Refugees, Resistance, and Resilience
This exhibit brings together the work of Simone Alter-Muri, Harriet Diamond, Judy (Na Omi) Shintani, and Viki Gable. These four professional artists have turned their attention to the monumental world refugee crisis.
Simone Alter-Muri’s unique glass boxes tell the story of refugee brokenness and repair. Her grandparents were immigrants and refugees. Viki Gable’s ceramic portraits are inspired by her father who was a Holocaust survivor. Judy (Na Omi) Shintani’s parents were survivors of the Japanese internment camps in the U.S. and her installations breathe this knowledge. Harriet Diamond’s installations depict the Syrian and Rohingya refugee crises and ask us to look again at the plight of the world’s refugees.
There is a powerful synergy between these works of art. Many striking connections are revealed such as the parallel between the treatment of U.S. border refugees today and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
This art brings refugee experiences to the audience in fresh ways. It is our hope that the exhibit will help people understand more deeply the plight of the world’s refugees.
An artist, educator, and therapist, Simone embraces creativity and exposes inhumanity through her art. Her work is exhibited locally, regionally, and internationally. She has exhibited at the Brattleboro Museum, Danforth Museum, Lesley University, the University of Massachusetts, Gallery 51 in North Adams, and other venues.
Simone is the director and professor of the graduate program in Art therapy/Counseling at Springfield College. Simone holds a Doctorate degree in creative behavior, an MA in art therapy, and a BA in art and psychology.
Her awards include the Outstanding Applied Creative Practice Award in 2021 by the American Art Therapy Association and the Massachusetts Art Educator in Higher Education. She studied art at the Museum School in Boston, the Art Institute of Boston, and privately. Simone is the 2020 recipient of the Denis Dideot grant for an artist residency at the Chateau d’Orquevaux. Her research focuses on the intersection between tattoos and healing.
My installations are voyages, and anti-war stories and cries for mercy all rolled into one. My work is a hybrid of installation sculpture and illusionistic scene-making. I am trying to place the viewer right in the middle of a scene, so they can voyage along with these refugees.
The work here is in two parts. Driven From Their Homes is the story of the Syrian diaspora. Arrival: The Rohingya tells the story of Rohingya arriving and encamping in Bangladesh after being driven from their homes in Myanmar.
These scenes are gallery size, approximately 20 ft by 30 ft. The figures are approximately 8 inches high. The scenes are paint, charcoal on paper, and Styrofoam. More than anything I am trying to translate urgency and immediacy. I am trying to help the viewer to approach the sculpture, these people, these broken down buildings.
I have installed pieces at Brookgreen Garden (SC), the National Sculpture Society (NYC), the Albany Museum (NY); the Fitchburg Museum, the Berkshire Museum, the Springfield Museum, and at Chesterwood (Mass). I have received the Mass. Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowship Grant and a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris recently.
I have loved and worked with clay since I was a young child. As young adult I started making functional pottery and then turned to sculpture looking for a more in-depth way of expression. Sculpture offers me a different way of seeing, observing, feeling and contemplating. As I work on a piece something happens for me as I study and look deeply into my subject and make the material become alive. A conversation between myself and the subject begins to happen. I find clay to be an amazing and multi-faceted material to work with.
My sculptures relate to post historical trauma and have great personal meaning for me. My father was a Polish-born Jewish holocaust survivor and refugee. He hid in the woods as a teenager after his entire family was killed during the German and Russian invasion of his hometown. He was sent to Siberia and then Uzbekistan by the Russian government to work in a coal mine. After the war was over, he was sent to a displaced persons camp in Germany with Hungarian refugees who had survived the concentration camps. He came to America as a refugee in 1949.
I grew up with this intense family history and in a family of political activists fighting for human rights. My art and singing help me to express myself in a way that transcends words.
Na Omi Shintani
What does the past mean to us today and how does uncovering hidden stories help us shape a future of fairness and inclusion?
My work creates space for learning, understanding, empathy and questioning about a historical injustice that touched my own family and how it relates to current times. In a world where discrimination continues to be widespread, there is a danger of repeating the past. My art addressing the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II brings to light memories, repressed emotions, and current feelings about this period in U.S. history.
Making art about the Incarceration is healing – for my family, my ancestors, my culture, America, and me. It is unfortunate this kind of injustice still occurs for many in the United States, and in the world. It is not just a singular event that happened many years ago. Alarmingly, the American Incarceration Camps of 80 years ago are echoed in today’s anti-Asian hate crimes, immigrant, and refugee detention, so many other forms of discrimination.
The shadow side of us exists, and fear makes us forget that we are all one. We must find ways to understand and connect to one another and art is a powerful way to do it.