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"One Thousand Words: Storytelling Images from Cultures Around the World"
2002-06-24 until 2002-09-29
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Sheboygan, WI, USA United States of America

Storytelling, arguably the oldest of the arts, is explored in the John Michael Kohler Arts Center exhibition "One Thousand Words", on view June 23 through September 29, 2002. This exhibition, comprised of images that reach beyond words to tell stories from cultures around the world, is one in a series of exhibitions, performances, and programs upcoming at the Arts Center that will focus on storytelling in the visual, performing, and literary arts.

Storytelling has historically served as a form of entertainment but also as a cultural necessity. Stories carry histories, map moral laws and religious beliefs, and teach lessons of survival. Whether bearing sorrow, humor, or wisdom, they are remembered rather than memorized, they are given as gifts and belong to all. A good story is told time and again over the centuries; it travels from country to country, in each place picking up something new as well as leaving something behind. Tales, myths, fables, parables, yarns, and legends are all variations on the story, but they all address humanity. Scholar and specialist in oral traditions W.S. Penn writes, that stories "put the 'I' in the context of the 'We.'"

A picture, it is often said, is worth one thousand words. Images predate language and are still able to transcend it. The images in ONE THOUSAND WORDS convey ways in which stories carry meaning for diverse cultures and help them understand their common bonds.

While oral stories leave images up to the imagination, visual tales leave the actual narrative open to interpretation. For example, New York artist Whitfield Lovell draws on the rich minefield of human memory and imagination. His imagery emanates from photographic studio portraits of his grandmother's relatives in the 1920s and '30s as well as similar photographs of African Americans that he found in flea markets and thrift shops. His graphite drawings of people long dead seem hauntingly illuminated by people we feel we have known. Rife with personalized though fading detail, the drawn images are juxtaposed with telling artifacts such as a jar of pennies or a softly playing radio, thus tapping into the viewer's own associations with objects and the universal expressions of pride, tenacity, and endurance.

Similarly, Tracey Moffatt, an Aboriginal Australian photographer and filmmaker, makes complex narrative images that provoke stories in the mind of the viewer. Her works capture the surreal quality of dreams as she explores how pop culture and her native heritage have blended to shape her life. From folk-style narratives of everyday events to the evocation of ghosts and dreams, the artists in the exhibition - - sometimes inadvertently - - portray their own cultural relationship to the art of storytelling.

Other artists whose works are included in the exhibition are James Barsness (NY), Jose Bedia (Cuba and Mexico), Murat Brierre (Haiti; 1938-1988), David Butler (LA; 1889-1997), Evadney Cruickshank (Jamaica), Amy Cutler (NY), Henry Darger (IL; 1892-1972), Thornton Dial (AL), Sam Doyle (SC; 1906-1985), Marcel Dzama (Canada), Walton Ford (NY), Peter Gourfain (NY), Jonathan Green (FL), Jane Hammond (NY), Clementine Hunter (LA; 1886-1988), Eugene Jean (Haiti), Judy Jensen (TX), Fred Kabotie (Hopi, AZ; c. 1900-1986), William Kentridge (South Africa), Georges Liautaud (Haiti; 1899-1991), Niles Long Horse (Oglala Sioux, Northern Plains; d. 1890), Whitfield Lovell (NY), Tracey Moffatt (Australia), Irene Hardwicke Olivieri (NY), Deborah Priestly (NY), Alison Saar (NY), Herbert Singelton (LA), Eugene Standing Elk (Cheyenne; d. 1882), Bill Traylor (AL; 1853-1949), and Sylvester Woods (Jamaica).


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