Images and texts describing the destruction of the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina comprise the first show of new year opening on January 22 in the BVU Art Gallery.
The show has been organized by Dr. Bruce Ellingson, professor of Media Studies at BVU.
He acknowledges that the topic is barely newsworthy these days. "I suppose to some, the work of this exhibit might seem to be rather 'old news,'" he says. "Unfortunately, these scenes and stories and statistics are still lived daily-today-by residents of the Gulf Coast who continue to struggle to recover from the worst natural disaster in U.S. history."
Ellingson was one of 29 faculty, staff and students from BVU who worked in the Biloxi, Mississippi area for 10 days in January '06. This show is built around a dozen images that Ellingson recorded during that time and presents here in large format (some as large as 30 by 40 inches in size).
Ellingson photographs are 'framed' with texts from a variety of sources. "Perhaps most important, are selections from the journals of Todd Campbell and Stuart Jorgensen, two students who participated in the BVU trip," says Ellingson. "Todd and Stu's journal entries articulate--in way that my photos cannot--the depth of their wonderment over the Gulf Coast destruction, their admiration for the survivors, and their commitment to reconstruction. Their journals perfectly reflect the feelings of volunteers who have been working the southern gulf coast for the past 2 1/2 years . . . many of them from Storm Lake and Iowa.
Clippings include the New York Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and USA Today. According to Ellingson, the text and images sometimes work together, sometimes compete for your attention, and sometimes conflict with each other. "The words and pictures remind us that our human constructions are quite fragile, our institutions are far from perfect, and our notions of individual self-sufficiency are delusions," he says.
Ellingson calls the efforts of volunteers and residents to rebuild the Gulf Coast "heroic" . . . even though reconstruction is years from being complete. However, the U.S. House of Representatives has called the recovery effort "A Failure of Initiative," which is also the title of this show. This title comes from a special report produced by a select bipartisan committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The report blames government on all levels for a lack of preparedness and a failure of leadership during and after the hurricane's landfall.
The show opens Jan. 22 and closes Feb. 19th in the BVU Art Gallery, across from the Information Technology Center/Library in the Forum. It is open to the public, free of charge.