The image shows an elderly woman lying in a bed, face toward a television. Her pose makes her seem frail, fragile, perhaps even dying. It’s a portrait that arouses heartache.
“But for me it is a comforting image,” says Nureena Faruqi, who shot the photo. “I know people have different reads on it.”
The photograph of Faruqi’s Indian grandmother is included in The ArtsCenter’s first Community Arts Show, which features artwork by dozens of local residents. Faruqi took it last year when she visited family in Moradabad, a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, for a wedding.
The other figure in the photograph is Faruqi’s uncle, who often visits his mother.
“The photograph is comforting to me in a sense that it is a daily part of their lives and something that I see when I come back time and time again,” said Faruqi, who works at the ArtsCenter. “It is a very common image for me, and nostalgic.”
Another of Faruqi’s photographs, hung above the first, shows the same room during a different time of day.
In this one, it is absent inhabitants. The two images converse in a provocative way.
ArtsCenter Gallery Coordinator Heather Gerni was hoping for a wide range of submissions. Even so, the variety of pieces entered in this year’s show took her by surprise.
“This was a good surprise to have,” Gerni said.
The show is up until Dec. 20 with an opening reception during the nd Second Friday ArtWalk from 6 to 9 p.m. this Friday, Dec. 14.
Another photographic portrait in the show projects an entirely different sense of place than Faruqi’s. Jackie Helvey’s piece portraying Mildred Council – Ma Dip, to most – was printed using special effects. It just makes a viewer happy.
“I just think I captured the essence of her,” said Helvey, a website designer. “She has this beautiful, bright smile. She is almost glowing.”
Never without her camera, Helvey gets a great amount of joy taking photos.
“I think I see the beauty around me that others may miss just because they are rushed in their daily lives with other things on their mind,” Helvey said. “When I step out my door and see a beautiful sky, my immediate thought is to get out my camera and take a photo. I want to see it again.”
The ArtsCenter’s Executive Director Art Menius said three portraits keep drawing his attention.
“Two are by Max Roy Stawsky: ‘Portrait of Nancy Harmon’ and ‘Portrait of Louise Omoto Kessel,’” Menius said. “Both, and especially the latter, attract me because of the influences of classical portraiture. The one of Louise seems very Dutch, 17th century. On the other hand, Pierce Boshelly’s ‘In The Evening’ keeps catching my eye because it is so not-classical – with the floating head and because the face seems more like sculpture than painting.”
The head that will likely catch everyone’s eye is Nadjib Assani’s sculpture “Akala Oji.”
Assani has been creating a body of sculptures that help tell a set of stories based on the mythology of the African Yoruba tribe.
“We are Yoruba on my father’s side,” said Assani, who lived for a time with family in Cotonou, Benin. The incredible, fantastical creature is created from chavant, an oil-based modeling clay that does not need firing and is very sturdy.
Assani has created six sculptures so far and also written a book, “Legends of Onile.”
As he has worked on creating in text and clay this lore, Assani has learned a great deal about his culture and how his ancestors lived. He hopes that “Akala Oji” might inspire people to check out the stories it grew out of.
“They will see stories that are African for sure, but they are meant to relate to everybody,” he said.
“It encompasses themes that relate to pretty much every human – to be able to turn negatives into positives and find resolutions without violence.”
The culture of Japan inspired Jason Whitley’s abstract piece for the exhibit. He created “Cherry Blossoms” using oil-based ink applied to a Plexiglas plate that was then run through a press to make just one print.
Whitley had never used this technique.
“I am mostly an oil painter, but I like to experiment.” Whitley said. “It is good to be diverse.”
Showing his work is important, as it is to most artists, but Whitley wanted to be in the community art show to show his support for The ArtsCenter and for Carrboro’s tradition encouraging the arts.
“Having the arts represented in the community is hugely important,” Whitley said. “I think Carrboro is lucky that it acknowledges it. Some places don’t.”
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