Photographs of Iraqis vandalized at exhibit
Poet-photographers Ed Buryn and Max Schwartz expect their works to evoke emotions in viewers.
But the pair don’t expect their art to be vandalized.
That was the case, though, at an undetermined time at Center of the Arts in Grass Valley.
On Feb. 1, the two friends set up their joint exhibit, “Two Vagabond Photographers,” with photos from India, Poland, Iraq and the United States. Included in the exhibit are 50 prints of Iraqis taken on Schwartz’s trips to Iraq in the late 1980s.
Schwartz found out Thursday three of his photographs in the “Faces of Iraq” series were the only vandalized pieces at the center’s exhibit.
“No photo of mine has ever been damaged or destroyed before,” Schwartz said by phone Saturday from his Sacramento home. He has shown his work since 1964.
“I feel that truth and innocence have been violated by prejudice,” he said. “These photos showed the innocence of life itself beyond race, culture, creed or belief.”
“Faces of Iraq” has been displayed in the United States and abroad, including at Baghdad’s National Museum of Modern Art.
“Those pictures have been in so many demonstrations against war,” Schwartz said. “When I improvise with my poems at poetry festivals and cultural and literary festivals around the world, I show the faces to put a human face on the enemy. Children are children – these photos are of children caught in political situations – they’re bright gorgeous faces.”
Damage to the photographs includes malicious statements written in pen across the subjects’ faces.
“I have pictures of Jim Morrison, Mickey Hart, Taj Mahal – those were the ones I worried about, that someone might steal them,” Schwartz said. “I never expected this to happen in my wildest dreams. They’re the most non-threatening pictures.”
Jon Blinder, Center for the Arts president, said the vandalism is the first in 31/2 years of art shows, some of them controversial, at the center.
“We’re shocked and saddened. We’re hoping this is an isolated, careless and thoughtless act,” Blinder said.
While the photographers and Blinder do not know who vandalized the photos, Schwartz and Buryn believe it’s probably related to the current political tensions brought on by the terrorist acts against America on Sept. 11.
“It’s very disappointing to find our community is not immune from things that happen in larger communities,” said Buryn, who has lived in Nevada County since 1989. “This act is reflective of the degraded consciousness less common in Nevada County.”
Buryn added, “My thought is, it does reflect an anti-Arabic sentiment in this time of heightened national tension.”
The two photographers, who will read their poetry at Friday’s 7:30 p.m. Nevada County Poetry Series reading at the center, will briefly discuss the defacement then.
“I’d like to say it was some wise-ass teen-ager showing off to his friends. It might be teen mischief, we don’t know that,” Buryn said, “but it could also be reflective of a hate crime, which is of particular concern all across America at this time.”
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