UNION, N.J. – At the opening reception for her latest art installation at Kean University’s Human Rights Institute Gallery, international artist Franca Marini invited guests to immerse themselves in the fabrics that, she says, embody the experiences of refugees. The experiential art exhibition, Transnational Migration & Immigration, will be on exhibit through Wednesday, June 20. Admission to Kean Galleries is free and open to the public.
Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage welcomed the guests and commended Kean, and in particular the Human Rights Institute, for bringing together activists, artists, educators and students of diverse backgrounds and interests to build awareness and encourage change.
“Few people, out of the majority of the citizens in the U.S., are natural-born Americans,” he said, bringing to light the impact that immigrants have historically had in America and our local communities. “Elizabeth has been home to immigrants for over 250 years, and I love that Kean, too, welcomes diversity.”
Visitors were invited to move through the space, which was draped in shades of black, white, beige and gray fabrics and featured video recordings projected on screens –– “materials that don’t give a concrete identity to the subject at hand,” Marini explained.
“Most artists give obvious, physical symbols to themes,” she said when talking about the inspiration for this exhibit, created exclusively for Kean’s Human Rights Gallery. “However, this global issue doesn’t have a singular, obvious image—and it’s vital that we understand.”
Marini, a professor at the Siena Art Institute in Italy, considers it an honor to be featured at the diverse and globally conscious University, especially as part of Kean’s Human Rights Institute. She mingled with students, faculty, staff and other art enthusiasts and discussed the symbolic and interpretive fabrics and video artwork that comprise her exhibit.
“As an artist, I feel a deep need and ethical responsibility to process this tragedy through my artwork,” said Marini. “For this exhibit at Kean, I chose to represent both the physical journey of those who are forced to risk their lives in hope of a different destiny, and the interior journey of transformation.”
The abstract exhibition symbolizes the often faceless view of immigration in America, wrought with stereotypes and misplaced perceptions. The images and themes of transformation, despair, world-crossing and hope are left for interpretation, but more importantly, introspection, by the viewers.
“Immigration and migration come in various forms, as does art,” said Neil Tetkowski, director of the Kean University Galleries. “The synergy of the mediums Franca Marini used opens up the conversation and brings people together, expanding critical dialogue both on and off campus.”
Marini’s exhibit complements the Human Rights Institute's 11th Annual Conference, Seeking Refuge: Immigration and Forced Migration Around the World, which will take place on Friday, March 23. The conference will shed light on the critical issue of refugees and immigrants, and explore how each of us can be involved in affecting positive change.
Transnational Migration & Immigration
Human Rights Institute Gallery
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Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.