art and humanity

In Digital, Inspiration, Review
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Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation
can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely
under the influence of great fear.
-Bertrand Russell

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

A year and a half ago there was an art installation at Alcatraz (in San Francisco Bay) of Ai Weiwei’s art.  I blogged about it here:  Bearing Witness.

Nike Administration Building, Fort Scott

I was so grateful to have seen it and have hoped for a similar installation ever since. The same group responsible for the Ai Weiwei exhibit recently opened (and closed) an installation in and around the batteries and decommissioned military buildings overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.  Titled Home Land Security, it included multiple exhibits by varied artists around the property.  The description of these exhibits is “works by contemporary artists from around the globe to reflect on the human dimensions and increasing complexity of national security, including the physical and psychological borders we create, protect, and cross in its name.”

Concourse (duct tape on wall), by Tirtzah Bassel (Canon 5D Mark II)
Concourse (duct tape on wall), by Tirtzah Bassel (Canon 5D Mark II)

The location was a perfect way, in my view, to witness work that is profoundly meaningful in a setting where you can step outside afterward to breathe in deeply and lengthen your gaze.

Some of the installations were beautiful, some were moving, disturbing and emotional.

Martyrs video installation by Bill Viola (iPhone6)

Seeing this exhibit just before the holidays and after the recent political upheaval both here in the U.S. and in Europe, and in other nations where people are fleeing and seeking safe haven across borders in refugee camps, felt very timely.

I have been seeking, both personally and as an artist, a way to reach out in these unsettled times.  A way to voice my opinion, give back, show that I care.  I watch and even envy friends and acquaintances who seem to have stepped into outreach roles where they donate their time or talents, and I feel the urge to do the same.

I was very moved by the work of Alexia Webster at the exhibit.  She is a photographer who started the Refugee Street Studio project, in which she photographs individuals and families inside refugee camps around the world and prints their portraits on the spot for them to take away.  What a meaningful gift – to use one’s talent to give something back to people who have lost everything.

Refugee Street Studio project by Alexia Webster (iPhone6)

The caption for one of Alexia Webster’s photos is “Refugee families reclaim their humanity through portraiture.” The project seems so simple yet so significant.  It resonated for me deeply.

I found this blog post about how to give back with your photography a good starting point for ideas.

Happy New Year to you all.












  1. oh, I bet that exhibit was powerful.
    and I’m eager to check out the link at the end of your post…I’ve been curious about finding a meaningful way to contribute as well…

    • It was, Michelle! We caught it in its last weekend and are so glad we did! And keep me posted on what you decide moving forward – I’ll do the same.

  2. that exhibit looks amazing — the things you can do with duct tape! and i’ve been pondering ways to use my photography voice for good too, thank you for the link!

  3. We visited Ai Weiwei exhibition a couple of years ago in London and it really had us all thinking very hard. Thanks for the link too!

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