The photography exhibit “Muslim/American, American/Muslim” by New York photographer Robert E. Gerhardt opens to the public Nov. 5 at 4 p.m. at the Fielding Wright Art Center Gallery on the campus of Delta State. The show will remain in the gallery until Dec. 11.
Gerhardt will introduce the exhibit and speak about his work at a public reception. The event also serves as an opportunity to meet the artist from 5-7 p.m. The lecture and reception are free and open to the public.
Gerhardt was introduced to photography via sociology and anthropology, and he became hooked on the medim when he took a class about documenting research projects. His interest in studying social behavior and human nature is apparent in his photographic work.
His series “The Straphangers” presents the diversity of New York as seen in its subways. “Life on the Border: The Karen People of Burma” documents the struggle of the Karen people confined to refugee camps at the border between Burma and Thailand. His most recent series, “Mic Check,” focuses on the #BlackLivesMatter movement and public protests.
Gerhardt became interested in documenting Muslim cultures in the United States “in 2010 after reading about a controversy over converting an unused convent on Staten Island in New York into a mosque and community center. Many local residents vehemently protested the intended repurposing at various community board meetings, including the shouting-down of a U.S. Army officer who simply asked if people would be willing to be good neighbors with the mosque.”
He contacted the Muslim American Society, which was behind the community center, and was invited to visit and photograph the society’s Brooklyn chapter. He spent several days a week at the center over the next year, where he came to know the members of the community and was invited to schools and homes where he learned about the everyday encounters with prejudice Muslims face in the post 9/11 era.
Gerhardt went on to photograph not only the Brooklyn community, but Muslim communities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia. He hopes the portrait he has created of the American Muslim communities will inspire his audience to learn more about the diverse Muslim cultures represented in the U.S. and open a dialogue examining common misconceptions.
The project has been shown at St. John’s University, Manhattan Campus, New York, N.Y.; Schuster Art Gallery, Gannon University, Erie, Pa.; Schuster Art Gallery, Gannon University, Erie, Pa.; Annex Gallery, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pa.; Sidney Larson Gallery, Columbia College, Columbia, Mo.; and will move on to the John B. Davis Gallery, Idaho State University, Pocatello, Idaho after its exhibition at Delta State.
In the spirit of Gerhardt’s project, the Delta State Department of Art and the university’s Quality Enhancement Program have partnered to present a series of events that will provide a forum for dialogue. The series begins with a public presentation by Dr. Ahm Reza, assistant professor in biological and physical sciences at Delta State, on the experiences of a Muslim immigrant in America on Nov. 12. On Nov. 19, Emad Al-Turk and Okolo Rashid, founders of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures in Jackson, will speak about the history and mission of the institution they founded. On Dec. 3, a public screening of the film “Arranged,” which centers on the unlikely friendship between an Orthodox Jewish and Muslim teacher in New York. All presentations will be held at the Fielding Wright Art Center at 5 p.m. and are free and open to the public.
The Fielding Wright Art Center is open Mondays-Thursdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The gallery is closed weekends, holidays and during semester breaks.
For more information on the department of art, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/art/ or contact 662-846-4720. For updates and announcements of upcoming events, follow Delta State Art Department on Facebook, or join the email list.