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Exhibition connects politics and art

There's an understanding in Bermuda: certain things just aren't discussed.

Stephanie Gibson thought she knew what was best left unspoken. And then she challenged a group of artists to put the issues on the table.

“I was surprised by the breadth,” she said. “It was right at the height of the immigration protests and also the preserve marriage movement's counter protest, so I thought it was going to be at the forefront of everyone's minds, but I'm actually glad it wasn't.”

Rape, homelessness and women's rights all have a part in Things Unspoken, the exhibit the 27-year-old curated at the Bermuda Society of Arts.

Royal Gazette photographer Akil Simmons, Matthew Johnstone and Kyle Simmons are among the artists who accepted her challenge. Illustrator Sami Lill was the only artist who decided to take on the same-sex relationship debate.

Ms Gibson hoped the show would lead to further discussion.

“That was really my main goal — that people would now feel comfortable discussing these topics,” she said. “In a gallery space, where polite conversation is the norm, to have discussions about issues we actually face was really powerful.”

This isn't the first time her expectations have been challenged.

Ms Gibson signed up for journalism and political science at Emory University but instead graduated with a bachelor's in art history in 2012.

“I wanted to shed light on war-torn countries and people who are suffering. That's something I'm still very passionate about. It's just art history has become my vehicle of choice rather than journalism.

“I took one class and changed. I loved the way that you could connect politics and art, which is how this whole show came about.

“Art is a language. I think art has a special place in society that you can say things that you normally wouldn't be able to say out loud or in writing. You can say things subtly but also shock the viewer all at once. It can be both in-your-face and subtle at the exact same time.

“You can also force people to see things a certain way and, if you do it right, you can speak to a large group of people.”

Her interest in politics began while she was still in diapers. She credits her family for the influence. Her grandfather Will Francis is a former senior magistrate and member of the Progressive Group.

“I was always interested in politics. I was following the Bush-Clinton race and I was about two at the time,” she laughed. “My parents say I was very invested in it.”

Since graduating, she has written for local art publications, interned at the Bermuda National Gallery and now gives art tours of the Hamilton Princess's growing modern collection.

When the pieces first arrived there was a lot of cataloguing and researching, but the real challenge was creating “a narrative” for the tour, she said.

“It's so there's a common thread of all the artwork that's there, which is very involved in consumer culture.

“It's great. I love it. To have that collection available is amazing. To be able to work with the pieces that I saw in textbooks is amazing to see it up close. They're making very bold choices and I love that.”

Ms Gibson heads to the University of Pennsylvania in September to get her masters and PhD in art history. Her hope is to return and teach at the Bermuda College.

“When I was in a workshop at the BNG with young students, that's when I realised I wanted to be a teacher. I love teaching art to students,” she said.

This is the first of the BSoA's guest curator programme.

“I think people were excited about being given a forum; to have the opportunity to talk about it and be given the space to do it,” she said.

“I'm hoping that a conversation will be started and that people will be more willing to talk about these subjects or at least feel more comfortable. Maybe not in a public space, but at least with their families and close friends.”

The exhibit runs until June 28.

Social issues in spotlight: Stephanie Gibson is curating the political art show Things Unspoken at Bermuda Society of Arts (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published June 08, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 07, 2016 at 7:42 pm)

Exhibition connects politics and art

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