About the Exhibition
On behalf of The California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO), I am pleased to welcome artists: Jo Ann Callis, Sandra Klein, Andréanne Michon, Sant Khalsa, Arden Surdam, and Gay Ribisi. The photographs that we have chosen to exhibit speak to the issue of identity and assist in launching a dialogue about the concept of a possible post-identity era as well as introducing an important element of empathy.
The concept behind this exhibition is to reveal and discuss varying ways in which individuals or groups are identified, beyond the ‘old school’ categories of race, religion and gender. As a society, we are attempting a peaceful resolution to the culture wars by trying to be respectful to everyone. Is that possible? Can we make one group content without offending another? Does that mean we are in a Post-Identity Era?
Since identity is such a core element in communication, and in being human, this is a complex concept to comprehend. During the last 50 years in the USA, we’ve seen profound demographic and cultural changes. As a nation we are divided and the culture clashes are as intense as ever. In light of recent events, I hope it doesn’t take another World War to remind us of what really matters in life to bring our country together again. Unless we’re invaded by aliens, we are all human first and foremost aren’t we? Shouldn’t we celebrate the human qualities that bind us?
“The strange power of art is sometimes it can show that what people have in common is more urgent than what differentiates them” - John Berger
The exhibiting artists are presenting us with a vast variety of imagery that offers a layer of identity they’ve created beyond their gender, race and religion. The images take us on a journey into unexpected identities while still acknowledging the common thread they all share; that of being a female photographer in California. In other words, beyond the common thread each artist has an artistic expression where they impart something they are passionate about and identify with, which gives us an opportunity to introduce the important subject of empathy.
Simply put, empathy is our inherent ability to perceive and share the feelings of another. It enables us to connect with ourselves and others while awakening us to our connectedness as parts of a greater whole. When we examine art from different perspectives and observe the emotions it evokes, we become more skilled in the language of emotions and our understanding of it in everyday relationships.
Approaching the art in this way, reveals that these photographs all speak to the issue of identity and yet in extremely different ways. In searching for a common thread we find a human connection within ourselves. This awareness of our connectedness calibrates and harmonizes our values, attitudes, and behavior. A necessary step toward empathy is paying attention. It takes patience and practice to consider and articulate what we think and feel. The artists in this exhibition are offering us an opportunity to connect with the beauty that surrounds us in everything from ordinary objects to the sublime in nature.
Thank you to the artists, and all of you, who make this all worthwhile.
Lynn Farrand Senior Curator, CMATO
“Museums and Empathy are a powerful combination that can provide transformative experiences of dialogue, discovery, understanding and contemplation to all, regardless of age or background. Together they can plant the seeds that nourish generations of souls.”
By Elif Gokcigdem, Fostering Empathy Through Museums