Exhibit at the Harn examines violence


Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 at 11:29 p.m.
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This drawing of a young Robert De Niro from the movie "Taxi Driver" is part of an exhibit opening Tuesday at the Harn.

Special to The Sun

Facts

FYI: Violence exhibit

  • WHAT: The Culture of Violence, an art exhibit examining the influence of violence in America.
  • WHERE: University of Florida's Harn Museum of Art, SW 34th Street and Hull Road, 392-9826.
  • WHEN: Tuesday through April 27.

  • A drawing of a young Robert De Niro ready to pull his gun's trigger in the movie "Taxi Driver."
    The faces of victims of gun violence printed on silk panels.
    Photographs of Rodney King being clubbed by police.
    All of these images are part of a new exhibit titled "The Culture of Violence," opening at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida on Tuesday. Organizers have been planning for the show's arrival for almost a year.
    The museum has been involving the community and getting ideas about the exhibit before it opens.
    Kerry Oliver-Smith, the Harn's curator of contemporary art, said the talks with different groups weren't held as a precaution.
    Last year, an exhibit at Santa Fe Community College that showed graphic sexual images superimposed on pictures of Jesus Christ and other biblical figures drew criticism and allegations that the work was pornographic.
    Oliver-Smith said organizers worked with other groups because they wanted the Harn's newest exhibit to be a collaborative effort.
    "I honestly feel like this exhibition isn't complete unless we do that," she said.
    That effort to involve other programs in the show has created what Barbara Bennett Woodhouse, a University of Florida law professor and director of the Center on Children and the Law, calls a multidisciplinary look at violence in America. The exhibit, for example, will be tied to an upcoming seminar in March on children and violence, co-sponsored by the center.
    "I think the Harn has done a wonderful job of identifying all of the stakeholders or constituents in the community who are concerned about violence in all of its forms," she said.
    Through a series of meetings starting last summer, representatives from groups such as the Domestic Abuse Network and Peaceful Paths were given a chance to see some of the show's pieces and suggest ways to make the exhibit better.
    Organizers say similar efforts were made when the exhibit opened at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst last year.
    Suggestions about the show have ranged from offering information at the museum about help for crime victims to limiting access to the rooms where the show will be housed.
    "By limiting the number of ways to get into the exhibition . . . we are trying to be sensitive to parents and people who just may not choose to go through the exhibition," said Kimberly Rhoden, director of marketing and public relations for the Harn.
    Normally, six doorways lead to the area. But only two will be kept open, meaning there will be less chance for someone to stumble across the exhibit.
    Rhoden doesn't believe visitors will have a problem with the show.
    "The exhibit explores all the different styles of violence that exist in our community, nationally and locally. Most of us would say we hate violence. But when you look at our popular media . . . there's obviously an attraction there to violence. The idea of the exhibition is to get people to think, soberly, what are we as a society and how can we change it."
    Rhoden said the exhibit does not glorify violence.
    "It's really meant to encourage dialogue and, hopefully, healing," he said.
    Some pieces, however, could be considered graphic. Among them is a drawing that depicts a rape and another that refers to child abuse.
    "There was some concern that someone who has been a victim of that would go through the exhibition and would have a very strong response to that," Rhoden said. "We realized we're not counselors, and we are not there to do that. But the United Way has given pamphlets we can give if someone is distraught or interested in more information" about groups that work with crime victims.
    Staff members at the Harn have also received training on the exhibit, information about local programs for victims of violence and other activities around the area that will correspond to the exhibit. For example, the Alachua County Medical Society will be using the exhibit as the basis for a community education program on domestic violence for area physicians.
    Signs will be placed around the museum explaining the exhibit, its graphic nature and that it may not be suitable for children. Regular tours of the museum by elementary school children will not include the exhibit, Rhoden said.
    Dave Remer, director of Victim/Witness Services for the State Attorney's Office, said he believes there still could be negative reaction from some people or groups about the exhibit.
    Remer also was involved in some of the early meetings regarding the exhibit. He said he feels that discussing violence and its impact on the community is appropriate.
    "If it opens discussions on that, that's very positive," he said. "Hopefully, people will dig deeper than the surface of the picture."
    Oliver-Smith said the exhibit shows that art is about more than aesthetics.
    "I think art also, at the same time, is engaged in social issues and the reflection of the culture. This one is certainly pointed toward social issues," she said.
    "I think what we would like to do is call attention, raise awareness. People will question why we are, perhaps, a culture of violence and that it will inspire response."
    Lise Fisher can be reached at 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun. com.

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