Senior Art Exhibits Address Bullying, Racism

Devynne Stiltner and James Jackson III are tackling tough issues through their senior art exhibits, which opened this past Monday. While Stiltner’s exhibit sheds a light on the serious and often ignored consequences of bullying, Jackson’s pieces address still-prevalent racial inequalities in the United States and their effects in the economy and criminal justice system.

Stiltner and Jackson presented their artwork at a joint reception and Gallery talk on Monday, and their pieces can be viewed side-by-side on the walls of Byars Hall. Their joint art exhibits will be available for public viewing in the Byars Gallery and Atrium Gallery from January 30 to February 23.

Stiltner’s exhibit is titled ‘The Consequence’ and Jackson’s exhibit is titled ‘Black Struggle.’ After the Gallery talk and Q&A session, Stiltner and Jackson stuck around Byars to speak to their art professors and any lingering observers.

“This is a topic that’s totally undermined. I don’t think it’s taken seriously enough…we need to treat people better, whether it be racial issues or bullying,” said Stiltner.
Stiltner’s personal experience with bullying was part of her motivation for the exhibit. As she explained during the gallery talk and reception, Stiltner attended high school with a girl who was bullied so harshly that she was forced to drop out.

“She just couldn’t continue coming to public school anymore because it was not a safe place for her anymore, she didn’t feel welcome. It was scary,” Stiltner explained.
Jackson also incorporated personal experience into his exhibit, which he discussed in his reception. When he grew up with his family in West Virginia, racism was often part of their everyday life.

“When I was younger, we’d go to a restaurant or maybe a store and we’d be looked at like we had four eyes or were total foreigners,” Jackson said. His parents also grew up in West Virginia.

Jackson expressed interest in using his artwork in partnership with the Black Lives Matter movement, as the topics addressed in his exhibit range from police brutality and racially biased incarceration rates to pay discrimination and poverty.

The theme of Stiltner’s exhibit also covered a range of topics, and was not limited to childhood bullying. One piece specifically addressed bullying that carries into adulthood, and showcased statistics to back up the concern. The piece featured an edited picture of an Emory & Henry student, over which the text stated that seventy-five percent of adults experience online harassment daily.

“I feel like it’s something that’s expected to be a part of growing up, but it shouldn’t be, Stiltner said.

Both exhibits utilize relevant statistics to get their message across in every piece of artwork. Even on the postcard hand-outs that feature information on the exhibits, Jackson’s card showcases a piece that informs the viewer how “1 in 3 black men go to prison in their lifetime.”

“I feel like there needs to be activism and change in this country towards issues like this,” said Jackson, referencing the themes in his own exhibit.
Gallery Hours in Byars are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 1 p.m. to 5p.m.

– Orion Rummler

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