Thursday, August 14, 2008

World Hunger in a Chunk of Stone: Art Professor's New Exhibit Raises Awareness and Funds

If his daughter hadn’t cared about issues like sustainable agriculture and hunger in developing countries, Jim Zingarelli’s artwork might look very different. But her volunteer efforts as a college student prompted the Gordon College art professor to respond to the same concerns in the language he knows best: sculpting.

The result is Zingarelli’s newest solo exhibit, “Host & Hunger,” opening August 30 and running through October 11 in Gordon College’s Barrington Center for the Arts, just 30 minutes north of Boston. The collection includes 20 carved heads—each with open mouths—in marble, ebony, granite, limestone and serpentine, most of which were originally discarded or mis-cut stone and came from countries throughout Africa, Greece, North America and Italy. The carvings incorporate influences as diverse as pop art and ancient African sculpture, the smallest being only three inches and the largest 31 inches and weighing 250 pounds. But for Zingarelli each represents a much bigger issue he’s become passionate about changing—world hunger.
“When my oldest daughter Gina (a Gordon sophomore at the time) decided to travel and learn about agricultural work in developing countries, I began to realize how unfamiliar I was with the same faces and issues she was seeing,” Zingarelli said. “It began to raise a question for me: How do I make art out of a social conscience without it becoming propaganda or overly sentimental?”

So the father followed in his daughter’s footsteps and three years ago began working with the same organization she had—ECHO, a nonprofit interdenominational group based in Florida whose mission since 1981 has been to network with community leaders in over 180 countries and together, “seek hunger solutions for families growing food under difficult conditions.”

Zingarelli spent his spring break in Florida, and along with biology professor Craig Story, helped students create over 100 botanical drawings, photos and paintings that were later sold at a silent auction to benefit the hungry. That fall during his sabbatical, Zingarelli went with ECHO to Honduras to work with farmers on a sustainable tropical agricultural project, and last year he traveled to South Africa as part of a Gordon team where he worked with Black African sculptors. He and his wife also volunteered recently at an orphanage in Morocco, where he taught art; each trip, Zingarelli said, had a strong impact on his life and his work, helping him reconcile the issue of art and justice. “Host & Hunger” is an extension of each experience.

“Jim’s tragicomic heads are compelling images of the basic human dilemma,” said colleague Bruce Herman, artist and founding chair of Gordon’s Art Department. “Despite our bids for immortality, we are weak and frail creatures who need to be fed. We can’t live on ideas and art alone, but require bread, water and other humble creaturely necessities.”

As a result Zingarelli has decided to donate 50 percent of everything sold from “Host & Hunger” to organizations such as ECHO, Heifer International and to individual sculptors and farmers he worked with in Honduras, South Africa and Morocco.

“I’d hope that (this work) would raise an awareness of the enormous need for hunger relief—that it’s a problem we can solve,” Zingarelli said. “Maybe this can be a small way we’ll make a difference in the lives of some of these farmers and artists I’ve met. And maybe these carvings will also help others wrestle with the same questions of art and social awareness.”

WHAT: “HOST & HUNGER,” by Jim Zingarelli
WHERE: The Gallery, the Lobby and Room 138, Barrington Center for the Arts

WHEN: August 30-October 11
Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., closed Labor Day (Sept. 1)

Zingarelli will discuss his work in a special lecture and reception Saturday, September 6, from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. at Barrington Centre for the Arts, Room 138. His artwork will be displayed in the gallery and lobby. Catalogs of “Host & Hunger,” along with the artist’s statements beside many of the images, will be available during the show.

No comments: