Boston University hosts art exhibition exploring various global and social issues

The "Life Altering: Selections from a Kansas City Collection" exhibition (Photo courtesy of Boston University Art Galleries)

By Amanda Bang
Boston University News Service

On display through March 1, “Life Altering: Selections from a Kansas City Collection” explores and provides commentary on a variety of relevant global issues such as inequity of wealth and power, social justice, race, slavery, environmental issues and more.

The collection, located in the Faye G., Jo and James Stone Gallery inside the Boston University College of Fine Arts building, features works that have been collected by Bill and Christy Gautreaux, who have collected art for 25 years, according to the exhibition. 

Asad Faulwell, 39, is one of the artists who have their art pieces in the exhibition. His piece, “Phantom 2,” 2017, visually explores a variety of concepts with the usage of acrylic, pins and photo collage. 

Faulwell said this is an “important piece” for him because it was a step he took as an artist to make some changes to his style of art. 

“It was my first step going away from figuration back to abstraction after a very long period of time,” Faulwell said. “It was the first time that I had shown an abstract painting probably since 2008.”

The art piece employs Islamic textiles to pay homage to his Iranian roots and influence. 

“My mom’s family’s Iranian, so kind of relating back to that part of my family,” Faulwell said. “The household that I grew up in had a lot of decorative objects that were of Iranian origins, so a lot of patterns, a lot of meticulous, very detail-oriented objects … it’s the aesthetic that I grew up with kind of coming into my work.”

Faulwell always felt strongly about colonialism and the power dynamics of gender. That is why he used photos of women warriors from the Algerian war of independence for this piece.

“I was always interested in tying my work back to events or people or places from history and that’s been something that’s continued throughout my work,” he said. “These women were largely left out of that history, so it was a way to bring them back into that narrative and bring them back into the dialogue around the topic.”

Faulwell said he intentionally used historical architecture in these photo collages of women to emphasize the importance of women’s roles in history.

“It was like my way of constructing monuments to them using their own images to construct that monument,” Faulwell said. 

BU College of General Studies student Helen Li, 20, was surprised and intrigued by such deep meaning contained in all the art pieces in the exhibition. 

“When you first see the art, you don’t really know what the art is conveying,” Li said. “But when you read the description, you can know more deeply about what the artist is trying to say.”

Li said that it was brave for these artists to put these social messages through art, as it includes “exposing your heart” to a large audience. 

“With writing, you’re probably not going to get the attention of people who don’t already largely agree with you, whereas in art, because it is so coded and so cryptic and often hard to decipher what the work is about originally, I think it can be an interesting way of capturing the attention of someone who doesn’t agree with you,” said Faulwell.

Haneul Shin, 21, a BU senior, was another spectator of the exhibition. Although she felt the exhibition was a “unique experience,” she had mixed feelings about expressing and learning social issues through fine art forms.

“Some people might prefer reading and watching videos about it, and others might understand it through art,” Shin said. “Personally, I prefer reading books, but this one connected to many of my friends and I do understand why they were very interesting” 

However, Shin said some of the pieces touched her deeper than others. Upon viewing the artwork “Kachakchi,” 2015 by Hayv Kahraman that explores the artist’s personal history as an Iraqi refugee, Shin was reminded of a book she read for a class, “Exit West.” She said she enjoyed seeing related topics inside and outside the classroom.

“It really reminded me of the book’s perspectives,” Shin said. “The exhibition included different artistic products that discussed different important issues around our world that people deserve to know.”

Editor’s note, 03/07/22: A previous version of this article misstated the duration of the exhibition. “Life Altering: Selections from a Kansas City Collection” ran through March 1.

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