Reception for Artists: Saturday, October 7, 5-7 pm
Mark Bennington, America 2.0
Mosammet, 17, Brooklyn Tech High School, pigment print by Mark Bennington. “We are a nation of immigrants. I do not accept someone who calls my fellow brothers and sisters of color ‘murderers and thieves’. I do not accept someone who utilizes fear mongering to turn half the country against the rest. I will not stand my mother or my sisters being forced to remove their hijab and I will not stand my father and brother being called ‘terrorists’. I LOVE LIFE, but as an American citizen, I have never been so disappointed in America.”
Jenan, 25, Brand manager at a law firm and creator of the blog MissMuslim.com: “As a Muslim woman there were a lot of things that we were told we cannot talk about… Things that were seen as inappropriate like dating, going to college, traveling on your own, starting your own career… the stereotypical notion that you grow up, you get married, you have children, and that’s your life- you don’t have sex before marriage, etc. I appreciate my religion and it is a huge part of my identity, but, I think I have found a really good balance between my American identity and my Arab Muslim identity. Plus with this blog, I found that there are [many] girls who are at the same level of religiosity as I am and it’s so nice to connect with them.”
Marina, 28, works at the United Nations: “I’m from Hungary. My grandparents were refugees, political refugees, so they took part in the revolution. They fled eventually. So, I’m very strongly connected with that identity. Coming to the US was a huge transformation for me in terms of my religious identity. I reverted to Islam, and it happened when I was searching for my cultural roots and I discovered that actually, Hungary itself has a history with Islam, it’s a strong history and it goes back way before even the Ottoman Empire. I always identified as Muslim growing up, but only wore the hijab for five years and it was actually when I moved to the US that I stopped. It became this intense fear that I had, a kind of paranoia I guess, [so] I took it off. And I ended up having this identity crisis because people in the US have a stereotype of what it means to be a Muslim, and they associate that with certain backgrounds or regions of the world, they associate it with foreignness, and I had a really hard time with no longer visibly identifying as a Muslim, wearing a hijab. I found myself sort of stuck, not really being able to integrate with the Muslim community here in New York City and at the same time having people not understand that I did identify as a Muslim. And the thing is – every time there’s been some sort of incident that happens in the media, whether that’s abroad or here, the Muslim community is very traumatized, over and over again. And I don’t think that individuals outside the community, in the American society, understand that. We are living under siege sometimes and that is very difficult to cope with, mentally and physically.”
Carlos Saavedra, Women Fighters, Unknown Memories (Bangladesh)
Laila Parveen Banu, video still from Women Fighters, Unknown Memories by Carlos Saavedra
Laila Parveen Banu was a teenager during the war and when she saw her father and grandfather die she decided to participate in the 1971 armed conflict. Today she is a very recognized and influential doctor in the Bengali society. I went to her childhood home in her hometown and this is the bed where her father slept before he died. 2016
Jean Schnell, Framing the Light:
Quaker Meetinghouses as Space and Spirit
Allen’s Neck II by Jean Schnell
About the Artists
Mark Bennington, America 2.0
Shahid and Hanzalah, 18 and 20, College students, Pigment print by Mark Bennington. “So, we met initially back in Brooklyn Tech High School at the MIST Club (Muslim Interscholastic Tournament- a state/ national level tournament where Muslim high school students compete in 40 different competitions ranging from debate and improv, to spoken word). We were talking about software engineering and complaining about teachers, term projects, etc. At first I was thinking, ‘Ahhh, a mini me! I’ll take him under my wing!’, but then the more we hung out, the more it became clear that I was usually the one who needed more help between the two of us. Nowadays, Shahid is the kind of guy I’ll message at 2 am with some strange insomnia induced epiphany and he’ll take 2 seconds to tell me the massively obvious hole in my logic and tell me to go to sleep. I’m amazed we’ve known each other for so many years because in many ways it still feels like we only recently met- there’s a timelessness to it and honestly, it feels more like family.”
Zacharia, 22, singer, songwriter, musician: “It actually a started at a talent show when I was in high school. No one knew that I sang. I was 14 and nervous as hell! One of my friends recorded my show on his phone, and the next day in school everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, I heard you sing on Facebook!” This is when Facebook was in its prime for the youth. My cousin was in a band and saw the video too. He called up and said, ‘We’d love you. Come join the band’. That was the beginning for me and music.”
America 2.0 is a translation through representation of what a dynamic American community looks like. This project, Mark Bennington’s newest body of work, began over the summer of 2016 and is a direct response to the politicized images of American Muslims depicted as a plagued foreign diaspora. It is about the universality of youth – young Muslims who are vivacious, earnest and informed and eager to participate in their American democracy. Shot in the studio and painted with only natural light, the images are meant to invoke the timelessness of the first American portraits taken by Matthew Brady in New York City. Against a neutral grey background, the vibrancy of each subject stands out in sharp relief, symbolizing clarity in the midst of all the political noise. This is our young complex America, simultaneously integrated, independent, and highly networked. These images are Bennington’s attempt to harness concerns into the normalcy of daily life and start to shift the national dialogue to one of unity.
