Art and analysis were combined on Oct. 1 as students and faculty gathered in Lundring Events Center for a panel discussion on Biomythography and Identity. The discussion focused upon the exhibit in the William Rolland Gallery entitled “Biomythography: Secret Poetry and Hidden Angers.”
The panelists for this event included religion professors Colleen Windham-Hughes and Rose Aslan, one of the curators of this exhibit Chris Christion and associate professor of English and African studies at Pomona College, Valorie Thomas.
Rachel Schmid, the gallery coordinator who moderated the event defined Biomythography as an idea of building identity.
Biomythography began with the panel discussion and then questions were opened up to the audience. After this there was a reception at William Rolland Gallery where people could look at the art and enjoy refreshments.
“The exhibit is all about the idea of Biomythology, the idea that we can create our own personal history when we combine our biography with mythology, when we don’t create a linear chronology of our life,” Schmid said. “Instead imagine past instances that are reoccurring that we’re constantly thinking about and future instances.”
The term Biomythology was created by writer Audre Lorde, an important literary figure to Thomas who talked about her during the panel discussion.
“[Audre Lorde] believed very much in intersectional analysis, looking at race, gender, class and sexuality and how they’re interrelated and inseparable from each other. So when you have an analysis of race we have to also look at the other factors and how they are manifested in people’s everyday lives,” Thomas said. “She was very much an advocate of having a voice. Lorde called herself a warrior poet and she wanted to affect the lives of people on the ground. For her it was about using language and writing to create a more compassionate and more just society.”
Because this exhibit brought various different social and cultural issues to the surface, Schmid had to pick and choose what topics to focus the panel discussion around.“Part of the exhibit is a piece that talks about gender roles and about how we perceive rape,” Schmid said. “We’ll talk about something that people are more vocal about, like the inclusion of Muslim artists.”
This exhibit allows the viewer to pick and choose what they want to experience in more ways than one.
“One of the amazing things about the gallery exhibit is the way that it’s so open, it’s not steering you through,” Windham-Hughes said. “I think by doing so it not only puts on display the negotiation of the artists who are working out their identities but it asks us to turn back on ourselves and recognize what identities are being brought up in ourselves and where we are being attracted and where we are pushed away and why.”
The discussion also focused on the idea of Intersectionality, or different identities that come together at different intersections.
“You can’t know someone by just pinning them down based on one identity and often the identity that’s most available to our naked eye, so how someone presents physically,” Windham-Hughes said. “Some of our identities are presented physically and some of ours are hidden, so what happens when those come together and we have to negotiate them?”
The panel discussion and exhibit were both meant to broaden people’s mindsets and established ways of viewing things.
“I mean I, myself, learned a lot from this exhibit about cultural appropriation and things that I didn’t realize that we might be doing on a regular basis,” Schmid said. “We always hope we can make that difference in perspective and sometimes that doesn’t always happen, but this panel gives a forum to hear different voices which I think is a very important part of the college experience of being well-rounded.”
Published October 7th, 2015