Who is a citizen?
Instead of attending a visiting artist's presentation, I went to the Weisman Art Museum to look at the featured exhibit. This month the theme of the exhibit was "Who is a citizen? What is citizenship?"
This exhibit explores themes about the individual and civic life in thirty paintings, photographs, and prints drawn from the Weisan's permanent collection. Ranging from Lewis Hine's 1905 photographic portraits of immigrants at Ellis Island to Twin Cities photographer Joseph Allan's contemporary portraits of American Indians, these pieces open up ideas about who belongs to a nation or community. Also, they reflect a citizen's rights and how they can exercise them.
There are three respective sections in the exhibit:
Who is a citizen?
-Presents work that questions the exclusion or asserts the inclusion of those who have been overlooked.
Civic life in the city
-Artists show how people share public space, making them members of a community, regardless of legal status of citizenship.
The artist as a citizen
-Where artists are advocates for their own rights and they speak out on social/political issues.
Artists have been engaged in depicting citizens since the days of ancient Greece, when the concept of a citizen as a member of society with rights of self-governance first developed. These concepts of citizenship have changed over time, differing with location.
Examples of artists and their pieces displayed:
-Lewis Hines (1847-1940) uses gelatin silver prints in 'Italian Family Looking For Lost Luggage,' showing Italian immigrants with distraught looks on their faces as they are on a pier surrounded by many bags.
-Joseph Allan (born in 1964) uses color type-C photographic print in 'Phillip Chaltas (Rosebud Lakota/Navajo),' showing a young man sitting on his workbench at Jiffy Lube, looking upset.
-Robert Gwathmey (1903-1988) uses oil on canvas in 'Nobody Around Here Calls Me A Citizen,' showing a dejected African-American man with a symbolic number 2 next to him, connoting the inequality of segregation and the impact of racism in liming civil rights and rights of citizenship.