The East End Arts Council and the Southampton Cultural Center will premiere “The 7th Circle,” an exhibit which features three artists examining the human impact on our planet and its fellow inhabitants, on Friday, March 31. In their works, Janet Culbertson, Anna Jurinich, and Paula Ocampo address specific facets of the human impact: the destruction of the environment, the effects of war and the experience of refugees, and the current criminal justice system.
The exhibit borrows inspiration from the epic poem, “Inferno,” in which Dante Alghieri vividly walks the reader through the nine circles of Hell. The second circle is lust, the fourth is greed, the fifth is wrath, and the seventh is violence. It is in this seventh circle that those were violent to one another, to themselves, to art, God, and nature are condemned to an eternity in an inhospitable environment of burning sand, rivers of boiling blood, and fire raining from the sky.
As a whole, and as if often the case of any creation, Dante’s work was influenced by the political and cultural milieu in which he found himself in the fourteenth century. Just as his work is a commentary on the crises, ideas, and issues of his time – the artist’s in this exhibit communicate the contemporary issues of our time on canvas. Just as Dante’s imagination conjured up vivid images in the mind of the reader, Culbertson, Jurinich, and Ocampo will use paint and brush to consider whether humans have created our own seventh circle of hell.
Culbertson, a self-described eco-feminist, has addressed climate change, extreme weather, overpopulation, and the general “diminishment” of our planet at the hands of human activity. She has painted scenes of the Galapagos Islands, threatened species in Africa, and polluted waters of Long Island. Her works included in this exhibit will specifically consider climate change, oil spills, anti-environmentalists, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“Our exhibit addresses the idea that mankind’s current nature is of violence,” explains Culbertson. “We aggressively inflict our ideas of how to live – on the earth, on ourselves, and on fellow species. We are focused on buying, using, and acquiring more land, food, space, energy–and disposing of it all without caring about the consequences. For me these are acts of violence against humanity and the earth, our home.”
Jurinich is a Croatian-American whose work draws inspiration from her personal experience immigrating to the United States in 1958 from what was then Yugoslavia. Her paintings explore the impact of war, and struggles of refugees and women.
“My work has always had an undercurrent theme about wars, injustices and recently the refugees crisis in the world,” shares Jurinich. One of her works, “Your Country My Planet” captures these thoughts. “Some countries have accepted refugees but most have not. It is a basic human reaction to flee to a safer place to escape death to oneself and one’s family, regardless of some invisible border. With this painting I’m trying to present another viewpoint. From space looking down on this huge mass of earth on which we live why is it so hard for someone to go from here to there in order to survive?”
Lastly is Argentinian-American Ocampo, whose art explores the criminal justice system. She immigrated to the United States over 30 years ago, finding a home on both Long Island and in New York City. Her works explore the experience of incarceration and imprisonment, the struggle for freedom, and the lack of humane treatment in many prison systems.
Together, these three artists compel the viewer to consider how much of Dante’s mythical Inferno is myth, and how much can be seen in the world we live in today. In the words of Culbertson, “we are symbiotic with the earth and while we destroy it we are destroying ourselves.”
“The 7th Circle Exhibition demonstrates a great partnership between East End Arts and Southampton Cultural Center that provides the unique opportunity for artists to curate an exhibit,” says Pat Snyder, Executive Director at East End Arts.
The official opening reception is on Saturday, April 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Southampton Cultural Center. The event is free, refreshments will be served, and the featured artists will be present. The exhibit closes on Saturday, April 30.
Southampton Cultural Center is located at 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. For more information about this exhibit, please visit www.scc-arts.org or www.eastendarts.org.