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The Art of Resistance Bedford

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June 19, 2017
The Art of Resistance Bedford
Art is at its most powerful when the creative process intersects times of intense social conflict or cultural divide.  Artists seek to find a voice to express the emotional depth of an issue so that truth and clarity can emerge.  Sometimes that voice is an angry clarion call to wake people from their slumber or their apathy.  Sometimes that voice is prophetic and confronts people to re-discover ways of living consistent with the community’s beliefs or values.  Sometimes that voice is an admonishment directed toward hate and greed and all other forms of human selfishness that works to divide or conquer. Sometimes that voice is just a recorder of the human condition showing us the absurdity or brokenness of our life together.
Whatever the artistic medium, the creative imagination seeks to make the world whole again by becoming a voice of resistance.  Artists want to find ways to communicate that the current situation is not sustainable for the overall health and vitality of the community or our world.  In the end, the art of resistance desires to create a conversation or a dialogue to facilitate reconciliation and to find ways of bringing people together and even finding common ground.
It is therefore not surprising that many local artists are finding their voice, and their muse, in the midst of our country’s current political climate and cultural clashes.  A three day event entitled “The Art of Resistance Bedford” begins Friday night June 23rd at the Bower Center with a poetry and music slam and continues on Saturday and Sunday afternoons with special “pop-up” exhibitions at Goose Creek Studio and the Portiuncula Guild.
The event begins Friday evening (7-9 pm), with OUTLOUD: a music and poetry slam hosted at the Bower Center for the Arts by Sara Braaten and local songwriter Catherine Backus. The event will feature short sets from local performers as well as an open-mic portion.  Backus is a recent winner of the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, as well as local events such as Smith Mountain Lake Idol and Lyrics on the Lake. Her songs address feminism, politics, and the experience of growing up queer in the Bible Belt, but she prefers describe her work as "good and sad" folks songs.
On Saturday afternoon (1-4 pm), Goose Creek Studio hosts three artists associated with the gallery with a one day installation titled “Narratives of Opposition”.  Storytelling and social commentary are consistent threads in the works of Shelley Koopmann, Suzanne Paddock and Patrick Ellis.  All three artists utilize the power of narrative to make sense of the country’s chaotic political and cultural climate. 
For this show, Shelley Koopmann continues her series of paintings of museum goers looking at famous works of art.  Koopmann focuses on well-known works that were themselves created as acts of resistance.  These images remind us that the world’s great museums are filled with art that was created to embody voices of challenge or change.  Works by Pablo Picasso, Norman Rockwell and even John Lennon, are just a few of the artists Koopmann depicts to remind the viewer of the role of the arts in opposition movements, as well as the transformative power of great art. 
Two of Suzanne V. Paddock’s recent works are inspired by and drawn directly from current headlines.  Paddock explores ideas of displacement, as well as the spirituality and ancestral connections to a sense of place.  Her paintings weave myth and identity into works that speak to universal issues of what it is to call a place home.  Images of Native Americans protesting the destruction of sacred lands, or the fate of Syrian refugee children, require the viewer to consider their own connectedness to place in light of these contemporary struggles.
Patrick Ellis utilizes recycled wood and old agricultural machine parts (many from the old Bedford Hardware) to create a room sized sculpture depicting the story of the three men in the fiery furnace from the Old Testament Book of Daniel.  For Ellis, this ancient folk tale is as relevant today as it was for the 2nd century BC Jewish community that who recorded and preserved it.  Like it did for this ancient communities of faith, this story seeks to understand what it means to be faithful to your god in a time in which a tyrant build monuments to himself and asks for blind obedience.
The weekend concludes on Sunday afternoon at the Portiuncula Guild with a solo show by Sandee Johnson of Ashville NC (formally of Bedford) entitled “The Holy Gospel of the Free Market”.  With 20 mixed media over paintings, Johnson unleashes a scathing critique of the current administration’s distortion of capitalism, the Christian faith and American democracy.  Johnson makes use of small black and white images from an old travel guide as a base for her work.  Over detailed images taken of a medieval cathedral door depicting scenes from the bible, Johnson paints a Trumpian vision of the world in which greed and selfishness replace shared community values and care for others.  Scenes from salvation history that once formed the foundation of right relationship between god, humanity and creation are overwritten with tableaus of free market capitalism in which self interest, hatred, power and greed become celebrated values.
For more information about any of these events please contact Catherine Backus (, Sara Braaten (, or Patrick Ellis (   All events are free and open to the public.
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Goose Creek Studio
Gallery and Custom Framing
302 Court Street
Bedford, VA 24523
(540) 586-8482

Patrick Ellis, (540) 586-8482