The experience of having the portraits hang at Mishkan Shalom was a rich one. Many of us, the artists and family members, had memorable and meaningful interactions with visitors to the exhibition. Claudia Apfelbaum, a member of Mishkan and instrumental in bringing the exhibition to the synagogue, was able to take students through the exhibition. From Claudia:
“My experience in showing SoulsShot to the 7th grade class at Mishkan was deep, rich and amazing! Truly a privilege!
We began, after brief introductions, with the students looking at the paintings with no introduction to the content of the exhibit. I asked them to observe whatever thoughts, feelings or impressions came to mind while looking at the paintings.
One boy read enough to get that it was about gun violence. One girl observed that the people in two paintings wore black clothes although there were many flowers in the paintings and wondered if that meant something. Etc. (I wish I remembered more.)
Then I talked some and told them that the exhibit was of people in Philadelphia who had been shot, most of them in random shootings (and I explained random shootings). A boy said that these paintings showed that just regular people get shot, not thugs, which is the information he said that we get. Other students said the paintings showed a positive feeling about the people and that they also showed many different moods. Someone pointed out a painting in which the person's expression was not friendly. We talked about how each person was different and also painted by a different person.
We talked about the issue of privacy-that these are very public paintings, and that maybe some families would not want to have their family member portrayed this way and we talked a bit about people surviving and their lives being changed forever.”
I, and some of the other artists who have lead similar groups of students, have had similar reactions. It is so urgently important that young people, especially, are exposed to this type of witness to the cost of gun violence. Thank you Claudia!
Another member of Mishkan, Lance Lever, wrote
“ I just wanted to thank you again for all that you’ve done to bring the tragedy of gun violence in our society to light, and to connect it with the loving responses of the artists and families who collaborate on the sacred images that we were privileged to have up in our building these past months.”
They are, indeed, sacred images and I hope these souls are aware of the good they are doing in being ambassadors in this quest.
The portraits, now at the incredibly beautiful space at St. Asaph Gallery, continue their “work” . There was a moving reception and I have been able to speak to some visitors in the days following.
We are so grateful for our welcoming and generous hosts!
The next stop, at Allens Lane Art Center during the run of “26 Pebbles” will give us the opportunity, during a panel discussion, on March 10 especially, to illustrate the daily cost of gun violence. While mass shootings always spark outrage, as they should, we should be outraged, unfortunately, every single day at the toll taken by gun violence in our communities.