Out of the Depths

The Evelyn Burrow Museum at Wallace State Community College welcomes a new exhibit opening on Feb. 17 that presents two different views on current events in the Middle East. “Out of the Depths” is a joint exhibition of street photography and abstract painting, each showing the artists efforts in documenting life in the tumultuous region.

The photographs are by Fadi BouKaram of Lebanon and the abstract paintings are by Joe Cory of Birmingham. Guest curator Canon Matt Schneider, a minister at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, brought the exhibition together as part of its Arts + Culture Series in community partnership with The Evelyn Burrow Museum.

“Over the past several years, I’ve been conscious of the turbulent atmosphere of conflict, oppression, and violence throughout the Middle East,” Schnieder said. “To a certain extent, there just has never been ‘peace in the Middle East,’ but some new currents have made the news in recent memory: The Arab Spring, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Syrian Civil War, and increased persecution of Christians…

“Meanwhile, two artists close to me have also been grappling with life in the Middle East. One is far from the conflict (like me) in Alabama, his experience dependent largely on news media. The other artist is up close and personal in Lebanon, a country that has taken in approximately 1 million refugees from neighboring Syria since 2011. This project came to life after a series of providential events, allowing them and their work to be in conversation—with each other and the rest of us.”

Fadi BouKaram was born and raised in Beirut. He said he never wanted to be a photographer where most often photographs were reminders of “people who don’t exist anymore.” He went on to earn graduate degrees in engineering and business.

“It wasn’t until I hit my thirties when I realized how much I needed photography, both as a therapeutic tool and as a way to discover oddities within the mundane,” he said.

In 2013, BouKaram joined with a group of photographers to create the Observe Collective, born out of a “common fascination with watching and documenting the diverse humanity that surrounds us.” The photographs he made through the Observe Collection have been shown around the world, including by UNESCO. Some of these photos, along with his other work, are featured in the “Out of the Depths” exhibition.

Joe Cory is an Associate Professor of Art at Samford University. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, he holds a B.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a M.F.A. from the University of Chicago. In 2013, Cory traveled to South Africa to participate in the “Project R5: South Africa” cosponsored by the Lilly Fellows Program for the Humanities and the Arts, and the Nagel Institute at Calvin College. While in South Africa, Cory said he learned about the important role art played in the post-apartheid reconciliation process and saw first-hand how artists can be voices for the oppressed.

His recent work is his response to the complex world in which we live.

Both BouKaram and Cory are scheduled to attend an opening reception on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. and give a gallery tour. The public is invited to attend.  The exhibition will continue through April.

For more information about the artists, visit fadiboukaram.com and joecory.com. For more information about The Evelyn Burrow Museum, call 256.352.8457. Admission to the Burrow Museum is free. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.