Recent work by photographer John Sevigny will be on display from Oct. 22-Nov. 27 in the Charles E. Becker Library on the Benedictine University at Springfield campus at 1500 N. Fifth St. A reception for the artist will be held Monday, Oct. 22, at 12 p.m. with a lecture by Sevigny.
“Happyland,” John Sevigny’s latest photographic project, was shot in Central America. Sevigny spent four months traveling though Guatemala, Nicaragua and San Salvador to shed light upon a region described as one of the most beautiful in the world, but not in the manner one usually ascribes to tropical tourist-filled resorts. The project shows a rarely-seen view of life in these poverty-stricken countries, where not much has been done to restore them to their pre-civil conflicts, and people sometimes go to great lengths to dress up or make ‘happy’ the drudgery and wretchedness of their lives and the environments in which they live. As stunning as it is, Central America is still ‘one of the most dangerous areas in the world’.
Functioning mainly as a bridge between its two larger, more powerful American neighbors, most people in Central America have little to do economically, and most can only functionally exist. They find themselves locked into a time capsule of their past. A dramatic leap forward is Sevigny’s foray into color; rich, heavily textured and stunning. His still-lifes taken in homes, markets and bordellos reflect the residents’ injection of typically bright tropical color and amplify it with shockingly brilliant hues, complex textures and patterns, thus making a contemporary reference to the French Nabis painters.
Sevigny attributes this project’s inspiration having come from studying French Post-Impressionist painters, the grit of Caravaggio and reading Salvadoran writer Roque Dalton’s Poem of Love, Sevigny’s photographs show the tragic emotional and physical scars of a post war Central America as poignantly compared with the daily ravages prostitutes experience. This is not a rose-colored world, but one of a faded brilliance reflected in tattered objects, broken down buildings, completely filled with the ghosts of lost souls. There is grit and treachery lacing every photograph like human sweat drenched in cheap cologne; where each photograph carries some lingering stain of human remembrance, experience and loss.
“Happyland” re-connects Sevigny’s long-standing interest in Central America developed in childhood, having grown up in Miami; where that city’s melting pot was often explosive with its indigenous and ‘imported’ influences. This project he seeks answers to age-old questions about beauty and how everyday objects are used to mask the ugly side of society.
For more information about the art exhibition at Benedictine University at Springfield, contact Marianne Stremsterfer at (217) 525-1420, ext. 518 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The gallery is open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays and 12-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The gallery will be closed during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.