When the World Trade Center collapsed, New York City and the rest of the nation were permanently shifted.
“Post 9/11, this world changed dramatically — [our world] didn’t feel as safe,“Dorsky Gallery curator, Marie Mathews-Berenson, said, “Artists all over the world, not just the United States, faced many more cataclysmic effects [after this].”
In the new exhibit “Homeland [IN] Security: Vanishing Dreams,” more than 20 artists portray how a world where terms such as “national security” and “crisis” became everyday speak this way.
Mathews-Berenson described her reason to draw attention to the phenomena after a friend said to her, “... watch what the artists are doing. There will be a fallout from this. They’ll be doing this for a decade, plus.”
And so, she began to travel and take notes, collecting biographies and resumes of artists.
But it wasn’t just images of the Twin Towers or burning infernos that the artists focused on. They, instead, call attention to myriad social, technological, climatic and political issues that result from tragic circumstances experienced firsthand or virtually.
One of the first, and most recognizable, images comes from artist Brian Tolle, who took influence from Levittown, NY, one of the United States’ first suburbs. The piece features a blue silicon house draped over a standalone wheelchair, creating a melancholy effect meant to symbolise housing problems veterans faced after returning home from Iraq.
The pieces, “Old Glory,” and “Out of Service,” are updates from Tolle’s previous work so that he could allude to the national housing crisis.
Further into the gallery, a perplexing image of hair extensions transformed into an architectural sculpture tells the story of some of the businesses that suffered after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Loren Schwerd’s piece was inspired by the skeletons that once were small shotgun houses in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, a largely poor area badly damaged by the hurricane.
Stephanie Imbeau, however, took a more simplistic route. Berenson told the story of Imbeau, who said she felt “the idea of home and comfort were elusive to her ... she tried to find her way back to art.”
The concept was apparent in her work; tiny, unglazed porcelain houses stand delicately on a platform, which appears collapsible from mere touch.
Fragility and disparity are major themes throughout the exhibit.
Allison Peller, Berenson’s partner in creating “Homeland,” felt the piece that most captivated those themes was Chris Verene’s diptych photographs entitled “Galesburg.” The family in the two pictures — Amber and two of her daughters — were documented during their time spent living in the family car, and eventual transition to an abandoned restaurant, where they reunited with the rest of Amber’s children.
Peller, who is enrolled in graduate studies at the School of Visual Arts, had been working with Berenson for three years on the project.
With all the despair and tragedy, Peller and Mathews-Berenson felt there needed to be some kind of silver lining to all the sorrow.
“This [the exhibit] was kind of a downer, as Margaret put it,” she said. “We needed something hopeful,” she said.
To get it, Peller searched YouTube for groups and solutions that interested both her and Mathews-Berenson. She put together a nearly two-hour compilation of clips featuring artists, innovators and architects demonstrating their ideas online for solutions to the world-housing crisis.
In accordance with their positive outlook, the Dorsky Gallery has also scheduled two events that look toward the artists’ and industry professionals’ opinion of the impact the disasters had on various societies. “Securing Homeland: Rebounding/Rebuilding for a Sustainable Future,” a panel discussion, will be held at the gallery on Oct. 26 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. It will feature a panel of housing program coordinators, a professor and an artist featured in “Homeland,” Mary Mattingly.
The second event, a curator and artist tour, will be on Nov. 9 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Artists who will accompany Mathews-Berenson, Peller and visitors include Ben Grasso, Stephanie Imbeau, Rob Stephenson, Brian Tolle and Chris Verene.