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Artists Raise Their Voices at Jazz Gallery

Deep convictions on display at juried Midwest exhibit

May. 7, 2014
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Voice is a potent term. Literally, it is sound emanating from oneself. Metaphorically, it encompasses perspectives, ideas and opinions. The artists in “Raise Your Voice,” on view at Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, home base of the Riverwest Artists Association (RAA), create from deep convictions and calls for social justice. The exhibition is a regional juried show, which sought entries from artists engaged with a multitude of concerns including politics, the environment, gender and equality issues.

RAA member Susan Simensky Bietila has had a long career in the arts and was at the Wisconsin State Capitol for the 2011 demonstrations for the recall of Governor Scott Walker. Her prints passionately bring the event to life through images of a crowd amassed with banners, musical instruments, megaphones and mouths open with verbal calls for action. Her vivid art originated in a narrative piece for World War 3 Illustrated magazine and will be included in a forthcoming anthology early this summer.

Jesse Graves addresses politics and environmental concerns such as Colony Collapse Disorder through metal bee medallions. These were given to friends and strangers, and the resulting photographs form a compendium calling attention to the interconnectedness of humans and nature. This is also the point of Moving In!, where a pale blue suburban grid is overlaid by a team of wildlife creatures floating over it in shimmering gold. A strange juxtaposition? Not at all, as we consider how urban sprawl contributes to diminishing habitats.

Labor issues foreground Shannon Lee Molter’s Sweatshop Tees, asking us to consider how buying low-priced, disposable garments affects the living conditions of the people who made them in countries such as Cambodia and China. Paul Kjelland, one of the exhibition jurors, masterfully inspires in prints such as No Justice, No Piece, produced in support of workers striking against Palermo’s Pizza.

The collective images by the exhibition’s numerous artists are powerful. Each offers a unique style and perspective, but they are about more than any one individual. This is how art activates the spirit, and the voice, of a community.

“Raise Your Voice” continues through May 17 at Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, 926 E. Center St. Susan Simensky Bietila will be at Boswell Book Co. on Tuesday, June 24 for a book signing of World War 3 Illustrated: 1979-2014.


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