Online Exclusive: Black Lives Matter art exhibit opens at Criss Library

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Mason Shumaker

Online Contributor

The latest art exhibit featured in the Dr. C.C. and Mable L. Criss Library showcases Black Lives Matter, with artwork depicting iconic imagery of the activist movement.

A combination of original artwork and adaptations of existing media explored major BLM themes such as “Hands up, don’t shoot.” People of color living in Omaha and the surrounding areas created most artwork in the Black Lives Matter exhibit.

Catie Zaleski, a senior in the School of Communication and a state champion on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s MavForensics team, performed a program of poetry at the exhibit’s Feb. 20 opening reception.

“In the fall, I performed my poetry for the Board of Regents event, and the woman who came up with the exhibit thought that my piece would fit the theme,” Zaleski said.

Featuring several poems by multiple authors, Zaleski’s program, investigated how cultural norms prioritizing whiteness had made black Americans feel unnatural. Zaleski said the program was meant to, “reclaim a space in nature for black people.”

After walking through the exhibit, Zaleski praised the artwork and admitted that she was quite moved by the entire experience.

Many pieces in the exhibit confronted the deaths of black Americans, at the hands of police officers, that sparked protests across the nation.
“I Can’t Breathe,” a canvas painting by artist Teonne A. Wright, depicted an enlarged human face with the mouth duct-taped shut. The title, “I Can’t Breathe,” referenced the final words of Eric Garner, a black man who was killed by New York City police officers during a controversial arrest.

“The exhibit spoke on a lot of deaths in the black community, with a lot of them regarding police brutality,” Zaleski said. Seeing how those horrific events, and lives that could easily be ignored, were being given voices though art was really inspiring.”

The Black Lives Matter exhibit will remain open until April 1. Although the exhibit is free to the public, most of the artwork is for sale.

Zaleski said that, “being viewed as unnatural has made it easy for society to ignore black Americans.”

Zaleski said she also hoped UNO students, of any ethnicity, could empathize with the artists.

The Dr. C.C. and Mable L. Criss Library regularly host galleries featuring artwork by local artists. The gallery is located on the main floor of the library, near the front entrance.

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