Artist's exhibit hopes to create multi-faith understanding

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September 4, 2018

fiber art

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, certainly affected many Americans.

It certainly struck a chord with artist Laurie Wohl.

Wohl brings her exhibit, “Birds of Longing: Exile and Memory” runs now through Oct. 28 at the Benedicta Arts Center’s Gorecki Gallery at the College of Saint Benedict as part of the Fine Arts Series at CSB and Saint John’s University. The exhibit is in partnership with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, and is free and open to the public.

The New York City artist said that the catalyst for the exhibit were the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

“In the years after Sept. 11, as Islam surfaced in our political and cultural consciousness, seeing that many Muslims were demonized, and that Americans in general had very little understanding of Islam, I began to think about how I, as an artist, could contribute to a better understanding among Christians, Jews and Muslims – to suggest a way that art can be used to mediate at the intersection of faith and politics,” Wohl said.

The result was “Birds of Longing.” Wohl’s fiber art pieces interweave Christian, Jewish and Muslim poetry and spiritual texts from medieval Spain and from contemporary Middle Eastern poets, particularly Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli.

“This will be a multi-disciplinary experience,” said Tanya Gertz, executive director of Fine Arts Programming. “Each piece has a beautiful visual representation through the weavings, a written word component in multiple languages and an auditory component with music composed specifically for each piece.”

iPods will be available for viewers to interact with the music and spoken words. The iPods may be checked out with an ID from 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the BAC Box Office, or from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Sundays at the Gorecki Gallery.

“An audio component is integral to the project and consists of readings in English, Arabic and Hebrew,” Wohl said. Using the iPods, viewers are able to activate tracks relating to specific pieces as they move around the exhibit.

“My hope for the project is that its visual and auditory impact will make vivid for viewers the connections among the Abrahamic religions and stimulate thought about their shared emotional, aesthetic and thematic content,” Wohl said.

“I hope to suggest a different way of seeing, and to offer healing,” Wohl concluded.

Wohl’s artist reception is from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5, at the Gorecki Gallery (iPods will be available during that time). It’s the same day the Jay Phillips Center hosts “Exile, Memory and Welcoming the Stranger,” which includes a presentation by Wohl and musical accompaniment by Voices of Sepharad, and a panel discussion featuring CSB President Mary Dana Hinton, Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel in Minneapolis and Cawo Abdi, associate professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Wohl will return to campus for a conversation on “Spirituality and Hope in Art Making” with choreographer Ronald K. Brown at 5 p.m. Oct. 27 in the Gorecki Gallery at CSB. The dance performance of Brown and Evidence Dance Company follows at 7:30 p.m. in Escher Auditorium, CSB.

For more information about Wohl and other artists from the Visual Arts Series, contact Gallery Manager Jill Dubbeldee Kuhn.