Carlos Saavedra, Women Fighters (Series 1: Bangladesh, 1971)
Krishna Rahman, video still From Women Fighters, Unknown Memories by Carlos Saavedra
Shirin Banu Mitil’s Memory #1: Shirin Banu Mitil dressed as a man to join in the 1971 independence war. One of her strongest memories was to fight in an old cinema hall in her hometown. This was a room inside the cinema Hall. Silver gelatin print by Carlos Saavedra.
Carlos Saavedra’s extended series of women who have fought in wars for independence is a tribute to by the artist through hushed video portraits and black and white mediated visions of their memories that until now have been left with no physical support.
The first chapter of this project, presented here, was developed in Bangladesh and India during 2016. Saavedra collected information about the role and participation of several women in the Bangladeshi Independence War and the events surrounding it that marked them: the student movements, the political parties and the guerrillas that for several decades have been part of the territorial and religious conflicts of the region.
Saavedra’s brief silent videos present portraits of fifteen Banladeshi women who had a role in their country’s armed conflict. Although the stereotypes of war leave women in the exclusive role of impotence, fragility or victimization, the courageous testimonies he has collected bring the strength and courage of women to the forefront.
Saavedra’s black and white photographs represent a memory described to him during interviews with each woman. “The interviews are my roadmap: I travel to places in their past to register the objects and spaces from their memories, attempting to reconstruct them visually.” His goal is not only to fix those verbal memories through the photograph but in so doing, transform each into a social and collective asset.
Bio: Award winning Colombian photographer Carlos Saavedra’s projects have focused upon key moments in the lives of his subjects such as birth, motherhood, political action, old age and death. His photographs and videos have been exhibited in New York, Woodstock, Los Angeles, London, Turkey, Washington DC, Mexico City and Dhaka. His work has appeared in print and online media originating in Columbia, England, United States and other countries. Saavedra was selected for the Ian Parry Scholarship, the 2015 New York times Portfolio Review, the 2015 Eddie Adams Workshop and was a finalist for Photo of the Year for National Geographic in 2012. He studied Photography at Lasalle College in Bogotá.
In The Journey (El viaje), Claudia Ruiz-Gustafson pieces together a visual diary from her early years in Lima, Peru to her later experiences after arriving in this country with nothing but a suitcase. She constructs her diary’s pages using a wide range of photographic resources. These include old family snapshots, objects of sentimental value and scraps of her journals destroyed in a rage—which she credits for planting the seed to start the visual diary to preserve her memories.
With these elements, Ruiz-Gustafson remembers her family history from her idyllic childhood in Lima to the pivotal experiences that led to living in fear during the terrorist attacks by Sendero Luminoso and to her growing feelings of alienation from society and religion. In her diary entries of more recent times, the artist adds symbolic objects and photographs of women at different ages to represent her ongoing journey, reflect on her fears and dreams, and portray her resilience.
Bio: Claudia Ruiz-Gustafson is a Massachusetts-based photographer who grew up in Lima, Peru. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the New England area, among them the Griffin Museum of Photography, Danforth Art Museum, Sohn Fine Art Gallery, U-Forge Gallery, Fountain Street Gallery, the Providence Center for Photographic Arts, and the Cambridge Art Association Galleries. In Lima, she worked as a freelance photographer for a local feminist magazine and a regional newspaper. In 2005, she started her photography business in the Boston area.
Jean Schnell, Framing the Light:
Quaker Meetinghouses as Space and Spirit
East Sandwich II by Jean Schnell
Light has many meanings for Jean Schnell. As a photographer it is a subject in and of itself. As a Quaker, Light is a metaphor for the Divine. It means connection with the most inner self, or the Inner Light as Quakers call it. It gives her a sense of peace and clarity. For Framing the Light, Schnell began each day of photographing with silent meditation. It is a quiet, reflective and serene process. She also paid special attention to the light. As she worked through the day, the light traveled around the space illuminating the benches, walls and floors in subtle and revealing ways. Though these Quaker meetinghouses seem empty, Schnell sees them as full of both light and Light. “I could pause, gather strength, peace, clarity and serenity in the spaces. They are sanctuaries, and I think they are needed in this increasingly chaotic world.”
Bio Jean Schnell’s recent work has been exhibited in solo exhibits including the Feldman Family Art Space on Martha’s Vineyard, the Friends Meeting of Cambridge and at Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Wallingford, PA. Her photographs have also appeared in numerous group shows in the New England region. In 2017 Framing the Light photographs appeared in Lenswork Magazine. She was also the featured artist on Aspect Initiative online gallery. Her Quaker meetinghouse photographs have been featured in the Friends Journal accompanied by her article called “Framing the Light: Quaker Meetinghouses as Space and Spirit.”