until December 12, and I couldn’t recommend it enough!