Robert E. Wilson Gallery to host Picturing Faith: Religious America in Government Photography 1935-1943

HUNTINGTON, IN-Huntington College presents an exhibit of photography through September 29 in the Robert E. Wilson Gallery of the Merillat Centre for the Arts. Picturing Faith: Religious America in Government Photography 1935-1943, offers a glimpse of American religious life during the Great Depression.

A gallery talk will be presented on Tuesday, September 19, 2000, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Wilson Gallery. The presentation is free and open to the public.

"Picturing Faith is a unique series of images showing the place of religion in American society through the lens of some of America's most well known photographers," says curator Colleen McDannell, Sterling M. McMurrin Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of History at the University of Utah.

Supported by a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., the traveling exhibition includes 45 black-and-white photographs. The images are drawn from a photographic survey of economic struggle and social dislocation in Depression era America. Captured in 1935 by photographers working for the Historical Division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the images were intended to raise support for New Deal policies and programs.

"These 'sociologists with cameras' entered the homes and churches of the poor as well as the middle class," explains McDannell. "They photographed people in prayer, domestic shrines, dinner graces, parishioners going into their churches, revival meetings, and even the gospel trucks of itinerate preachers."

The exhibit explores four themes. The first theme, "Photography and Religion," demonstrates the various techniques that photographers use to express the religious spirit. The second theme, "Poverty and Religion," explores the spiritual life of the poor. The third theme, "Celebrating America's Communal Spirit," illustrates how photography was used to muster support for America's entry into World War II, showing faith as a common ground between all Americans. The fourth theme, "Faith Without People," contains evocative images of churches and synagogues emptied of the faithful.

"These photographs challenge viewers to reflect on the ways that belief and ritual are visually represented while presenting a glimpse of American religions during a tumultuous time of our nation's history," says McDannell.

A review of the exhibit will be given September 19, 2000, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Wilson Gallery by guest lecturer Morris L. Davis. Mr. Davis has a B.A. in History from Houghton College, a M.Phil. Theological and Religious Studies from Caspersen School of GraduateStudies, Drew University, Madison, NJ. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate, in American Religion and Culture, from Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, Drew University. The presentation is free and open to the public.

The Robert E. Wilson Gallery is located in the Merillat Centre for the Arts on the campus of Huntington College in Huntington, Ind. (get map). For further information about art exhibits at the Wilson Gallery, contact Professor Rebecca Coffman at (260) 359-4272.

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